United States provided me with every luxury I could have ever imagined, desired or wanted for myself. I got everything, sans few comforts that could have made my life more comfortable. Those luxuries, while I had them in India, alas they remain a thing of the past or a nearly impossible dream now. Though you don’t have fancy names like butlers, chauffeurs, chambermaids and nannies for those luxuries, yet what you get in return is pure joy that fills the heart completely. Respect for you, love for you and undeniable commitment are simply priceless and something you earn and not get in exchange for a few paper notes!
Call it flaunting my position and power, but in a way, I am like the Queen herself in my home country, a stark contrast to being a damsel in distress in the United States where I ought to do everything myself, just like the rest of them! This article is a felicitation to the following motley crew whose presence makes me smile and whose services makes me feel like the royal highness in a visit to India.
Here I introduce them, in no particular order of hierarchy.
1 MAID – THE ADOPTED MEMBER OF THE FAMILY
A Maid at your disposal for everything you either hate to do or don’t want to do. That’s some luxury only few people in the world can afford to have, and we Indians are absolutely fortunate in that manner. So, a part-time or even a full-time, live-in maid is very common, even among middle class families. In many instances, you have an array of part time maids – a cleaner for your floor and furniture, a cook, and an extra third to wash your utensils and clothes!
2 COOLIE – THE LEAN, MEAN MAN WITH WHEELS
Just like the way you have trolleys floating around in the airport to take your belongings, you have men called Coolies in India. They are people who carry your luggage, not in baskets or bags but in every unimaginable positions and body parts – in the hands, shoulders, head, waist, etc. These men are mostly found in depots like railway stations and bus stands, and in smaller towns, they are found even in grocery and electronic shops to carry home your purchases!
3 DHOBI – THE OLD FASHIONED WASHING MACHINE
Dhobis are men who wash and/or iron your clothes. Usually they have their own tiny shacks or make-shift shops tucked in some corner of your apartment campus or in the local market. So, in India the usual trend is while the maid washes the clothes, the sun dries and the dhobi irons them out. Not only that, the dhobi delivers your clothes to you too! My dhobi is a nice, young man and whenever he sees me, his first question is ‘aap kab aye’? (When did you come?)
4 DRIVER – THE LOYAL AND INDISPENSABLE MEMBER OF THE CLAN
Who doesn’t like the idea of being driven by your own personal chauffeur? Well, the idea is a reality in the lives of many individuals residing in India. Having a full-time driver isn’t something only the rich can afford, rather anyone with a decent earning can keep one without leaving a dent in his wallet. Often times, the driver is also your personal assistant who runs errands for you, is your drinking buddy or is somebody who knows your best kept secrets!
5 BARBER – THE FRIENDLY, CHATTERBOX OLD MAN WHO SAW YOU GROW UP
Most parlors in India catering the men segment attend the hair as well as the beard. So the luxury of somebody foaming and trimming your beard, that too at a nominal price, is sheer extravaganza and a rare treat. Hence, whenever we travel to India, my husband just doesn’t carry with him his razor. He’s very straightforward, ‘if I can afford to have me shaved by someone else, why bother my hands’.
6 NUKKAD WALE DUKAN KE ADMI – THE UBIQUITOUS BOYS WHO SHOPS AND DELIVERS
It’s very common in India, especially in the capital and metros to have your purchases home delivered, and hold your breath, they do it free of charge! So, all you need is a shopping list and a phone number of your local shop, and you can have your bread, milk, rice, newspapers, vegetables, meat, juices, water, and all your essentials transported to you. Internet shopping and restaurant orders form another chapter of the home delivery story!
Many thanks to these good fellas for giving me that much deserved break when I am in India, especially after doing all the donkey work around in my house all year long!
This seems to be a nice jog down the memory lane, but alas!! all these men are dying a slow death. The Nukkad-wala-pan-ki-dukan is no longer a place where gossip-mongers can hang, take a puff and talk all you want. With sale of tobacco and paan masala banned in most of the states and nicotine-free cigarettes available at the same price, guys no longer flock there. The tree, the stool, the broken mirror and the barber is all gone. Dhobis have been replaced by washing machines which actually falls economical. The coolis, driver and maid are still there..thankfully!! They come under “endangered species” so we pamper them and give them any amount of money that they ask.
@ Roh – Yes, it was for me too, a nice walk down the memory lane. Fortunately, I am still able to meet all these men whenever I come down to India. I really value them and thank them for giving me a much needed break from all the house chores and of course the rest of the donkey work.