Mumbai sweats it out as domestic helpers go on their ‘annual’ leave

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Sunanda Dharkar (28), a banker and Andheri resident, has tough times balancing her job and family responsibilities. Her cook and babysitter have gone on leave for a month to their hometowns.

Sunanda gets up 5.30 am to finish the chores and ready her two-year-old daughter Rhea before leaving home at 8 am — an hour early than the usual time. “I need to drop Rhea at my mum’s place in Jogeshwari and then I rush to my office in Parel. By the time I start work, half of my day’s energy is already spent. As my day ends at midnight, I hardly get time to sleep and refresh,” says Sunanda.

Sunanda is not alone. A large number of households in Mumbai and other cities across India are facing ‘bai crisis’ these days. The domestic help, the cook and the babysitter, who are now the backbone of urban families, are on annual summer break.

There were over 10 lakh women working as domestic help in Mumbai in 2012, as per Maharahstra’s Labour Welfare Board. “The number would have gone up drastically now,” says Babli Rawat from Gharkam Molkarni Sanghatana. Most of these helpers are migrants from interiors of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Their visit to native place in May-June is very common as their children have summer vacation, some of them go even during Diwali holidays.

“Behind every successful woman, there is a good maid, cook and babysitter,” smiles Akriti Shukla, a media professional. Shukla admits that she depends a lot on her helpers and their prolonged absence has made her entire family stressed out.

“May is an undeclared no-bai and no-wife month,” laughs SV Krishna, a young software engineer from Navi Mumbai who washes utensils and mops the floor during midnight after office hours as his wife has also gone to her hometown.

Tough times

In some families all members are chipping in to help women in doing the chores, but all of them are not lucky

A large number of drivers are also on leave giving office goers a tough time

All big cities have domestic help aggregator but they are finding it difficult to meet the demand

Even bais and drivers who come as substitutes on double charge are also missing this year

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