The Mumbai Bai

The cleanliness bug often brings with it some needless committments and interesting discoveries. A case in point is that of the cleaning lady, who has been working in our flat since the last six months. The initial employment interview was equally hilarious – wherein we were trying to negotiate a suitable salary. The bais seem to have formed a union everywhere – wherein it is always pre-decided that this is the minimum threshold, no matter what the work entails. We regularly have dinner outside the house, and our wake up timings do not leave us much chance to cook breakfast. And for the lunch, we are usually mulling in office over what to eat. So that hardly leaves any chance for dirty utensils, except for occassional glasses smeared with juice left overs and alike.

So that is how it started. After some tough negotiation, we agreed to a salary that was mutually comfortable. And her first day at work must have been a flabbergasting discovery. There were two small rooms to be mopped and two glasses to be cleaned. And no clothes – most of our clothes are sent out for washing (read dry cleaning … hic .. hic). And this has been the usual case most of the days.

But the best part of the bai experience has been the language problem. She does not understand hindi but speaks fluent marathi. And most of the instructions to her elicit a response that sounds like YES. Bai … could you clean under the table … HAWO … but then when you return to the room … the corners of the table are still dirty. However, her most remarkable thing is the 15-minute rapid dash.

The moment she enters the house to the time she leaves with all work done, the total time taken is 15 minutes. In 15 minutes, floors are swept and cleaned, utensils are washed, and a few clothes are cleaned. It is amazing to see the super-efficient Mumbai bais :-). However, you can love them or hate them … but they are a necessity.

No matter the salary or the superefficiencies or the language problem for that matter. The bai is the lifeline of Mumbai. Without her, I do not know how our house will look like for sure. Thank you Mumbai bai.


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