Getting Household Help in India

Luckily for us, the school provides us with people to help with maintenance of our place. That takes out most of the hassle of living in India. However, we still need to handle cleaning, cooking, shopping, and laundry. We decided to hire our own help to do things like clean, cook, handle shopping, etc because help is extremely cheap here, everyone said it’s the culturally appropriate thing to do, and neither Daya nor I want to be responsible for doing those things ourselves.

It was my first time hiring someone to do household work. ASB to the rescue once again. The school had a binder with names, contact info, and references of cleaners, chefs, drivers, nannies, and housekeepers who had previously worked for the school. They also had a bunch of sample contracts and job responsibilities.

Cleaners clean, chefs run the kitchen, drivers are responsible for driving and maintaining the car, and nannies look after kids. A housekeeper can be responsible for cleaning, cooking, buying things at the market, maintaining plants, and looking after pets.

Daya and I are a two person household in a two bedroom flat, so we wanted one person who could be in charge of cleaning, cooking, “marketing”, plants, and other miscellaneous household work at our flat.

Last Friday, I wrote down the information of the most promising housekeepers that were in the school’s binder. I called them on Saturday, and scheduled interviews for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

The woman we interviewed on Saturday spoke English fairly well, but we had to work to communicate with her. She lit up when we said we were vegetarians and talked about the different food she could make for us.

Sunday, we interviewed a Tamil woman named Rita, who we ended up hiring. She can speak, read, and write English well enough it was no work to communicate with her. When we asked about vegetarian food, she rattled off a list of dishes she can cook that went on for two minutes. Today she insisted I try one of her fish dishes in mid August when the fishing boats go back out, as she says she and her husband love her fish curry.

Monday, we interviewed three different people. First was a woman who speaks excellent English and came with a photo album of her with previous families she had worked with. She knew the highschool principal, as she had worked with another family in her building. She told us that the principal called her several times over the weekend, but if we wanted we could hire her instead since we called her first. It was clear she would have much preferred to work with the principal though, so we told her that was ok.

The next person to arrive was highly recommended by someone at the school, but only looking for part time work, so we passed on her. We wanted someone who could arrive early and work a full time schedule.

The next person to arrive was accompanied by an older woman who seemed to serve as a representative for other maids. She tried to get us to hire someone different from the person whose reference was in the binder. The replacement did not speak English well.

Rita started today. Her pay is 8,000 rupees/ month, with additional money for transportation (around 600 rupees/ month), an 8,000 rupee/ year bonus around Christmas (she’s catholic), and an 8,000 rupee severance for each year she works. That’s the high range of what full-time housekeepers are paid here.

Even though we only have a part-time workload, we are paying as if she were working full-time work load. We are happy to pay that amount, because Rita and I agreed that it entitles us to make unorthodox requests and ask for more work to be done whenever we need it. For example, most housekeepers work from 9 am through 4 pm. Rita, on the other hand, is responsible for arriving before 7 am every morning and preparing breakfast so Daya and I could eat together before Daya heads to work. Most housekeepers only make one meal per day. Rita will make breakfast, dinner, and lunch when I am around for lunch (probably fairly often, as I will be working from home). But when she’s done, she can leave. This means that most days she will only work under four hours/ day, but some days she will work up to seven.

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