S U J A T H A

Today is International Women’s Day! Wishing every woman a great year ahead! I hope every Indian woman achieves self-reliance and self-confidence.

Today, I want to share with you all the story of one Bangalore woman whom I have known of for many years now. Her name is Sujatha. She is in her mid-twenties and works as a maid in a few homes in this neighborhood.

I first met her when she was in her late teens and had started working as a maid in my mother’s house. Till then, my mom did not have a maid. Typically, my mom prefers doing everything herself and doesn’t like to wait behind a maid! However, I knew that, with Sujatha, things worked in perfect harmony. She only came home for about 3/4ths of an hour everyday to wash the dishes, and sweep and mop the floor. She was young, very agile, and didn’t need any supervision. She was also extremely trust worthy and wouldn’t typically be interested in anything apart from the job she was there to do. I was not at home, having been married and living away in the US. But, I knew enough of Sujatha from my mom, over the phone. Over a few months, my mom learnt that Sujatha lived with her mom, and 3 younger sisters. Her older sister was married and stayed in her husband’ house. Sujatha’s immediate neighbors were her maternal grandmother+family on one side and her maternal aunt+family on the other. Sujatha also had told my mom how her mom had left her drunkard husband and had raised the family single handed. Her mom had five girls. Whoever worked and brought home any money gave it all to the mom who did whatever it took to run the household with the collected income. Her grandmother had a lot of say in most of the matters and was responsible for the older sister’s wedding expenses etc. Sujatha worked in a few other homes too, and was very content doing her work and taking the money home to her mom.

My mom loved her. She knew that Sujatha was very young and needed to know more than just chores around the house to get a “better” future. Since Sujatha was not really educated or anything, my mom encouraged her to learn tailoring, mostly so that she can then graduate from being a maid to knowing a craft. She can then choose to work as a tailor or work in a garment factory. Sujatha’s mom and grandmother were both not very keen that Sujatha learn anything more than chores around the house, mostly because they thought that’s all she will ever have to know. But, in spite of it, my mom persuaded her and somehow got her started off at a local vocational training school. It was around this time that her mom and grandmother wanted to get her married off. She was all of 20. Sujatha would often share her feelings with my mom. She definitely did not want to get married then, and she was happy the way her life was for the moment. She enjoyed going to her tailoring classes, working as a maid, living in her mom’s house with her family, and just going about her day-today business. Sujatha did not have have any worries, she didn’t dislike anybody, she didn’t fight with anybody, and was overall happy. My mom would feel terribly bad about the fact that this happy-go-lucky girl was being forced to choose marriage at a stage when she was not ready. I knew of most of this sitting at home in Calif. I had met Sujatha a couple of times, so it was not hard to visualise the goings-on. Sitting across the globe, I would feel sorry for her too.

Eventually, it happened. Sujatha’s mom and grandmother found an “eligible” boy for her. This boy had a temp job in Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, something they were very impressed with, considering that most of them are unskilled laborers of some sort or the other. So, they thought they were doing good by her. The grandmother spent 2 lakhs for the wedding, gave her gold jewelry, and some nice sarees too. The wedding was a decent affair. My parents were at the gathering too and blessed the young couple. Sujatha also had bid them goodbye by then. She said that her husband had a job, and hence her husband’s family did not want her to work outside of their home. My mom was still unsure about Sujatha quitting her tailoring lessons. And she did feel a little bad for this young girl who was going away. I felt bad too, though I was nowhere near here.

My mom went ahead and found another maid and life went on as usual. Until one morning, when she got to hear from some neighbors about Sujatha’s “plight.” Apparently, she was a mom of a 2 year old girl and was back in her mom’s house. She also heard that the husband had lost his temp job, sold all of Sujatha’s jewels, and spent it all on his vice, drinking! Apparently, the mother-in-law was very meddling in their affairs and was the cause of a lot of fights. Sujatha was even beaten up a few times and had no money either for herself or even for her child! And having had enough, she chose to leave her husband and come back to her mom’s house with her child. That was about how much my mom had heard. She couldn’t stop feeling sorry for this girl, who was thrust into this situation. And, that’s all she knew for a while.

