Stories about domestic help

A domestic helper is not a slave. A child is not a servant. #JusticeForTayyaba

Exactly one year ago, a man heard a little girl cry out from the cold floor of a washroom in Rawalpindi. She is a 12-year-old domestic worker in Rawalpindi Cantonment. As the man tries to contact the police, he realises there is no proper method to save a child like that from a family that refuses to understand that such treatment towards young children, or any person, is nothing but inhumane. The man who heard this little child’s cry wrote about the incident in a piece published on January 01, 2016, with the hope that by this year, she ...

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We invited our maid’s family for a Diwali dinner and this is what we learnt

Inspired by her friends, my mother started a new tradition in our home last night – she invited the family of our maid, Madina to come to our home for dinner. Earlier, she had sent dad and me to buy all the groceries to prepare some special food for our guests. We all ate together and had a lovely conversation as well. This is the first time we have ever done anything like this in our family. It felt surreal to see Madina’s whole family sitting on our couch and eating with us on our dining table. This was especially significant for ...

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Maryam knew she was born poor and meant to be treated harshly

Three months ago, an 11-year-old Maryam sat in my friend’s drawing room, weeping incessantly. My friend and I asked her if there was anything we could do for her, we inquired if she wanted to talk to her mother. All we got in return were confused, big black eyes staring right back at us. Maryam curled herself into a tiny ball and continued sobbing. I felt immensely grieved because the little girl had made a long arduous journey from her village to this new house alone. My friend’s mother had asked a former driver to look for a female domestic helper; one ...

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“Stop encouraging the idea of education within these children”

I recently got into an argument over class, status and ranks – the superficial boundaries that divide our society. And the greatest regret coming from it was the fact that even the most educated minds are still so deeply woven into these concepts that it provokes the irrationale amidst me. I grew up with four kids who did not belong to my class; they were children of my ‘maid’ who I lovingly call my second mom. When I was growing up, the word ‘maid’ and ‘nokar’ was prohibited in my household. She was known as ‘Baji’, who helped us around ...

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‘Maid’ is not a synonym for ‘Slave’, Pakistan!

I came across the picture given above on a blog called People of Pakistan and it left me dumbfounded. I have seen many real-life incidents like these in Pakistan, but none have had a similar effect. The photograph shouts out everything that is wrong with our social fabric today and it makes me absolutely furious. Here are a few reasons this photograph disturbed me: 1. The family in the said picture brought their maids to the restaurant with them to take care of their kids so that they could, I suppose, enjoy a ‘peaceful meal’. My guess is that the maids were either ...

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12 and married

The small private clinic was echoing with mixed voices – those of ear-piercing shrills and loud excitement. Waiting to see my doctor, I realised the commotion in the maternity section with nurses rushing through a storm of women – aunts and grandmothers waiting on news of a baby child. Passing it on as regular routine at the clinic, I was alarmed when the doctor came out scolding the elderly woman in the group who was wailing, claiming the doctor did not do enough to save the child. The doctor told the waiting family, “The poor girl would have died in labour. She was ...

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In 2014, slavery still exists…

Children are beautiful, innocent, simple and sweet. Therefore, they are loved, cajoled, pampered and spoiled. They get special treatment, selected food, quality education, prompt healthcare and extra attention. But this is not true for every child. Not every child is considered beautiful, simple and pure. Some children are born to live as children while others are born to live as slaves. These slave children are neglected and forgotten. They are beaten day in and day out, humiliated and assaulted. They are the waiters, the maids and the mechanics. They are the ones you take one glance at and then look away, because they look ...

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‘Maid’ in hell or guardian angel?

When my son was born, all the desi rules applied; the Azaan was given in his ear, the circumcision plans were in place, his head was shaved off at the tenth day, my mom made the panjeeri (which was apparently for my good health), I was told to drink lots and lots of hareera and I also got lots of advice on how to raise my kid. I love this about desi culture. Everyone’s involved. Everyone has an opinion. So as the post partum stresses of sleepless nights and constant feedings and rockings and diaper changing sessions continued, someone advised, “Just get a maid to ...

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Of aunties, dawats and controversial conversations

A few months ago, I was at an Eid brunch and everyone seemed to be having a jolly good time, exchanging pleasantries and smiles while sitting pretty in their colourful Eid joras. However, things were not as lovely as they seemed. As soon as one lady left amidst loving goodbyes and kisses, the other ladies present started speaking ill of her. “Khud toh dawat nahi karti kabhi, aur sab ki dawaton mein ajati hai!” (She never hosts parties herself but shows up at everyone else’s!) This left me shocked and mighty uncomfortable as this was said by none other than the host herself. The ...

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Noor of Bihar

“Babu jee, India is so enormous. Mumbai, Agra, Delhi and Bihar are unfathomable in size. Either you take one step or accomplish a hundred, it will take 10 years to traverse from one end of the country to another,” she assured me in her mellifluous Bihari tone. As the fan overhead continued its eternal hymn, Nani (maternal grandmother) shouted in distaste, “Huh, you have seen India, my foot! Woman of no worth,” she shouted out, as mother and I looked at each other, exchanging mental notes on how to manage Nani’s incorrigible distrust of domestic helpers. Nani suffered from a cancerous tumour ...

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