This morning, Nitin asked Felicia to iron some of his shirts. She refused, saying we hadn’t told her that was a part of her responsibilities when we hired her.
Nitin told her to at least find somewhere to get it done. When he told me the story, I got a little peeved – at both of them, to be quite honest. On the one hand, it might be worth keeping Felicia happy since we have quite liked Felicia, her cooking and her general demeanor. On the other, Nitin's request didn't seem terribly unreasonable and we had often asked the same of our nanny in the States.
So when I got home from work and Christmas shopping, I asked Felicia what had happened. She said she feels like she doesn’t have time for such things and that ironing men’s shirts could take up most of her day. “Besides, the dry cleaners does it much better,” she said.
“That’s not the point,” I said in the mixture of Assamese, Hindi and Bengali that has become the secret language Felicia and I share. “You have more than four hours a day when Naya is at school and there are no chores. We have someone else do the floors. And yet another person cleans the toilets. Sometimes, not always, we might need you to iron.”
She looked visibly upset and I felt bad. Way before we landed in India, I had resolved not to bark at the maid, to respect the woman who would perform the household tasks I would not.
“Anyway, how much will they charge the place you found?”
“Two rupees for jeans, 1.5 for shirts, 5 for a sari,” she said. “It’s just down the road. And if I drop it off in the morning, they will deliver it back by afternoon.”
I felt terrible. On an average day, it would be less than a quarter to get our things ironed. And it would make this woman a lot happier. And my husband. And me. Home peace home.
“That’s fine,” I said. “Just make sure you drop it off when Nitin says so.”