It has never been my design to intense upon the intriguing lives and styles of maids. After all, for as far back as I can travel into the myriads of my poor memory, I am profoundly grateful to have never been brought up by one. So, back then, irrespective of who was home, he or she had to choose between enduring burning hot ugali, burnt rice, or fingers – and not a mold, or omubumba – of matoke or starving themselves. And, it was always a bitter pill to swallow when, while playing “mummy and daddy” or “dulu” with your mates, it occurred to you that their initial carnal desires – which we shared – were, under mysterious circumstances, satisfied by someone you wished you had; their supposedly “babysitters”.
The other day, I spent a morning atop a tank tower – I start or end my days on rooftops – enjoying a panoramic view of my surprisingly quite beautiful new neighbourhood and the magnificent Lake Victoria, I happened to make eyes over a group of very important people in our society; maids, the scullery sort, in a gated property nearby. I did not choose to, after all, we can not help it that we live a market stall lives – someone is always watching.
And after three days now, it turns out, they are the same old maids. And with them, there are at least five things common to all. These include but are not limited to the following;
1.Your child’s name will never be the same.
The typical maid is a universal school dropout who has been uprooted from their boss’ ancestral village and awarded a job simply on the basis of their basic appreciation of English, intuition, and ability to follow commands to the letter and planted in Kampala or any other major urban centre. With their edr increasing numbers, it is nothing else but a barbarian invasion.
That background alone is enough to negatively influence the formative years of any child with whom they share a homestead. With no alternative voice and opinion from someone with adequate knowledge, your child’s name will swiftly change from Mercy to a prolonged Maaaa, Stephanie will not be shortened to Steph like you fancy it but rather to a Steeeffiiii, a Granier will become Guraniya. Of course, the child will respond to it, and equally begin on a lifetime of distorting other aspects of their lives that should not be – emphasis on the creation of Uglish. Thanks to a hardworking maid waiting for a pay at the end of a month but oblivious of the damage they are causing.
2. Cooking is a dangerous business.
I am under the uninformed impression that on employment, maids are taken up as experts in cooking. I do not think it is so. Everyone can cook something. OK, boil water, or fry an egg at the very least.
With maids, cooking is an all days experience which starts from when they wake up. Poor souls! They prepare breakfast for their bosses and their pre-school or school going children, and immediately start on preparations for lunch. I perfectly timed a meal in one household – the boss was away – and boy, their handwork is not that rewarding. If the ingredients like carrots, aubergines, tomatoes were eyes, they would be dilated, and staring at you as if to ask “Why are you here?”
And also, you will never keep a tab on how much you feed them, especially if you are the kind who budgets for such. They seem to savor munching slices of bread and more as they pace from an end of their compounds to another.
3. There are positives. Definitely.
Maids can be seen cleaning, washing, and ironing as commanded by their “very busy” middle class bosses who could possibly be wasting their precious time away Tweeting, Facebooking, or watching YouTube videos while munching on a chicken wrap or sipping a cappuccino at their favorite coffee shops, or possibly walking on the pure white sand beaches of Mombasa for weeks. All this happens without the home being stuck, thanks to the efforts of these very important maids.
4. Complimenting others company is an art.
I would understand the joy parents derive from knowing that someone is keeping their erratic children calm, washed and fed. Everyone needs that one something and especially someone that can be some sort of getaway; the world does get a bit too much sometimes.
However, since they can not read out short and simple stories like my first A Million Cats by Wanda Gag, or play complicated musical instruments, they will engage in one that requires absolutely no particular training; watching the telly. And what do they look forward to? There are no prizes for guessing the right answer. It is Nigerian movies. They will keep indoors doing just that, and only come out when UMEME thinks it is a good idea to play with them a game it knows best, hide and seek. You can tell when statements like “Power has gone O! Power has gone Oh!” are made.
5. When the breadwinner is away, frogs will climb the house’s walls.
There is a popular adage from Ankole region in Uganda which is that; “nyineka kwaba atariho, nebikyere bitemba enju”. It is loosely translated as “when the breadwinner (head of the household) is not around, even frogs will climb a house’s walls. Indeed, when he or she is away, they do get time to interact with their colleagues, much to the dislike of the boss, as they conceive this will reduce on the maid’s concentration on the jobs they are poorly paid to do.
They reminded me of a time when our dad returned home for lunch and stopped in the corridor to observe my siblings and I as we jumped up and down the living room imitating the dance moves of an African folk dance that was on Uganda Television – our dishes were still on the table.
There is more that can be said about them, whether to criticise or appreciate them.
However, we can generally agree that in this day and age where the most sought after thing is work and not time to spend with our loved ones, they are the anchors of several homes. When the boss is away they are the managers we should call them and not the maids we do.
And also, parents should be grateful and indebted to them because on days that they return home filled with so much angst from both work and their own troubled relations, they are the link between them and their children, and for some families that have had them for a while, the perfect piece that completes the jigsaw that is their homestead.
Folks, I do not know about you, but if she is as good looking, well scented as a one Karungi that I found flipping Facebook pages on her phone, I may consider turning her into that position that I like since she does more than half of the things that a woman of the house is expected to do already.