Friday, January 04, 2008

Invisible women

The Hindu Sunday Magazine, Dec 30, 2007


They flit in and out of our homes like ghosts in the
night. They sweep and swab, wash and cook, look
after our children, care for the elderly. Yet we
know little about them. Most of us just about know
their first names. We don’t know where they
’re from, where they live, whether they are
married, how many children they have, how many other
homes they work in, what they earn — how they
survive. They are virtually invisible.

We usually wake up to their existence when they
don’t turn up for work. And the first response
is annoyance, because of the inconvenience caused to
us. Many professional women don the title of being
superwomen because they manage jobs and homes
— work life balance. But in fact the real
superwomen are these silent workers, without whom
few professional women in India would be able to
function. Yet, while those in formal employment get
sick leave, casual leave, privileged leave and
weekends, our domestic help is not entitled to any
of this. If she rests too long, she’s lazy. If
she doesn’t turn up for work, she’s a
shirker. It would appear that these women
don’t have the right to relax, to fall sick,
to have some fun. And of course, no one acknowledges
that when they’re done with our homes, they
still have their own homes where they have to do the
very same jobs, sweep and swab, wash clothes, cook
and take care of children and elderly.

Nishtha Jain, a Mumbai-based documentary filmmaker
has done what all of us need to do. She has not just
acknowledged that this silent worker in her home has
a name, but she’s followed her life so that we
see the person behind the name — a person just
like any of us. And instead of viewing the woman
from a distance, the filmmaker has bravely placed
herself in the frame, honestly dissecting her own
relationship as an employer. “Lakshmi and
Me” is a remarkably honest documentary about
21-year-old Lakshmi and the filmmaker, Nishtha.

(To read the rest of the article, click on the link)

1 comment:

Moving Images said...

Hi Kalpana. Many thanks for highlighting this film, which deserves a wider audience. I have just written a blog post based on your column and the film's website. See:
- Nalaka Gunawardene