By: Sameena Talib
President, DHA (Karachi) Kitty Party Association
I just don’t know what to do anymore. Six maasis, four drivers and three cooks have just up and left in the last four months. Disappeared. No notice. Nothing.
And I’m not alone. I’ve talked to many other kitty party members and it’s the same everywhere. Five days ago, Mrs. Shahbaz’s driver dropped her off at her yoga class, and after waiting outside for just 4 hours took the car back home and disappeared. Poor Mrs. Shahbaz had to call her son to pick her up. He obviously wasn’t very happy being interrupted at Chaiwaala with his friends.
Two days ago, Mrs. Daulatwala was closely supervising her maasi cleaning the master bathroom. Just minutes later when Mrs. Daulatwala was taking a phone call, the maasi had vanished — gone. The floor was half mopped and the exhaust fan still running. Their guard swears he heard someone say, “mein huna ithe kama nahin kara sakadi.”
Just yesterday, Mrs. Khalid’s cook left for the market to apparently buy some vegetables and that was the last she saw of him. She had just told him about the fifty-four guests coming for dinner that evening — imagine being abandoned like that on such short notice.
It just makes no sense. Where are all these people? And why are they disappearing? Is there a kidnapping mafia targeting domestic servants?
My 12-year old daughter asked me if I was paying them enough. She read on the computer that low wages is the biggest reason for people leaving their jobs. I told my naive girl that nobody treats their servants better than I do. I give them a very fair tankha — but of course you have to negotiate or they’ll just run you around. My rule is to give them 3,000 rupay less than they ask for. Keeps them under control. Two years ago when my husband sold our London flat with a nice profit —- Alhumdulilah — I gave 750 rupay to all our naukar. I can’t pay them in pounds now can I? And anyway, we also had to buy our son Rashid a new Corolla for his birthday — all his friends had the latest one and I can’t see him upset.
And it’s not like we are giving them too much work. I only get my driver to do overtime when there are dawats to attend in the evening. Yes, last shaadi season was busier than usual, there was even a full five-day stretch of events. But I make sure to compensate them when that happens. I gave him a chocolate bar my sister brought for us from France when she visited last year and two of my lawn suits for his wife from before my daughter was born. I miss those suits.
This whole vanishing epidemic has nothing to do with us. But we are the ones suffering. I am on the phone all the time trying to find the next maasi, driver or cook. Every day it’s the same question, “Meri maasi kahan gai?”