Monday, 15 September 2014
This post was long overdue and it won't be perfect because it cannot be perfect. It can't be said perfectly because words will never be enough. Never. What are words but sounds put together and have a value of less than 1 cent sometimes. Feelings and emotions pump these words up. When the feelings are real of course. The truth. The truth hits the gut harder than anything else in the world. The truth can be told in less than 50 words and sometimes silence is enough. The women of Indonesia - our beautiful helpers who come down to countries like Singapore to work. Our maids. Our sisters. Recently, i was talking to one of the Indonesian helpers under my condominium. How do we view these women? Just take a moment to check your conscience. You see a helper under the block on the phone taking a walk and immediately many people will think of that as - she must be talking to her boyfriend. Her bangladeshi boyfriend to be precise. Sometimes that's not true and even if it is - what is wrong with that. These women of Indonesia are more liberated and independent than any other women i have met in my life.
I hear clients talk about their maids and sometimes in the most degrading manner. I heard recently - " my maid is lazy and likes to take 2 hour naps in the afternoon." In our busy social media indulgent life, we forget that these people are respectable human beings like us too. They have wishes, hopes and a love life. Yes, their quality of life is different to ours but why can't we give them the mutual respect that they deserve. 2 hour naps are important for these ladies because they wake up early and do your dirty job for you. Yes, they get paid for it. How much? $400 to $800 a month. What happens to a bulk of this money have you ever asked yourself. I will tell you what happens to one such helper i spoke to.
For anonymity purpose, i will call her D.
D came down to Singapore 4 years back. She came here because her husband wasn't earning enough money back home and she had to do something to educate her children. She moved to Singapore and started to work hard. Each month she transferred $400 of her pay to her children so that they could go to school, pay for bike loan, pay for house rental etc. She was left with $50 and sometimes $100 per month for herself. After 2 years of working in Singapore, she got a call from her brother saying her husband had re-married. This news broke her into pieces but she didn't let herself fall apart. She gathered herself and rebuilt herself with hope and courage. Every month, she sends a bulk of her pay to her children and for the past 4 years..this is routine. She has no savings. Her life revolves around the house and watching indian serials in the afternoon because that's what "mam" likes to watch. So when people turn around and say that these women are lazy, let me tell you - they are more liberated than those gucci and prada carrying women who do nothing but attend social parties and art events. Life is so much more than these. If you want to learn what work- life balance is - ask these ladies. These strong women who stay in Singapore. Each of them with their own story. Each one with their own goals and each one with their own money- transfer account. They are away from family and working hard to feed them back home. How many times do you sit them down and ask them - " How do you feel my friend, away from family and working in a house and taking alone time can be seen as being lazy? How do you feel my friend?" Bring them for a movie, let them sit on the table to eat with you and let them take walks in the evening. Many of us work 9 to 7pm but when we take a break - we know its a break. These women are on call 24hrs. Waking up at 7 am, making breakfast for kids, getting them ready, sending them to school, cooking lunch dinner, cleaning up and doing all those things that you won't do.
Now, not all women have the same fate, destiny or stories but there are bad apples in every basket.
Respect these women and love them for they deserve it as much as all your daughters do. They need love than most of us. They have real problems. They are tough women. They blur the lines between the roles of a man and women and challenge the norm. These women are the real heroes.
Thank you so much.
I write this post because it is my helper's birthday today. Happy Birthday Darling Yati.
Thank you cooking for me, for loving me as a child and for listening to all my crazy stories in the middle of the night. Thank you for being a sister and thank you for being patient when i throw a tantrum. I really appreciate you. Happy birthday love. God bless you. xo