Thursday, March 02, 2006

Of Ramu Kakas and Kanta Bais

You know how you're walkin' along the road and you suddenly remember a scene from a movie and burst out laughing?

Happened to me yesterday.

Movie - Ishq Vishq
Scene - Mambo saying "Rajiv, bai kya insaan nahin hoti?"

One thought led to another and soon I was thinking about bais in movies. It started with Kantaben from Kal Ho Na Ho and then moved on to Javed Jaffrey from Salaam-Namaste saying "Mujhe kaam waliyan bahut pasand hain!"

Then I started thinking of how these domestic helpers are portrayed in Hindi movies. Often, in a lot of Hindi movies, whenever they want to talk about how rich a guy was, they'd say "Uske paas kya nahin hai? Bangla-gaadi-naukar-chaakar!"

"What doesn't he have? Bungalow, car, servant... err... servant again?" (Is there a difference between naukar and chaakar? I guess naukar-chaakar just means loadsa servants?)

One of the most common characters in Hindi movies from the 70s would be the loyal and lovable Ramu Kaka. Inevitably there would be a scene showing him take the red towel off his shoulder to wipe the tears brought about by:

1. Bahu rani's plight due to ill-treatment by mother-in-law
2. Chhoti bahu demanding a share of the property, breaking up the happy joint family
3. Chhote malik coming back drunk every night because his girlfriend got married to someone else
4. Bade malik not being able to pay off his debts and having to mortgage and subsequently leave the house

We have all come across a Ramu Kaka at one point or the other, haven't we?

When I was a little girl, we moved around a lot due to Dad's frequent transfers. And so I grew up seeing a lot of Ramu Kakas and his female equivalents. This post is in honour of all the domestic helpers I have ever met, many of whom have been a significant part of my childhood.

Paro was around when my Mom gave birth to me. According to Mom, Paro was the one who did my tel-maalish and all that. (So I owe my strong bones to her!) She's around 60 but she's still working at my grandma's place! Every time I go back home, Mom buys a sari and asks me to give it to Paro and tell her that it's from Singapore. "Sari from Singapore??!! Mom! Please!" I'd protest. And she'd say, "Just do what I say. It makes her happy!" And I would actually go to her and say, "Paro, I brought you this sari from Singapore." And she'd be so overwhelmed with emotion, she'd start crying. And Mom would start crying, and everyone would start crying. And I'd stand there with the sari, looking rather silly. And my idiotic cousin would try to break the ice by singing "Kya ada kya jalwe tere, Paro!"

Hundi apa
Hundi apa was my nanny till I was about five. She'd put me on the swing and feed my meals. Even now, I wish I had a swing where I could have my meals. When my sister would come back from school, Hundi apa would ask her, "So what are your friends' names?" And my sister would proudly say, "Inder, Mili, Jaswinder, etc. etc." Then Hundi apa would turn to tease me (she knew I couldn't wait to start school) and ask me "And what are your friends' names?" And I'd toss my head and say, "Inder, Minder, Jaswinder!" My sister would run in to complain to Mom, "Look Mom, she's stealing all my friends' names!" while Hundi apa would burst into laughter. Hundi apa got married soon after I joined school and went to live in her own house. Mom speaks to her on the phone now and then. She told Mom that when I get married, she will be there.

Om Prakash
I was about six when he came to work for us. On his first day at work, Mom asked him, "What is your name?"

"Om Parkaas", he replied.

I was appalled.

I went to him later and asked, "Om Prakash, what is your name?"

And he'd repeat, "Om Parkaas".

"It's not Om Parkaas. It's Om Prakash! Say it!"

"Om Parkaas?"

And I'd exclaim in frustration, "Offo Om Prakash, you don't even know your own name?" And he'd blush, while every one else guffawed at the little imp trying to teach him to say his own name correctly. Om Prakash was my hindi music buddy. (Yes, I'd got addicted to Hindi music even in the days when I did not even understand Hindi!) I'd go and buy the cassettes with Dad, and Om Prakash would ask me later, "Piku ji, can I borrow this one?" And I'd say, "Okay, but after I've heard it ten times, okay?" All cassette dealings were directly between Om Prakash and the 6-year-old "Piku ji". My highly amused parents did not interfere.

He was my childhood friend's cook. Every time I saw him, I'd sing the song from the movie 'Mr. India' but modify the lyrics to "Tera naam hai Kulinder, tu toh chala kitchen ke andar!" And I'd burst out laughing, without him as much as raising an eyebrow. Errr... I don't think he liked me. I don't think he liked anyone, actually. My friend, a marwari, would have lunch at my place once in a while (she loved fish, but she was supposedly a vegetarian, so she could not have it at home, so her Mom let her have it at my place). And I'd go to her place and have yummy phulkas made by Kulinder.

