The other day my ayah asked me if I’m earning a certain sum of money. When I asked her what made her think so, she said her friend who works for the memsahib on the seventh floor in the opposite block of flats, told her. That’s what is called a ‘telewoman’! As fast as a teleprinter but not quite so accurate.
It just made me wonder why the seventh floor memsahib had to concern herself with my income and even if it was idle interest in my welfare, why she has to discuss it with her ayah. Neither she nor the ayah will be my heirs, so what’s their game? No wonder the men have labelled us gossips. I can concede a point to them; though men also are inclined to idle chatter about other men, they don’t stoop to the level of inviting the peon or chowkidar to be a sounding board. At least they choose their peers.
In a colony kind of situation, the inhabitants are thrown together so much that its but natural to be curious about the neighbours. But some women have this deplorable tendency to- confide in their domestic staff. With no grandiose ideas or feudal leanings, one must realise that a maid is an employee who has neither any emotional commitment nor loyalty (unless she is one of those old retainers). It is best to keep her at a distance because her intellectual capacity is limited to listening and talking. Because they are good listeners, their employers tend to get carried away and pour out all their woes — very personal ones too. Nothing good will come out of this as the listener has neither the training nor the education to advise you or soothe you. But it doesn’t stop there. At the slightest provocation, she is ready to spill the beans and pass on the ‘secret’ to her peer group.
In our ‘society’ the flats have attached quarters where the domestic staff can live. If for any reason, the employer throws out the employee, the loser is the former as the enraged employee passes false rumours about the tyranny of the lady, and no one ventures to work for her. On the other hand, another employer willingly takes her on, despite a warning from the lady who has thrown her out. I find that educated women have less loyalty for each other than the working class women.
Working women especially, depend more on the domestic staff. This being so, they tend to go out of their way to please them so that they can be assured of their continued service. This is the other extreme of the ones who exploit them.
At a seminar on women’s role, a lady made a very sensible point. She said that the emergence of the working woman has increased the employment potential of the illiterate woman who can be employed to do household chores which is within her capacity, so that the career woman can pursue her own without the hassles of mundane chores. That and only that, should be the relationship between the two. One needs the other to a certain extent, but not as a friend or philosopher or guide. Certainly not as a companion to gossip!an