Six months ago our menagerie grew to five. Our life got more comfortable. Waking up to a neat home, beds made, hot meals for the asking, children cared for… and yet, I feel burdened.
Y is an adult who chose to travel thousands of miles to a strange land. What I grapple with daily is that it wasn’t necessarily an educated choice. All she had to go by was one Skype conversation, and a contract that I printed off my home computer.
R & I would forever be haunted by the look on her face as we received her at the airport. He saw her first, as he had to go meet the immigration official at the Maha lounge to ‘claim’ his ward.
She walked five steps behind him, holding onto her black handbag, and approached the group of us waiting for her at Costa’s–me, the kids, friends who travelled to Doha on the same flight.
Wide-eyed after a long flight, transfers included, quite clearly afraid of what and who awaits her.
Over the next six weeks she was trained by our part-time help of seven years and honorary matron of the family, K. We were all getting used to each other. That seems a long time ago.
Now, we are used to having someone at home all the time. We are ever-conscious of how much smoother the functioning of our home is, and are grateful for it.
But it doesn’t escape me that we wield an unfair control over Y.
That’s the nature of her assignment as a migrant domestic worker.
In the absence of a law that protects them, it falls on the presumed goodness of her ‘sponsor’–in her case R & me–to treat her well, and the way we would wish to be treated.
How she lives, what she eats, how she is treated, whom she can speak to, her access to her family, access to help or care, what she can wear… all of this is probably easier to quantify.
What about not being in control of her mobility? Not being in control of with whom and how she socialises? How she chooses to spend her weekends? What about being 30, single and abstinent? What about the freedoms we have to consider deeply and often deny, because of where we live?
So, yes, her life (like the rest of her ilk) in Qatar being a good one hinges on the goodness of her employer. The goodness of people, however, is a fickle thing to depend on; personal motivations will likely trump humanitarian action.
My egalitarian attitude towards Y is at least in part motivated by my need to reduce the burden of guilt–for being a link in this chain of exploitation. To feel better about who I am.
I will continue to make gestures to ease my conscience; find justifications for my actions; and excuses for my inaction.
I We (all of you included) will pull out every logical argument in our heads to say we are not like them (them who exploit, those others)… we will grow used to the comfort, we will learn to set the burden aside, we will secretly hope the status quo remains as our life is easier for it, we will always have ‘those others’ whom we will judge harshly; consequently and conveniently we will judge ourselves kindly.