He was my neighbour's domestic helper. I used to borrow his guy-bicycle and ride it around till Dad got me my own 'girly' bicycle. My sister and I taught him to read and write under the 'Each one, teach one' literacy campaign that was going on in India then. He was 17 and married!

He'd say, "Do you know why I am learning to read and write?"

"Why?" I'd ask.

"Because I married my wife when she was five and I was seven. Then I came here to the city to work and she went back to her village. I am supposed to bring her to live with me when she turns 18. But I have heard she's taller than me. How was I supposed to know that when I married her, that she'd grow taller than me?" He looked pained.

"But now I know how to read and write, and she doesn't. Hah!" He'd grin.

Bana (or 'Banambara', his full name) has been with my grandma's family since the time I was a tiny little girl. He refuses to look any older, but his pot belly seems to grow at an alarming rate. He's been around for so long, that he can get away with giving attitude to my cousins! The brats are notorious for never being at home. So Bana would not cook lunch for them. Now Bana's biryani is so famous my mamaji's friends "borrow" him for their parties. On the days he made biryani, my wandering cousins would somehow hear of it and rush back to demand it. And he'd say, "If you tell me you'll be home for lunch, I'll save some biryani for you. You can't expect me to save it for you if you suddenly turn up at 4!" Whoala, what attitude. Awesome!

Pronounced 'Robbie', he's the new addition to my grandma's place. The last time I went home, I took shirts/deos for all the helpers, and I did for Rabi too, though I had never seen him before (I usually call up Mom for a headcount before I go to India every year, and she'd told me there was a new guy). I guess he really did not expect me to take anything for him, and was really surprised to see a gift for him. And after that, he always made sure he took very special care of me. He'd refill the water in the bottle the moment it was empty. He'd ask me first thing in the morning what I wanted to eat in each meal. I just had to crave for pani puri and he'd go and call the pani-puri wala! In spite of my parents' disapproval, he makes a little princess out of me every time I go home.

Shyamla and Renuka
This pair of sisters worked at my house when my parents were at Hyderabad. Neither spoke much Hindi. (Don't even ask how my Mom managed to communicate with them. Mom's the kind who'd hold a book called 'Learn Telugu in 30 days' in one hand and use the other hand to bargain with the machhi-wali.) But I had a tough time trying to talk to Shyamla and Renuka. Mom said they'd often ask her when I was going home next, referring to me as "Singapore didi" ("Singapore sister") or "mehndi wali didi" ("sister with the mehndi) cos every time I went back, I'd do mehndi for them. And they'd sit around me while getting their mehndi done, and ask me about Singapore in words that I could only vaguely understand.

Sometimes, I feel so glad that once I was old enough to take care of myself, my parents did not let me get too dependent on the Ramu Kakas of my life. I could never get away with a statement like "Ramu Kaka, ek glass pani dena." ("Ramu Kaka, bring me a glass of water.") In spite of all the Ramu Kakas, I always always had to move my ass and get my own glass of pani. Or whatever I wanted.

Without that attitude, learning to live by myself in Singapore would have been so much harder.


Rays Of Sun said...


Rays Of Sun said... actually first:D
The moment you left the chatur do..I knew you would be posting:P

Rays Of Sun said...

Will read the post laterz:D

R said...

ohhh my am i second???

virdi said...

abe ROS.... u didnt tell me u cheated... thats why u r first... dekh loonga tere ko... tu mujhe janti nahi hai... tera aur Kal Ho Na Ho ki Kanta Behn ka chakkar chala doonga!!!

khi khi khi khi


Rays Of Sun said...

yOu are fourth:P
Thoda life mein intellignet hona mangta! Why else would Sash become gayab?:P
Smart guesses kehte hain ise:D
Aur behen ke saath idioit!!!!!U want one thappad:P

R said...

We had this help, his name wz Janardan.He hated his name.So, he insisted we give him a new name.
Me, being ultra creative that i am, rechristend him.
Sounds cool, eh?;)

And then he took a 2 month break.Wat wz his return called????

The return of the JD!

nice , nice post:)

R said...

*wails some more!!!*
gold apaka, silver apaka, bronze bhi aapka!!!!!!!!
Hume kutch bhi nahi??!!!!!

*wails some more!!*
*then sobs a bit*
*dries her eyes*

Surya Ragunaathan said...

