My limbs begin to shake, a sick feeling begins to start at the pit of my stomach, I lose focus in my work, I break up into a cold sweat and an extreme weariness takes over my entire self.
Yes, this happens the moment I hear that the maid is not coming.
I have reached a certain stage in my life when the tone of the entire day depends upon the arrival of this all important person in life- the maid. Until she comes, I have something nagging at the back of my head. Every happy episode of the day like coming to know the bonus figures or getting a surprise phone call from the kids seems to be clouded by something. Until I hear that the maid is safely inside the house happily working and banishing the dirt demons of the house. Then on, the day seems bright and sunshiny and I appreciate the joy in the little little pleasures of life-like a gulabjamun served at the office lunch or simply completing the task of a bill payment.
I am an total disaster when the maid goes away. I curse, I cry, I fume, I scream at every available person or non person.
I then use all resources to hunt for availabe maid- anyone who is willing to do just dishes. I call friends, neighbours, maids who have phones. I beg, cajole and follow up if they agree to come which is not very often.
Then I collect myself and begin to say to self- ah well, atleast she will be back tomorrow or the day after. Atleast it is not permanent. Just do it today. I then go about the laborious task of attacking dirty dishes, washing clothes and say to myself thank God I have a machine, scrub sink tops and say to myself atleast because the maid is not there, the sink top is looking cleaner. The husband vacuums- ah another positive- atleast the house gets to have the monthly vacuuming done because of her absence. And after that initial starting prolem, on pure inertia I do the jhaadoo, pocha, bartan, kapda the next day and the next until the maid madam arrives.
And I vow to myself, never again will I let myself get into this situation.
And so the hunt for the second maid begins. She will be my back up. A lower salary one. The one who comes early morning and does atleast half the job. The one who will go the extra mile if the second one takes leave. The one who will never take leave without informing me. Or rather, will never take leave. The one who will live at walking distance, will have a phone and will come even if I call her to work at odd hours. Basically, she will be accessible at all times, all days, round the year. Even though I do not need her. I just want her to be there. Eventually she will become my main maid and the current one will become a back up and I, from this position of power, will negotiate with her on her awful timings, or chores that she gives a miss or even cut her salary if she takes too many leaves.
But it is not easy.
My Standard Operating Protocol for Maid Hunt
1. Spread the word- talk to the maid encyclopedia of the building- the one who knows about every available maid, the building maid, the neighbour's maid, iron wallah, security, fish waali who has the advantage of knowing about maids in other buildings.
2. Go from flat to flat staring at their doorstep- if there is a pair of chappals which are likely to be a maid's, ring the bell even if you have never ever spoken to the occupants before. Ask for the maid without preamble. Because- they understand how it is like to be maidless. But, don't say you want their maid to work- say you want to ask their maid to find someone- because maid poaching is another feared thing- some people clam up the moment you say words to that effect. The drill is same when you speak to the maid- give flat number, timing when you need a maid, give a brief overview of the work load and extract a promise from her that she will bring her friend to work for you, then pray for the miracle.
3. Stare at every possible person in the vicinity. If they look like a maid- accost them.
4. Follow up- with 1 & 2 & 3 above.
5. Now when a maid comes you need to judge- do you tell the entire workload and fix upfront or just give a sketch and as she enters your home give additional responsibility and may be increase the salary thereby. Do you straightaway come to a final figure or negotiate upwards. Remember, there is no sure shot here. Some walk away the moment they hear the figure and you will never feel like calling them back even if you had a higher budget, while some will negotiate. Some name their price while others wait for you to open your trap then size you up.
6. Even if one agrees to come and work, the story does not end. They may not turn up and you lose a day and a half worth of maid hunt. So keep the search on even then.
7. Even if they join work, there is no guarantee that they will last the month even. Believe me, I have changed 6 last year and have already experienced 2 this month alone. Therefore, rinse, repeat until you get a feeling that the new one has settled.
8. And as you begin to have good thought for her and start thinking of giving her a big bonus inspite of she not completing even a year of service, or start thinking of giving her a hike as she completes a year, or plan to give her some more work because, after all, the workload isn't as much as you initially spoke of- she throws a googly and quits.
9. Rinse, repeat 1-8.
10. Now a word of caution- never hire 2 people from the same family- if someone dies or someone is born, both will take leave at the same time. Also, even if with each passing maidless day you increase your walkaway salary for the new maid, the next one will throw a figure which is phenomenally higher. No matter how much impatient you are to hire, never hire someone if you plan to throw her out eventually after you get a better one- her gang of friends will never let you hire another one and you will be stuck with her ultimately.