Thursday, October 05, 2006

Domestic Bliss- the Kusumawathie Files

Much has been said about the domestic assistant in Sri Lanka, that smokey eyed kitchen beauty the 'ammey" or the gaunt grizzled garden jonson who has been around since forever,and provided support and stability to our lives1[1]..
There are actually Yuppies in this country who could earn millions in greener pastures but do not leave because they would have to say good bye to their domestics and for those of us under-privilaged society snobs who don't have one ...-up there in our wish lists right between "buy private yatch "and "get bust lift" is a small entry "find honest servant[2]"..
Let me tell you from personal experience - Ive been there done that - and you are not. missing. much.

Consider my Kusumawathi:
She comes from an impoverished Colombo slum where she has to wait hours near a community water pipe, fighting for her place among local women of ill fame, to drag up some mouldy slush which looks like water for the daily cooking , then forage for hours in Kabaragoya infested suburban thickets for firewood, for same and she sports an impressive collection of batter and burn scars on her body made by a cross eyed drunken carpenter bass whom she married by mistake a half a century ago and stubbornly insists on staying with "for the sake of the kids"(who ehem, are in their 40s now and earn better than me, mind you)
But: I invite her to work gently two hours per evening in my spartan studio apartment (sans microwave and washing machine and things i have accumulated through years of toil,mind you )and she has the dubious luck to stumble upon a microscopic sediment of glass from a long forgotton beer mug, which lodges in a crevice of her callused bark like, sorry, delicate feminine, sole, and thus begins three MONTHS of reproachful limping, pointed self pitied sighs and the mumbling, groaning and general apathy more reminiscent of a terminal case of what the Victorians called "the Great Depression"
The usual gist of normal doctors prod and poke her while she grimaces heroically but cannot find anything wrong with her so its more general groaning, grumbling and self appraisal , until along comes that perennial champion for lower class[3] human rights, that all around safe haven for poor sri lankans, the General Hospital which decides (after 4 days of visits ,standing in queues and absence from work )that this dot of glass may even Lead To Cancer and to avoid this she needs an "operation"
I swear this is the word she said they used.on this imaginary dot of glass...and they give her a date for the great event:the 4th of October.
So to picture the run up to this, imagine, if you will, the self pitied mumbling, animated purchases of hospital gear, pillows and plastic lunch boxes etc, the writing of wills ,tearful visits from long forgotton relations and a general aura of martyrdom leading to the great day ...(Let me never be accused of callous bourgeois indifference to the sufferings of the underprivileged- but no matter how hard I tried I could not bring myself to show fake sympathy for an operation on a "veeduru katta") ..General hospital staff then proceeded to ensure that this operation hurts a great deal to prove that they are doing something of seriously life threatening import , so from her own groaned cellphoned report, the injection made her scream "a lot"(let me get this clear , that's the Novocain injection, mind you - for the lay person -the "hiri vattana" jab-)and she is currently in great suffering and may not be able to turn up for work indefinitelly: to add insult to injury the supposedly free health system had also landed her with prescriptions of stuff running to "Rupiyal Panseeyaka vithara!!!" which is ehem not really free if you get the drift...
by mobile phone, she also makes it a point to notify me of all the support she is receiving from the local drunkards, kuddas, sundry Sedawatta neighbours, and various ex employers who in their efforts to get her to come back to them, are now showering her with one off bribes and incentives so that I end up feeling like a blood drinking villain-ess for not being able to bring myself to actually say anything sympathetic - and notifys me that she will not be able to come to work for the next.two.weeks.

So that's why this article is short, and unfocused- Im looking forward to making that kitchen habitable again…

Foot Note Wait a minute - I just thought of something: maybe she wants a raise...


[1] Not to mention the occasional requirement for a strong sedative...

[2] "servant" is a very bad old fashioned word from the Feudal times,.so I promise not to use it again. We are supposed to call them Domestic Assistants.
[3] another bad way of saying things.

3 comments:

dinu said...

Just came across this post and thought it was hillarious... until er i found it was for real. Damn. Goofd luck with the cleaning, yo. My mother always said, a woman ain't a woman until she get's down on her knees from time to time and gets her hands dirty... at least, i hope that's what she meant. My mother's a very frank, though slightly opaque, lady. Take care, yo.

al juhara said...

it sure is for real. theres an ominious silence from sedawatte so I shall have to travel there and check as to whether she is still coherent or has just given up,lay down and started twitching.

thanks for the comments. Mind you at my home Im the one on my knees doing the dirty stuff, Kusumawathie (naw its not her real name) just stands around wringing her delicate feminine hands, and explaining why she couldnt do it.

Anonymous said...

Does your kusumawathie have any siblingsor friends who would be interested in a job in Nugegoda to look after a 19 month old toddler? we are desperate as my in laws are finding it difficult to look after the small one sans a maid. please email me on tinaeg@hotmail.com thanks