Today, I am writing about this extremely affluent lady that I know. She is large hearted, kind, humble. She wears ordinary clothes most of the time, but then we all know how rich she is.
She has a 3 storey house, furnished lavishly in silk, silver and crystal. To run this 3 storey palace, she has a flock of 12 servants (or may be 10), 3 cooks and some 3–4 drivers. I know servants is not a polite word, so lets use staff from hereon.
Her whole day goes in planning food, managing these “staff”, planning their food, and giving them a comfortable life. Because if even 1 of the staff is missing from the flock, her household gets into a ruckus. She plans their leaves schedule, she buys them expensive gifts, she gives them money knowing most will not pay her back. She sends gifts to their village for the family of this flock. In return, she gets restaurant style food at home — they can make food and serve it in crockery that will put any 5 star to shame. They keep the house clean and let the family of 5 live a king size life.
To justify the cost of this 12–15 member fleet she hosts parties regularly. Also, to justify their cost she buys unnecessarily huge quantity of grains, fruits and vegetables and uses their services to clean, store, use, clean, store use….
Having observed her life for close to a year now, I often think — is it worth it? What is the point of being so rich when all the time you are managing your servants and panicking about them or pampering them.
Now let’s talk about the staff and how they behave. This is based on observation as an outsider, brief interactions with them over a year, and based on stories i have hears from the rich lady. These boys come from their village for food and money. So it is important to give them good food. So in the house, they have liberty to drink milk, eat curds, eat anything they want. Her vegetable bill is Rs.2000 a day. They eat hot breakfast (no bread /leftovers from last night). A full roti,dal, sabzi, rice for lunch, and a full steaming hot dinner. They do their assigned duties. But if you change their roles frequently, they don’t approve of it. So if Staff 1 has to pack lunch for the men-bosses every afternoon, and for a few days,if you ask him to instead wash vessels, he will not approve. If you have asked Staff 1 to pack 4 rotis for lunch and change the quantity too often, he will not listen to you and pack the quantity that he thinks is appropriate. When the rich lady pulled him up for messing the quantity, he said he cant remember these frequent changes and asked her not to confuse him. The lady complied.
The entire staff wears white uniform, white masks (covid) and gloves. They have been given shields and sanitizers. In the car, the rich lady’s driver one day refused to wear the shield saying he feels very hot. The lady couldn’t do a thing. She sat by the window of her BMW, window rolled down as she feared contamination from the driver. The pampered driver didn’t relent.
Two of the lady’s staff members had gone to their villages before lockdown. And once flights resumed she wanted to call them back. The lady had to cajole and negotiate with them for almost 10 days before they agreed. Once they agreed to come, negotiation on dates started. They gave her a date which was 20 days away and she just had to agree to that date. I am not even grieving about the Rs.20,000 per head that she spent on getting them to Bombay. I am just shocked at how she has to abide by their wishes.
Once her son wanted to eat Bhindi for dinner and the servants had used up 2 kg bhindi for their meal without asking her. She got so panciky that the son and daughter in law will throw a fit. She called her vegetable vendor and immediately left with the driver to buy bhindi for the son. She couldn’t say a word to the staff about using up 2 Kg bhindis.
I basically realize that her staff guys are softspoken and passively aggressive. They show their aggression by sulking or not listening to her. To make sure the household runs smoothly, she needs to tolerates their tantrums, besides spending huge amounts of money on them. When she goes on a holiday, she has to ensure that the staff runs the household smoothly in her absence and for this she is always in touch with them.
50% of her calls are staff related — directly or indirectly. She is constantly giving them instructions or firing them for not doing things properly or worrying about them.
I see my mother and I am proud that at this age (73 years) she is so keen to learn, her general knowledge is so good, she still does crossword puzzles, sudoku, reads papers. What she is not clear about, she asks us for explanation. My mother has so much world awareness, even though she has traveled out of India only twice. She heads the temple committee, she does so many Hinduism related rituals. She is learning new features on her devices all the time. She keeps herself busy with things she learns on YouTube or with teaching things to my nieces. My mother loves astrology and she learnt astrology when she was in her 60s. She learnt astrology related math, bought books, answered exams and vivas. She made project submissions. She did this for 7 years till the completion of the course. Till date she buys astrology books and reads them and solves for kundlis as a passion. There is so much more to my mother’s life than just food and servant issues. You will hardly ever find my mother talking about staff related issues.
The rich lady on the other hand has all the money and luxuries, yet always entangled in household running and staff related issues.
Domestic helpers are there to make the homeowners life easy. And that is the most important thing. If the domestic helpers make my life complicated and stress filled, why have them? As India progresses, fewer people will want to become maids and domestic helpers. So, availability will become tough. And in a high demand, low supply scenario, prices will rise and the bargaining power with shift in favor of the domestic helpers. And their tantrums will rise.