Thursday, July 14, 2011


I have a housekeeper.

We'll call him M. He comes to my house for a few hours six days a week.

Housekeepers are ubiquitous in middle-class households in Delhi, it seems. And they're nearly a requirement in expat households, which are seen as stingy and, frankly, foolish if they don't employ someone. M came with the house. He was working for the previous (expat) tenants and if we hadn't kept him on, he would have been out of a job. I'm not gonna lie, that's not the only reason we kept him on. It's rather nice to have my bed made every day. Yes, he makes my bed. Like all housekeepers, M also does the dishes, mops the floor, and cleans the bathrooms.

Unlike all housekeepers, M redecorates. I'll come home to find wall ornaments taken down or put back up, furniture moved around, and packets of oral rehydration salts left on the dining room table carefully displayed in new patterns. He clearly has a vision for our apartment and we are not living up to it. 

ORS packets

I was just talking to my roommate about how we feel a little awkward telling friends and family at home that we have someone who comes to our house every day to clean. It's difficult to convey how normal it is to employ house help (in households with the means to do so) and how abnormal it is not to. But I chose to write about it here because it is very much a "when in India" experience. 

It also gives me the opportunity to highlight this recent article from the New York Times: "In India, Maids Need Protection and Respect." M is a bit of an outlier in that he's male. More than 70 percent of domestic workers in India are female. They often face long hours, low wages and a lack of respect. Female housekeepers are, as the article states, "especially vulnerable to trafficking, sexual and financial exploitation, and forcible confinement." I recommend reading the article for an interesting take on domestic work in India and what's being done to provide protection to domestic workers. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. how interesting! that's hilarious that he redecorates your apartment. Ask him if he'd like to move to NYC...

  3. I'm excited as heck that we'll have household help in Turkey. And I totally agree that it's a "when in Rome" thing.

  4. I would very much like to employ a Mr. M. He can change anything he wants.