His unshaven and unwashed face seemed repulsive to me. His crushed and dirty payjamas could not have made him look even worse. I asked him, “Andheri Station??” He shook his head meaning “No”. I asked again, “Will you go, or wont” He just looked away. I was sort of unsettled; the kind of feeling one has when his servant disobeys him. I also know that the so-called modern and liberal brigade of India would have made a villain out of me by now for still having a feudal mindset. But, I think most of us still carry the weight of those feudal days. It’s just that the words we use might be different.
A friend of mine got frustrated while waiting for a rick at Andheri Station. She was expecting someone to come and say “Ma’m, where do you want to go” Much to her chagrin, the autowallahs did not stop auto and asked while still driving the rick. Few of them even indicated by hand that they would go only to right and not left. She was appalled to realize that she was not even worthy of a negotiation with an autowallah. You cant blame autowallah if you look at roads and traffic in Bombay for there will be a long queue of vehicles, if you stop even for a minute to ask passengers. And knowing that the most desperate often act most practically since they don’t have the luxury of nursing whims and fancies, my friend should not have been surprised at the autowallah merely showing his hand to point at direction where he wanted to go.
As Leonardo Dicaprio said in Blood Diamond “Americans have a lot of feelings” He was actually referring to rich people being over sensitive. In this case too, my well-to-do friend got offended. In fact, she is not an exception, as even many others and I would have reacted in the similar fashion.
You would often hear a friend complaining that the servants are over demanding. “They ask for sarees on Diwali”, goes the rhetoric. But aren’t masters over demanding too? In Delhi and in fact most of north India, if your daughter is getting married, it is assumed that the maid, who otherwise does not spend more than 2 hours at your house, will give a helping hand for may be 2 days or even 3 days until the wedding gets over. Agreed that, maids get paid for this extra time, but assuming them to give a helping hand without even bothering to ask them is preposterous.
I was not surprised when many of my friends could not read more than 20 pages of the award-winning novel ‘The White Tiger’. They thought that it was simply a critique of India. They did not realize that it was actually a critique of how servants are treated and how caste is still a reality and not a myth in India. The employer is always a ‘maalik’ or worse ‘anna data’ and the employee a ‘naukar’ to an extent that when someone asks “aap kahan naukri kartein hai”, we don’t even realize that he has degraded us.