Be Selfish. Very Selfish. That’s The Safe Thing To Do

If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors*, not his equals.”
~Sirius Black

I don’t get this. A recent incident, has me seething.

What motivation would one have to not treat their help with the utmost respect, maybe a little kindness and even a bit of gratitude?

Forget the whole humanitarian business. Let’s assume, we don’t give a rat’s sh*t for other people’s feelings . Let’s accept that we are all rather self-centred.


if you are leaving your child in someone’s care;

if you are going to eat the food made by them;

if you are going to depend on them to keep your house clean…

Shouldn’t we be a little more careful about how we treat our paid help?

If I were working for someone who didn’t treat me well, and I can’t really afford to quit, I would do everything in my capacity to screw them over.

Doesn’t it make absolute ‘selfish’ sense to treat our help properly?

Just to ensure the children are well-taken care of, the food is cooked to meet health standards, and that the home is not a breeding place for mites and pests.

But look around. You realise that some of the meanest people are the stupidest.

You also realise that for some, treating their ‘servants’ or help badly is so ingrained in their nature and upbringing, they do not even realise how awful they sound.

Like this acquaintance (an otherwise intelligent and nice person) who proudly proclaimed that she disconnects the TV receiver when she is not at home, to make sure the ‘maid’ doesn’t sit glued to the idiot box. She also believed that with this master stroke, she has ensured that the ‘maid’ does nothing but take care of her kids!

As if that weren’t enough, she is indignant that the maid was listening to religious music (of a different faith). So the tape player has been banned too. Just to negate any remote chance of the religious music converting her infant and kindergartener.

Now that all kinds of entertainment or relaxation has been curtailed, the only issue left to tackle is the incessant telephone calls. Once the sim card is flushed down the toilet and the landline is kept under lock&key, I am sure the well-being of the children is assured.

Am I the only one who sees the irony in this?

My eldest sister has a retort whenever people talk to her of ‘putting the maid in place’ – someone who has been with her for nearly 20 years. My sis says, just like the rest of us, her help is a working woman too. And just like the rest of us, the maids/servants/helps have every right to expect and demand respect and equality at the workplace.

So simple.

We are not so much doing a favour to them by giving employment, as we are setting right our own shortcomings. We cannot take good enough care of our home, so we seek help; We need their help to take care of our children so that we can go out and earn; We probably really suck at cooking, so having them around is a better alternative to takeaways; We just cannot be bothered to scrub the crap out of our loos, so…

Be smart and be selfish, even if you can’t be nice. It’s your home and family at stake.

* I don’t even like that word in this context, but couldn’t find a more apt quote.

PS: For all the victimised cry of racism, the Asians are the worst when it comes to class-ism.

14 thoughts on “Be Selfish. Very Selfish. That’s The Safe Thing To Do

  1. Anjali says:

    Hi Ummon,

    I agree that people should treat domestic help with the utmost respect. They are working people like everyone else. Noone would like to be mistreated by their employers, whether they are middle-class households, or big corporate bodies.

    That said, I don’t like the idea of TV being left to the discretion of caretakers who look after toddlers and children. If the caretaker is a TV-addict, the children too could get the habit.

    I don’t know what should be done about the music system. Perhaps one small tape recorder could be given to them, so that they could listen to their cherished music in the privacy of their room.

    • UmmON says:

      Anjali, I disagree. We are dealing with an adult here. Not a child. You can have a conversation with them, explain it. Tell them that you’d rather that your child doesn’t watch so much TV. But by doing something extreme like disconnecting the receiver, your chaffing at their sensibilities. You are telling them you don’t trust them. That’s not a healthy vibe to give our.
      If you don’t trust them enough, don’t leave your child in their care. If it’s not TV, it will be something else.
      And about the music, it was her tape player that she was playing. Since when did listening to music while working become a problem?
      There is a basic distrust and disrespect in the way they are treated.

      • Anjali says:

        I think when one is entrusting one’s children to others, trust should go together with some care and monitoring. There has to be a balance.

        One can respect people and gently, politely lay some rules also.

        “Since when did listening to music while working become a problem?” At many workplaces actually. I think my office would really frown if employees started listening to music and watching TV.

        Anyway, we’ll agree to disagree.

  2. shyam says:

    I’ve read about maids in the Gulf who are mistreated quite horribly – especially the live-in help who dont have anywhere to go. It’s disgusting. And that said, I guess situations like that happen everywhere that there are people willing take advantage of those with less power in their employ. 😦

    And Anjali, I think your “music in the workplace” analogy doesnt quite hold up. The maid doesnt work in a white-collar office atmosphere. Her “workplace” is your (I mean “your” in a generic way) home, and if she’s looking after your kids, and she has no co-workers who would be disturbed, what’s the big deal if she plays her music?

    • UmmON says:

      Shyam, just not in the Gulf. What you are referring to is absolutel violence. But in general, the attitude that those who serve us are our slaves is as bad or worse in India, don’t you think?

  3. Kamini says:

    So true and so sad, everything you’ve written.
    The reason is really very simple: people who treat their help like that don’t think of them as fellow humans at all, but rather, as some sort of a sub-species, inferior, and therefore deserving of such treatment.

  4. Anil John says:

    Some of it is automatic. It’s gotten into the genes. For example, even an innocent four/five year old will address the milkman or the mechanic as “bhaiyya” without anyone having told him/her. but if someone turns up at your house neatly dressed, the kid will address him as “uncle”
    5 hours ago ·

    you are right…be selfish. i remember friends chiding me when i hand over 20 riyal tips to waiters…i tell them if you mess with waiters they will spit in your curry and you won’t event know it!
    5 hours ago ·

    • UmmON says:

      yes, absolutely. the discipline that we would expect from everyone else in the house. get the homework done before TV, don’t be rude, a balance between work and play etc etc.
      the work play balance is very important if it’s a live-in maid, especially. because they tend to get treated the worst.

  5. Nilu says:

    Very well said. Very valid point!

    ALL human beings deserve respect for the work they do. I totally agree that we Indians(for some reason) are the worst “classists” I have come across in the world.


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