Monday, April 27, 2015

Why Mums vs. Maids won't lead to behavior change #mumsvsmaid #igiveadayoff

In Singapore we are rather spoilt. We have full time live-in help. They help us with household work, grocery shopping, cooking, special tasks like returning overdue library books (may be thats only me) and yes...looking after our children. Even though legally they should get a day off a week, many employers don't allow this basic right for their maids. Here is what was created as a solution to solve this issue.

If you have not yet seen it.

And here are my reasons on why this won't work

1) Total lack of understanding of the issue: Maids, like everyone of us, need to get their day off. It's their legal right. And it's inhumane for employers to deny them this basic right. If it's so obvious, why is it not practiced? If the intention is to solve the problem, this question needs to be answered.

So why is the question not asked, let alone answered? Because it's not sexy enough. Who wants to deal with real issues when you can simply create a 'provocative' video which will 'generate buzz'? Does it matter that the buzz is for all the wrong reasons? Nah. Who cares about right reasons?

2) The insight that is not insightful: Idea was to reposition the maid's day off as an opportunity to enhance family bonding- but if the maid has a day off on the working mum's day off, isn't the mum busy with regular household chores to actually spend quality time with her child? So it's a counter intuitive message. 

Maids deserve their day off for legal, moral and basic humane reasons. Not because mums need quality time with their kids. Mums get more of that when the maid is at home- cooking, cleaning, washing, grocery shopping and the whole long list of other household must-dos.

3) Blame and Shame does not work: Especially not when it comes to working mums. You believe the mum likes to be in office till 8 pm while the maid gives the child dinner? You think a mother enjoys missing soccer practice in lieu of training workshop so the maid can cheer when her son scores a goal? You think a mum relishes the opportunity to go on business trips leaving her child to be tucked in at night by the helper? Most of us simply don't have a choice in the matter.

Working mums have it the toughest. The guilt never wanes. The work seldom stops. We becomes master jugglers. Practicing our skills daily, relentlessly. Praying the balls don't drop. We do not need condescending, patronizing voices to make us feel we are failing our children. Because anyone who has not done this juggling, please shut the f$&) up! 

4) Your helper leaves her kids to look after yours: Yes she is earning a salary and making a living. But you can't shy away from the fact that many of our helpers have their own children back home. They don't see them for years at a stretch. They save every dollar they can to send home for a better life for their kids. For their schooling. For their clothes. For their food. For their shelter. Everything we take for granted here. 

For simply that reason she not only deserves a day off, but much more. She deserves our recognition, our empathy, our respect. Mother to Mother. Human to Human. 

5) So where's the dad in the equation? When the mum is busy working with no apparent time for her child, and the maid is bonding with the kid and knows that she wants want to be princess and not a teacher, what is the father doing?

Parenting is a responsibility of a father and a mother. Not the mother and the maid. So what about a campaign asking fathers to bear equal responsibility with the kids and giving the working mum a much needed afternoon nap and the maid her day off? 

Yes the video has succeeded in 'generating talkability', 'creating engagement', 'connecting the community' and whatever is the latest social media buzz word. What it won't do is resolve the issue. Because that needs people to be less selfish. To have empathy for the maid. To care for her like they do for your own family. To have basic respect. No ad campaign or video can teach anyone that.

We need to empower the maids to bring any injustice to attention of the authorities and create a safe environment for them so they can speak up. Wonder why no one bothered talking to the maids to really understand their issues? Oh yeah, who wants to see the ugly side of things? You don't win awards for that. And it sounds like way too much hard work.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The girl with a book (A Poem)

She dashes just in time for the final boarding call
Because airport book shops should never be missed
She adores browsing second-hand book stores
They smell of memories... like a long-forgotten kiss

Bookmarks are more than mere page pointers
They are used to pause a story; and start a dream
Dog ears are a strict no-no, never-ever
They bother her like dark coulds blocking a sun beam

Old friends are lost, new strangers don't even count
As she has her nose in her book, all profound
Hopelessly lost in the world of another's making
Immune to glances, unperturbed by sounds

The back of rickshaw, or on a sunny deck chair
Steps of a chaotic road corner, or a cafe by the beach
Sneaking through pages before meetings, between dinners
A book (or two) is always within her reach

When a story is over, a part of her dies a little death
When she opens the first crisp pages of a new one
She enlivens and brightens once again
For her mind to skip, to sing, to dance, to run

Characters are embraced like friends anew
Heroines idolized, villians admonished
Heroes captured in the mind's eye for years to come
Each one leaves his mark (but a few Darcy's are forever cherished) 

Don't stare, don't mind. She's not ignoring you on purpose
She simply doesn't desire that second look
She enthralled, she's captivated
Coz she will always be the girl with a book

Friday, April 17, 2015

Alvida eh farishta (Goodbye oh Angel)- A poem

Ek nadi hai, ek bahar hai
Ek roshini ki pukar hai
Ek hai chavi sharmayi si
Ek hai saya sahema sa

Ek hai kahani ansooni
Ek hai nagma soona soona
Ek hai hasi khilkhilati hui
Ek hai umeed dabdabati hui

Ek hai rimjhim ka salona sawan
Ek hai kadakti dhoop ka alaam
Ek hai sooraj cham chamata
Aur kayin hai tarein jhilmilatein

Unhi taaron men kya ek ho tum?
Yaan raat ki tanhayi me kaid ho tum?

Bus itni ki khabar hain humein
Ki ab dekh na paayenge hum tumhein
Nahin kar payeinge woh chulbuli baatein
Nahin baant payeinge gum bhari saugatein

Kaash humare paas hotein chan aur pal
Kaash humne guzarein hotein kuch aur lamhein
Ab in moothibhari yaadon ko kitna sametein?
Tumhare saath inhe dafna bhi nahin saktein

Yeh rahengi humare zehn mein sada
Bus ab hum sirf keh saktein hain alvida
Alvida eh farista, alvida