Very very nice post! I have never ever had Ramu kakas or Kanta bens at home coz my mom's always been a house wife, so she never felt the need. But, your post makes me think that it is very essential to spare a 'thought' for these people who, play those not-very-integral-yet-no-nonsense-role in shaping our lives. CLAP CLAP CLAP for u, Sayesha.
(ps:hmm...guess, i am kinda getting hooked to ur blog :-)

Negative Creep said...

//joint family//

Drummer's Advice \m/

Hehe. nice post. very profound.

Piku Ji :P

Shobana said...

:D nice post! u have had quite a few naukars at home...:) that too interesting ones:)

Anonymous said...

tabhi tujhe khud ka kaam karne ki aadat nahi hai ;)

PS: as if I know how much you work *phew*

Nandya said...

its always a pleasure to read ur posts...

Suds said...

Nice post.:) We never had a Ramu kaka at home so that helped in living in US alone..:):)


Manish Kumar said...

grt topic ! u always come up with something new.nice gesture Sayesha

Sayesha said...

Oye! I only left the chatur chaar convo because Virdi insulted my handwriting! :P

Don't listen to ROS yaar, you're first. :)

Sheesh! ROS theek kehti hai, thode dimaag lagane ka! :P

And ROS kills another joke. Shabaash meri bachi, bahut tarakki karegi! :D

Hahahaha! The Return of the JD's damn funny! :D
ps: Bola na mat ro, ROS apne ghar ki murgi hai. Daal baraabar, uski baat mat sun! ;)

Thanks, dear! :)

#Negative Creep,
Thanks! :)
ps: Piku ji mat kaho na! :P

Hehe... yeah, as you see, some were my neighbours' and my grandma's but they did add something to my life :)

//tabhi tujhe khud ka kaam karne ki aadat nahi hai ;)

Kya bak raha hai??? Lagta hai you completely lost the point of the post! Tu bhi padhte padhte keyboard par so gaya kya? :D

Arre welcome back! Didn't know you were still around! :) Thanks! :)

Precisely. My Ramu Kakas were always were for ghar ka kaam. But the rule of the house was - Ramu Kakas will only do what you can't, e.g. washing Dad's car when he was getting ready to go to work, but Sunday ko Dad would wash it himself! :D I never got to command Ramu Kakas to do anything for me! But now I know what a good thing it was! :)

Thanks, yaar! :)

Purush said...

Great post!! You are incredibly readable...shud try your hand at actual writing, like a book or for some publication!!

Thanu said...

We have never had any help around the house too, alwaz wondered how it wud be.
Now I know.


Macho Girl said...

I think i had a "kanta Bai" long long long long time back. But i can't remember. Most of the time we just had a regular maid to do all the ghar ka kaam coz my parents never got time to do that except on the weekends. I DID get pampered whenever i went to my grandmom's place. The only kanta bai of my life that I can remember is the one who used to work in my Grand mom's house. Whenever I went there we used to play Chakka Vanti in the afternoons and she used to try to teach me marathi! (i was a bad student even then :P)Her daughter and I were great buddies (her daughter is younger than me and already married! the last time I went to my grand parents' village, she came along to visit me in a sari and mangalsutra!!!! :O)

I guess I should be grateful in a way for not having a kanta bai or ramu kaka at home coz i am the type who gets spoiled easily :P Staying in Singapore is a much easier task for me now :D

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I remember some helpers coz of their nakhras and cunning natures and who'd cut corners. Gosh they were so undependable. But there's one I remember who was really good...she was so disciplined, extremely hardworking and efficient. And she wouldn't talk much. But she was observant, dependable and caring. She'd always show up on time. She was there only for a short time though. From Mom I got to know that maids, while she was growing up were part of the family (spending all day with the family and giving help as needed....Mom has a big family :) and all the kids used to be so attached to them. We didn't have any who literally 'lived' with us...maybe that factor plays a role too.

Anonymous said...

Oh btw, it's quite amazing you remember all their names :).

Anonymous said...

Box Office Hit......

Having read ur posts ovr the past 2 weeks i hav enjoyed...
foreign locations (manila posts etc..),
then there was the kahani ghar ghar ki (wardrobe post),
phir hua intense violence (comments on wardrobe post),
then the sweet rootna aur manana of sayesha,
chora chori takkar in the gym was next,
there was a fun-filled bulla song celebrate the return!,
now the senti & emotional ramu kaka stuf...

bus the ony thing missing is some intense Romance....that will ensure a complete box office hit... well, i am getting ready for that big "R" post...
i have dimmed the lights, put on soft music, lighted some candles....i have even washed my hands hehehe...

hope ur pals will second my request for a real masaledaar "R" post...[tadka maarke].


