A lot of people seem to be burdened by domestic help issues these days. Most of us live in two member, or rather, two and a half member households (the half being a kid in the 0 to 10 years age group). With jobs that keep us away from home for most part of the day, we can't do without a maid to look after the little one(s).
I have not had any difficulty getting a maid considering the large number of domestic help agencies (such as "Solomon's Land", "St. Mary's Agencies", "Yehova's Workers" and so on) in Kottayam. All I need to do is call one of them up, be greeted by reassuring Christian devotional caller tunes on their mobile phone, state my requirements, pay the agent's fees (approximately 1000 Rs per month), agree to a monthly income of Rs 7000 for the maid, and I am assured that she would be reaching Bangalore in a couple of days (I would need to pay the transport charges and some additional charges (no breakup provided) ofcourse). Simple, isn't it?
A few hours after I call the agent and am done with all the sweet talk, a potential maid calls me. Before I can manage more than a "Hello", she shoots at me a long list of questions. Do I own a washing machine (because she cannot wash clothes by hand)? Is she expected to clean the house and wash the dishes (because she knows that part time maids who do such kind of work are easily available in Bangalore)? How often do I buy non vegetarian food at home (she has gas trouble and needs fish, no sardines please!, on an everyday basis) and is she expected to cook it? How often does she need to make chappathis and how many at a time? Will I provide her a bath attached bedroom with all kinds of amenities? And yes, what are the malayalam serials I like to watch? By the time she reaches, "Do you have any questions for me?", I am tired and sweating and wondering what exactly fits a maid's job profile because I obviously have a very different idea from what my potential maid does. Would it be a lot less hassle if either my husband or I simply resign our job and remain at home to look after the kid?
In the past one year, I have been through this grueling process around 7 times. 7 maids have come and gone with one lasting just 3 days. I had asked her to make idli and sambar for breakfast, but she didn't think she could manage it before 8. "How about idli and chutney?” I suggested in a small voice. The suggestion was refuted because my grinder wasn't top notch, unlike the grinders she was used to. "Hey, then you can make the sambar today and you will have plenty of time for the idlis tomorrow!" I exclaimed happily as if I had just offered her a pay raise. At which she snapped that she was overloaded with work and wanted some rest. Sitting cross legged on the fluffy mattress I had provided her, she called me and all my ancestors some names, scoffed at my kitchen utensils, cleaning equipments and the general state of things in my house, and declared that she was quitting.
In all fairness, not all my maids insulted me all the time. Some made me laugh, like the lady who used fish feed instead of mustard seeds in the curries she made (believe me, I am not exaggerating), another who spoke of her previous employers Mamootty, Mohanlal, Mukesh and Mammen Mathew as if they were the best of pals, yet another who went home on a one week leave and keeps extending her leave (its been four months now). Yes, they made me laugh and they made me cry.
Before I go drown myself in self pity, let me share a tawa pulao recipe with you. Savithri chedathi, the lady who is on a first name basis with Mohanlal and Oomen Chandy learnt this one from one of her previous employers (probably Sanjeev Kapoor) and I suspect that this may just be the recipe that cemented her friendship with all the big shots.
You will need:
For the rice
2 cups basmati rice, soaked in water for half an hour
1 teaspoon pepper corns + 1" piece cinnamon + 3 cloves + a teaspoon of coriander leaves
1 tablespoon ghee/oil
8 cups salted boiling water
Heat the oil/ghee in a large pan. Add the spices and coriander leaves and let the spices splutter. Toss in the rice and sauté gently for 3-4 minutes. Add the boiling water and cook uncovered for about ten minutes, till the rice is cooked. Drain the water immediately and spread out the rice on trays and cool under a fan.
For the pulao masala:
3 medium onions, finely chopped
4 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ginger and garlic each, finely chopped
3 large potatoes + 1 carrot, cut into 5 mm cubes
1 capsicum, cut into 5 mm cubes
1 tablespoon chili powder + 1½ tablespoon readymade chicken curry masala powder
½ teaspoon garam masala powder
¼ cup coriander leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons oil/ghee
½ cup water
To taste, salt
Heat oil/ghee in a pan. Add onions and sauté till they are translucent. Toss in ginger and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes more.
Add tomatoes, chicken curry masala powder and chili powder and mix well. Let it cook till the tomatoes have softened and the masala powders loose their raw taste. Add potato, carrot, salt and water and mix well. Cover and cook over medium heat till potatoes are done. Add the coriander leaves and capsicum and continue to cook till capsicum is tender.
Juice of a lemon
To taste, sale
Over a tawa or pan over low heat, spoon in equal quantities of the potato and carrot mix and rice and mix well. Squeeze in a few drops of lemon juice, and adjust seasoning. You may need to this in batches till all the rice and pulao masala is used up.
I served the pulao with a simple raita. For the raita, mix equal quantities of chopped tomatoes and cucumber with some curd or yoghurt and season with salt and a touch of chili powder.
There are million variations possible with this recipe. Let me know of the ones you like.
Savithri chedathi wants to tell me about her honeymoon in the apple orchards of Kashmir, catch you later :( !