In India, having domestic help around the house is common. Usually there is a designated person who will do your dishes, laundry, clean the house, etc. This story is rooted in the busy and somewhat puzzling streets of Kharghar, Navi Mumbai.
Diwali was approaching and my mom was busy in the kitchen making mithai (sweets). Various vegetables were laid out on the kitchen platform in anticipation of the bai coming to make lunch. Dishes from last night’s dinner were also piled up in the kitchen sink. Every few minutes, mom would look up at the clock. The stress on her face was imminent. I knew she would lose her cool any moment.
The clock struck 12 and off set my mom’s rampage. “These bais are a pain, I told her yesterday that she has to come early and now it’s already noon!” she screamed. Her rage continued after the bai didn’t answer her mobile phone, “now she is not answering her phone, at least she could have called.” My mom stomped around the house, continuing about how much housework was left. The bai not showing up was the topic of the night at the dinner table too. “How could she do that, not just show up?” was another one of my mom’s infamous sayings from that night. Needless to say, my house is a complete chaos without the bai.
What happened to the bai? Why didn’t she answer the phone? The other households where the bai also assisted mentioned how they hadn’t seen her too. What went wrong?
The scenario described above has occurred at least 4 times in the past month and half that I have been in India—that is quite a lot. Sometimes, the bai was missing just for a day, other times it was 3-4 days. In every case, she would show up and ring the doorbell as if nothing happened and start her work. Upon talking to friends, I realize that the case of the missing bai is common to almost all households. The mystery appears to follow the same pattern in them too, bais not answering their phones, calling off sick at least once a month, etc. Could all of them be linked? I will try finding out and let you know.