Shruthi said...

Lovely post!! Totally enjoyed it! And you know, you are absolutely right on that "Ramu kaka pani dena" thingie.... I cannot understand how parents can get their kids used to such service, no matter what.

Raj said...

In Hindi movies, sometimes ramu kakas turn out to be baddies too. Climax ke time par rakshasi hansi hanste hue villian ke paas jaakar khade ho jaate hain aur agle scene main goli khakar mar jaate hain :D

I think Swades showed the relationship between kids and their aayas in a very positive light.

I have asked people for a glass of water at occasions but never at home :)

virdi said...

sunu sunu eh duniya waloon...
yeh ajjab hai kahani...
ROS aur Kanta Behen ka chakkar hai...
aur Sayesha hum sab ki naani...


Deepti Ravi said...

lovely post!I could actually mentally picture them !!! :) I've had my versions of ramu kakas and kanta bais too in my life !! And still am in touch with some of them :)

Anonymous said...

Sayesha ki bacchi, kaisi hai? :p

We had a domestic help called Negi. He used to watch Ramayan with folded hands. He was the eldest in the neibourhood kids and we used to fight to have him in our team so we could be saved his ferocious pace attack. He owns a dhaba now and is very well off. Last week when I was there I had lunch in his dhaba free of cost.

Your post was indeed a nice tribute for the Ramu kakas.


Anonymous said...

piku ji ,

bindas post :)

Anonymous said...

Is it just me or there are other people who think Pinkuji (I know, by the time I comment it must have been said a 100 times but nonetheless I couldn't resist) is surrounded by a lot of goof-balls like a prof with great sense of humor who takes classes on V-day and a cousin who sings appropriate songs in inappropriate situations?
All those who think this is the case say "I"... all those who don’t say, "We believe in mundane dim lit world and can’t see a good joke."
-It's me Pradyot... not logging in because I am lazy.

Pujya said...

piku ji :)...cute name...
i had such ass kicking ramu kakas...i mean they use to love and all but they were ass kicking.. they really were..

Sayesha said...

Thanks yaar! Maybe some day, just like Carrie Bradshaw, some publisher will approach me with a proposal to convert my blog into a book! ;)

It was actually a very interesting experience to have all the help around you, but not being able to use it to your own advantage. It gives you a sense of dependence and independence all at the same time :)

#Macho Girl,
I totally agree. If I'd been spoilt by the Ramu Kakas and Kanta Bais, I'd probably have refused to come study in Singapore! :P

Yes, I totally believe that it's different when they actually live with you in your house than someone who just comes in twice a day to do jhadu-pochha-kapda-bartan. It's an amazing experience. Perhaps that's why I still remember the names :)

#Well Wisher,
Arre! Intense R and me? Hahahaha! Yes yes I am a romantic but what's there to write about it yaar? I don't think I am currently capable of writing a post on romance. :P

Jab waqt sahi hoga, feelings sahi hongi, tab masaledaar R post bhi nazar aayega. Tadka maarke :)

//i have even washed my hands hehehe...

Kyun? Haath dhoke Sayesha ke peeche padne ka irada hai?? :D

Yeah, I used to be amazed at how spoilt some of my friends and cousins were, because they did the whole "Ramu Kaka pani dena" routine. Baad mein waat lagi hogi! :D

Arre yaar! Hamaare Ramu Kakas and Kanta Bais are the good people yaar! Tu bhi na... :)

Oh yeah, I forgot Swades... also very interesting portrayal of the whole nanny deal.

//I have asked people for a glass of water at occasions but never at home

Hahahahaha! I have this mental image of you standing by the roadside with a katora in your hand saying "Ek glass pani de de baba! Bhagwaan tera bhala karega!" Hahahaha! :D

Suno suno eh duniya walon
Virdi phir se pagal ho gaya hai
Hai woh kewal barah baras ka
Lekin lagta hai satthiya gaya hai!

Wow, you're in touch with them directly? That's so cool! As for me, everything's still thru Mom :)

Tinkuuuuuuuuuu!!!! Pyaare Tinku!!!!!! Awesome! Mera yaar Tinku waapas aa gaya!!! Dil khush kar diya yaar! :)

Believe it or not, I was gonna write a new post that looked like this:

"Tinku kahan ho tum? :( "

//He used to watch Ramayan with folded hands.