Later, in Oct of ’06, my hub, kids, and I returned to Bangalore for good. My hub’s parents are not in Bangalore. Only my folks live here. So, we set up shop closer to my parent’s place. We had newly moved into our rental place when early one morning, I heard the calling bell ring. I opened the door, and who do I see but Sujatha!!! I couldn’t believe my eyes. She wasn’t the same. She had gained a lot of weight, so obviously I didn’t recognise her. She was also not the same happy and carefree girl anymore. She had aged way too quickly, and it broke my heart to see her so. Apparently, she was my neighbor’s new maid, and since she was looking for another home for work, my neighbor asked her to check with me. I couldn’t believe the co-incidence. Sujatha and I haven’t seen much of each other, so obviously she didn’t know me well. But, I knew her fairly well because of my mom. I invited her in and asked her how she was. She told me all of what my mom had heard about her. Apart from that, she also told me her husband had even poured kerosene on her one night when he had returned drunk, and she had asked him where her jewels were. She also told me that since she did not have any access to money, she was finding it very tough to buy things for her child. Obviously, the husband had proved his worthlessness, but, Sujatha thought he wasn’t too bad and that it was her mother-in-law who was responsible for most of their fights, etc. She also said that to prevent having anymore children, she had gone and gotten herself a Copper-T IUD, which was causing her a lot of other health issues. She gained a lot of weight since then, is more tired now, has pain around her mid-riff, and bleeds a lot more every month. My heart wept for her. I felt terrible since there was nothing much I could do. You might wonder why she has an IUD when she is not even with her husband. Well, it is because her husband visits her every now and then only to pick fights or to sleep with her! Sigh!

When I realised she was looking for a job, I promptly took her to my mom’s house, since my mom had not had a maid in a while. My mom was more than happy to see her again. Sujatha is actually willing to set up another home with her husband and child as long as her mother-in-law will leave them alone. She truly believes that her husband, by himself, is not too bad. I have offered her any help she may ever want. Even get her husband employed if he is willing, etc. Since Sujatha’s younger sister is my maid, I am abreast of all events at their home. I sincerely pray for a better and happier future for her and her daughter.

I truly wish her a happy Women’s Day today. I hope she achieves self-reliance and self-confidence!


10 Responses to “S U J A T H A”

  1. happy womens day chitra

  2. Thanks Famus! And welcome to my blog!

  3. That was very sad. But most of the women who work as maids are in such a situation. They are usually illiterate and are taught to be with their husbands no matter how they behave.

    My mom’s maid is probably around 20-22 now. My parents have made sure she finished her degree (I actually taught her to help her pass 10th Maths). Later my dad also helped her get into a computer training and now she has a job with a salary of almost Rs 5000 a month ( which is certainly better than what she’d earn by being a maid). She still works as a maid in my parents’ house, she says she doesn’t want to leave :).

    Right now her parents are looking out for a match for her and are worried that she might not find any as her salary is more!! Her mom also used to work for us earlier, so somehow my mom has conviced her mom that this is a right thing for her. Hopefully, she’ll find a man who’ll be worthy of her and who’ll treat her right..

  4. That’s awesome, Deeps! I also wish we knew Sujatha when she was slightly younger. Anyway …

    You are right about most of the maids having such stories here. Maybe, I will add that as a P.S.

  5. Story of so many young girls whose lives have been ruined by marrying the wrong man.If only the parents would realise that it is education and not marriage that will ensure their longterm security! Government has so many schemed for them which they re not even aware of.
    People talk about the strides we have made in IT and say we are on our way to become a super power but there is a huge population in this country where the reality is what you have painted. How can we achieve any great strides unless they move forward and higher?

  6. You are right, Usha! Making strides just in IT is not sufficient. I am hoping us bloggers can collectively use this platform to make a difference.

  7. Plenty of stories like this, if one looks around. Good to have highlighted this.

    I guess we have to look beyond gender and focus more on perceptions and attitude (approaches) to problems. Because at the root of the issue, is not often the gender. Sometimes gender is incidental.

    Besides, typecasting and labelling (gender being just one of them) has a limiting role, which doesn’t help.

    Since man has always had physical power, it’s he who has got the upper hand… Things are changing, changing slowly…

    Matters like education, community support, financial independence etc are helping women to override the societal taboos and other meaningless limitations. We are looking beyond gender…

    Man and woman are special in their own ways; and need to be respected, for their individuality and contribution to humanity.

    For ex: I don’t think anyone can substitute a mother, not even another woman…

    I only hope and pray women aren’t perscuted, humiliated and looked down upon because of their gender… It’s abominable. Sadly even so-called educated people do that…

    One way of trying to change that will be to focus on other substantive attributes of a human being… man and woman… We must try to convince people (both men and women) that gender is secondary, there are other contexual parameters that matter.

    Change is slow; it is more noticeable on a small canvas, on a wider canvas it takes time take effect…

  8. Pradeep, Thanks! What you say about ‘change’ is very true. It will take time and it will take even more time for change to be noticed.

  9. i feel nothing but hatred for our indian culture and mentality hearing stories of such sujatha’s. I have no clue when the heck on earth we are going to liberate our women and when on earth will start being a developed country. The only difference i see between developed and “Developing” contries have is the former have liberated their women much and the latter wants to enslave them.

  10. This issue(Sujatha’s situation – I mean) exists beyond “Developing” nations – even in the “Developed” world.
    I have heard of stories in the US, where the wife is beaten up, goes to the police and has the guy arrested. But when he comes back and says he is reformed she believes him, takes him in, has a child or two and then its back to square one with the abuse.
    I probably cant change much – if u have a hatred for the Indian culture because of such things. But I just felt that you should probably know that similar stories exists in other parts of the world too.

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