Maid in India

I worry that India may have irredeemably spoiled me. As any of you who’ve ever visited my home know, I have zero inclination toward cleaning or chores in general. It’s now been months since I’ve done laundry or washed dishes. And don’t worry, Mom, that’s not because I’m wearing dirty clothes while piling up an enormous stack of dishes in the sink. I have a maid.

Anantha in the kitchen preparing lunch. And no, I don’t remember why I put so much milk in my iced coffee, that’s obviously not how I normally drink it.

Anantha comes 6 days a week from a little before 9 am to 10:30 am. She cleans the apartment (Indian apartments get dusty at a remarkable speed), washes the dishes, and does the laundry. She also cleverly volunteered to make me lunch a couple of times, which led me to realize she’s a vastly better cook than I am. So I hired her to do the cooking as well. She makes breakfast and a curry which I usually eat for lunch and dinner. It’s all South Indian food, and it’s incredibly delicious. Though I occasionally wish it came with an instruction manual. How are you supposed to eat something the consistency of soup when your only utensil is puffy bread? And what am I supposed to do with the yogurt? The food is also incredibly spicy. A few weeks ago, I had a Western guest visiting so I asked Anantha to make lunch less spicy. As we ate, I quickly realized from my guest’s face both that she doesn’t really do mild and that I’ve completely lost my ability to tell what is hot. (I don’t know how my mom is going to survive when she comes to visit in December.)

My mom probably won’t believe this either, but being waited on has taken some getting used to, like how Anantha insists on calling me “sir.” But it’s delightful never having to worry about cooking and cleaning. And my friends assure me that it’s a reasonably well-paying job that she’s glad to have. I also donate something for her son’s schooling, which is apparently fairly common practice. She’s 24 years old. Her English doesn’t extend much beyond talking about groceries (and my Telugu is nonexistent), so we haven’t really gotten to know each other. I’ve realized I’m terrible at communicating in simple English. The other day she asked if her daughter could have a bowl of cereal and I responded “No worries.” When she looked very surprised, I realized that of course she had understood that as a no. However, she’s extremely friendly and laughs at my constant thank yous any time she hands me something.

My favorite breakfast she’s made so far is poori (the delicious fried dough in the foreground) which is served with a potato and carrot curry that is unbelievable.

She also brings her daughter along (who is maybe 3 years old), and her son (about 6?) when he’s not in school. It’s really nice to have happy, goofy, young kids running around the apartment in the morning. I decided that explaining I wanted to photograph them for my blog was beyond our communication skills, so you’ll have to just trust me that they are adorable. Her daughter insists on opening the door each morning but isn’t quite strong enough, so Anantha has to secretly give a little extra push above her head where she can’t see.

I’m sure some of you were concerned that with my apartment being so clean, you wouldn’t get a chance to see my boxers lying all over the floor. But do not worry, they now hang outside the front door.

I was going to tell you more, but Anantha is putting a delicious-smelling breakfast down on the table, and obviously I need to thank her and give this food its due attention.