Why do some people think that they are above the others, that they are the privileged lot and that some people are below them? Why do some people have their noses in the air? Why do they feel that people of other castes or those from a lower financial background don’t deserve to be treated like human beings? What goes on in their mind that they do not feel it is wrong to segregate people based on caste, colour, money etc? We talk of other countries and other people being racists, but we Indians are the most racists and behave with such disrespect to people who do not fall into “their own” circle.
We live in an apartment and like every other building, have a watchman with his family living in the allotted room. They have 3 children aged 17, 14 and 10. The watchman’s job is to take care of the apt’s security, ensure there is water supply, keep the surrounding clean and be the caretaker. His wife does is the domestic help in most of the houses. But since she alone cannot handle the workload in all the houses, her eldest daughter helps her in working in half the houses. Now, the issue is, some families in the apt, think that his entire family including all his children have to be at their beck and call and have to work for them at any given time…no questions asked. They don’t even spare the 10yr old boy and make him run errands through the day.
My neighbour who has 2 young kids and is a working mother, takes the help of the watchman’s family (henceforth will be referred to as WF) to take care of her kids after they come back from school. The watchman’s daughter helps them change their uniforms, gives them some hot milk and some snacks to eat and then takes them downstairs and play with them till their mother comes back. The watchman’s wife/daughter also helps in cutting veggies for the next day, or some other help when asked. For all this help they do, my neighbour family treats the watchman’s family well, sponsor’s his 2nd daughter’s education, books, uniform etc and is genuinely concerned for their well being.
This has not gone down well with a few families in our building. A few ladies have complained that the watchman’s family is biased and works extra for my neighbour. As far as I know, the watchman’s family has never refused to do such extra work for any other family. Now I understand the complaint is really not about the WF not doing work for others, but that they do work for this particular family. The complaint is also about this family treating the WF well-which according to them should not be done. “Servants should be treated like servants” they say. Servants should bow their heads and do what is ordered and have no right to refuse any work. They should be put in their place they say. Another family member tries to hit the Watchman’s daughter and yells “I’ll break your leg” for something that the girl didn’t do right. Abusive language towards the watchman etc are day to day features. “We have grown up with having 10-15 people working for us. We know how to tackle them and keep them in place” they say.
The WF says, “we are ready to do any work/help to other families too, if they are polite to us. We help this family only in our spare time and when we are free. We do not neglect our work in other houses, to help this family. The other families demand and are rude to us. They don’t like it if we tell them we will do the work a little later, or are not free now”.
Am I weird in thinking all this is so wrong? Seriously!! How can people in this day and age have such thoughts and think that servants are their slaves and are not to be treated as equal human beings?? This too coming from educated, well to do people? The lady who complained had worked as a teacher! It sends shivers down my spine thinking what values she would have taught her class and how she would have influenced their minds! How can people still behave like the erstwhile landlords during the British rule and think that the lesser haves can be treated so rudely and shoddily? Slavery was abolished many many years ago and such thinking and behaviour is a criminal offense now. Employing a 17yr old kid is by itself not allowed as they are not adults. But the selfish people that we are, make use of their services for our benefit. I have seen families using even 10yr old kids as domestic help to take care of their own children, taking them wherever they go, to movies, to malls, to restaurants-to push prams and feed their kids.
It was more of a shocker when I came to know that this teacher lady’s 20-something daughter who is still in college also treats the WF the same way! She is rude and shouts at the WF family too. On the other hand, she is the main member of an NGO run by her and her friends who visit orphanages, slums etc and provide help and counselling to people. How can a young person have 2 extreme characters and be so fun loving and helpful on the outside?
Kids either pick up such behaviour from parents or tend to be the opposite and correct themselves before they do the same mistakes as their parents. For eg-a smoker/drinker/wife beater’s children may either follow in the father’s footsteps and turn out to be an abuser or realize that the family member is wrong and swear never to raise their hand on others and also become a tee-to teller. With education and exposure to the world around us, I would like to believe that children would tend to be the latter and would become better citizens with more tolerance and humanitarian values.
Thinking more about this problem, I have come to realize that the issue is not with the fact that the WF is doing that extra bit for one particular family. It’s more about some people wanting to control other people’s lives and show that they are superior.
Do they not realize that all this is cruelty? Don’t they realize that every person irrespective of caste, religion, financial power, have the right to be treated with respect? Don’t they realize that to get respect, one should first give respect to others? Just because people are different from them, should they be treated with disgust and kept at arm’s length? And I also see that such behaviour is prevalent among women while the husbands support them in such discrimination or just tend to not react.
Will such mindsets change? Will the future generation cut down and throw away such mindless shackles and bring about the needed change in attitudes and behaviour? Only time will tell. Till such time I will do my bit to raise my voice against such mindless discrimination and give such people a piece of my mind if ever the Apartment calls for a meeting and continue to hope for the best among people.