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This article was first published 8 years ago  » Getahead » But who'll help me?

But who'll help me?

By Geetanjali Krishna
February 24, 2016 13:50 IST
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Even the most positive change can inflict collateral damage, discovers Geetanjali Krishna.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/

Managing during pregnancy

A chance conversation with a domestic worker the other day made me realise that there are times when even the most positive social change can inadvertently inflict collateral damage. Here's what happened.

'I'm at my wit's end,' said Suchi the other day. 'There are more obstacles than ever before in the path of a woman who wants to work and be a mother.'

When I asked her why she felt that way, she told me she was approaching labour and was afraid of what the future held for her. 'My husband and I have hardly any family in Delhi who can support us through the first few months. And the back-up help I was expecting is not going to materialise... What will I do?'

What sort of back-up help did she have in mind, I asked. 'Between the age of eight and 17, I helped my two elder sisters, both domestic helps, through their pregnancies. Not only did I look after their homes, I even did their work for months,' she narrated. But today, when she asked for the same help from her sisters and two nieces, she drew a blank. 'They'd rather go to school than help me,' said she bitterly.

It was quite a change from her time, said Suchi.

As her sisters and she had been orphaned young, they had only each other to fall back on. 'I was only eight when my elder sister became pregnant. The middle sister was also working so she couldn't spare the time. Nobody thought twice before making me bunk school for four months to help her out,' she recounted.

'She cleaned three houses, so I took on her jobs and also helped her with the baby when it arrived.' Her sister had another baby two years later. 'That was when I dropped out of school altogether to help her look after the children,' said she matter-of-factly.

By then her middle sister was married, and it was her turn to have children. 'Till I was married at the age of 17, all I did was help my sisters with their work and children,' Suchi said. 'Consequently, I'm completely illiterate.'

It was a huge price she'd paid, I commented. If she had been educated, maybe she'd have had a better job today. Maybe, I suggested, that was why her nieces were now refusing to help her out at the cost of their education.

The nieces didn't even want to help her after school, she said. One of them, a 15 year old said that her school was offering extra classes after hours, which she wanted to attend. The other one, at 18, was apprenticed to a beauty salon after class.

'I don't regret dropping out of school,' she said. 'But I regret having helped my sisters for so many years, and not receiving the same help when I need it.'

I commented that the nieces seemed intent on improving their lives. It was something to be commended and not criticised. Suchi smiled sadly: 'It's great that they're looking to better their lives. But what about me? I'm about to give up my work to tend to the coming baby when we can ill afford the loss of a second income.'

Yet again, I rued the lack of childcare facilities for women, musing aloud that really was the only way Suchi and others like her could enjoy uninterrupted career paths.

But Suchi just couldn't get over the temerity of her nieces, who chose studies over babysitting. 'Things are becoming too modern,' said the 20 year old. 'And I've got to suffer the consequences.'

What are the ways in which even the most positive change can inflict collateral damage? Do let us know on the message board below.

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Geetanjali Krishna
Source: source