Hahahaha! That is hilarious and cute at the same time! :D

//Last week when I was there I had lunch in his dhaba free of cost.

That is incredible you know! Human relationships are so awesome! And so is dhaba food! :P ~ ~

#Asterix ji,
Thank you ji :)

Oye it's not "Pinkuji", it's "Piku ji"! :P

Mere aas paas ke logon ko goof-balls bola??? Ab tu nahin bachega! Hmmmph! :/

//not logging in because I am lazy.

Kumbhu ho gaya hai bilkul! Aalsiraam! :D

Hahaha! You should share a few stories about your ass-kickin' Ramu Kakas! :)

Freaky Chakra said...

Hey, brilliant topic to write on i must say. The domestic helps are so often taken for granted!

My fave tho would have to be Sudheer! Poor guy having a taller wife :)

Anonymous said...

Hmmn guess ur rite... the IR post will hav 2 least until Piku ji meets Chiku ji ;-)

Glad u didnt mind me comparing ur blog to a box-office hit!! borrowing frm a shaan song...kya karen.. [analogy mein first baki sab mein fail!!]

As for the hand wash...that was getting ready for a big clap...but now that u hav given a much more exciting idea.... lemme think LOL

Anonymous said...

paro gets a saree? whee!

Rays Of Sun said...

nice!! read ur post before going to seminar...bought a smile!!

Rays Of Sun said...

I grew up without Kakas and aunties...But, Aryan has a caretaker who is a Nepali...
So this guy, even copies her while she is doing pocha..hahahha much to dismay of my sister who thinks he will become a kaamwala!!
Then he fondly calls her as "Bajai" which means "Aunty'in Nepali..

Anonymous said...

//"Tinku kahan ho tum? :( "

I wud've loved to read that post. Pehle batana tha na, main thoda late aata! :p

//Oye it's not "Pinkuji", it's "Piku ji"!

Bolne de na.. Pinku rhymes with Tinku.. Tinku-Pinku-Tinku-Pinku hehe :p


Pujya said...

arre one of our ramu kaka actually kicked the ass of an ass...what more ass kicking ramu kaka u want...
we were in a village and there was this man 'saanwariya' and him and my mum were talking
and we had this big verandah in front of our house where a donkey came and sat and he wouldnt buzz so this guy got up and litrally kicked this donkeys ass...

Shekhar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Shekhar said...

Piku ji...ha ha...shoooo cute... :)

Kroopa Shah (Kr00pz) said...

Your posts are so refresing. I mean, at times I don't know what to say on them- no comment comes to mind; I just want to read the whole darn thing all over again!! Well keep it up!! :-)

Eclectic Blogger said...

wow.. nice of u to dedicate to post to them.. wondering if any one else had ever done it..

Siddhu said...

Man u were a privileged kid.:) Ten or fifteen servants at home and all!

Kathy said...

Everybody pampered you "love" kawaii..i envy you,hehe^_^ gimme some naa.Jokin'^_~
Happy weekend yaar..


Sayesha said...

#Freaky Chakra,
Thanks! :)
Haha... true... bechara Sudheer! :)

#Well Wisher,
WHAT?! Chiku ji??? Chiku ji????? That's the best my well-wisher can wish for me?? :/

Well-wishing mein fail, baaki sab mein paas? :D

Errr... yeah! :P

//my sister who thinks he will become a kaamwala!!

Hahaha! :D

Arre ullu that was the post! Utna hi tha bas! "Tinku kahan ho tum?" Would have held the record for Sayesha's shortest post ever! :D


Sheesh! That's worse than "On the roof in the rain"! :D

Cool, Ramu Kaka indeeds kicks ass! :D

Sheesh! You too, eh?

Thanks, girl! :)

Thanks yaar! :)

Hahahaa! Not all at the same time man! :D

Happy weekend to you too! Mine was mostly spent doing my assignments :(

Anonymous said...

//Arre ullu that was the post! Utna hi tha bas!

Itna sa post likhti to self appointed jury teri waat laga deti! They have the freedom of speech and the freedom to abuse the freedom of speech!

//Sheesh! That's worse than "On the roof in the rain"!



Anonymous said...

arre i meant...

u=understanding &


Tujhe aur kya chaiye yaar???

Deepti Ravi said...

hmm.. yeah.. actually for the one who was longest with me ..bought a saree with my first sal :)

Bivas said...

Hope Hundi Apa is thr at ur shaadi. Planning a post on that?
Banambara/Rabi...I think I know which part of the country they come from :-)...Do I think rite?