Treating domestic help with dignity is something that needs to be taught and that’s shameful. House helps are an integral part of every home in India. Unlike the West, where labour is costly and being able to afford a helping hand is a luxury, in our country, most homes don’t know a life sans people who will help us run our homes more efficiently. Despite being such an essential part of our day to day life, household helps still face a lot of discrimination.
A recent thread posted on Reddit discussed how maids are discriminated against in Indian households. From not being allowed to sit on the sofa, to being provided with separate utensils to drink water or tea and even having to use separate entrances and exits in some housing societies, the list is endless and shocking- because, despite all our progress, we have failed to leave our regressive mindset behind in this day and age.
“I had a heated conversation with my mother regarding this recently. I want to know what you all think about this. Does it have something to do with the caste system?” asked one user. In response, another user pointed out that maids are not even allowed to use toilets in some homes and how it can have a negative impact on their health. “Do talk to the domestic help and offer the use of your toilet – while male workers often relieve themselves outside, women don’t have any option,” they wrote, adding that maids often end up drinking less water and holding the urge to urinate back, leading to health issues associated with dehydration, uti etc.
We don’t need the Internet to tell us that this is a common practice in many households. We are okay with house helps cleaning up our homes, changing sheets, washing utensils and toilets so that they are clean and usable for us, but suddenly it disgusts people when the same maid wants to use that toilet.
How privileged and regressive does a person have to be, to feel that they have the right to deny access to a basic amenity to another person? As the person who started this discussion pointed out, roots of such entitlement lie in our caste system, which conditions us to see a person who cleans up our homes, and indirectly our lives, as “dirty” or “impure” and thus “inferior”.
People are fine wearing the clothes they washed or eating in the utensils they cleaned, or even consuming the food they prepared.
But to let them do the same with “our utensils” or use “our bathroom” is seen as a dent in our so-called purity. It is not just caste, it is about class too- for letting your servants use the same amenities as you are seen as a degradation to one’s status. Why else would people want separate entrances and exits for domestic staff? Why would they be told to use toilets in common areas?
The COVID-19 pandemic has only made this discrimination worse. Who can forget the discriminating advertisement by a leading water purifying company that basically accused household helps of carrying and transmitting the disease. The same disease that was brought to this country by their globetrotting employees!
Any person who feels that their maid is not “clean” enough to use their pristine toilet should be ashamed of themselves. You can clean up a toilet with Harpic, but alas, there is no cleaner for filthy mindsets.
Views expressed are the author’s own. Picture is a film grab, used for representation purpose only.