Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Amal in Being Kind

Each time I come across stories about abused maids, I get very worked up. I am outraged that some employers see it fit to ill-treat their househelpers, either physically or emotionally, sometimes both.

Just days ago, one beast of an employer (who runs his own business) was sentenced to 32 years of prison and some 18 strokes of the rotan for mercilessly raping his teenage maid over a period of many months, aided by his wife who held her down. Just what kind of animals are we dealing with?

While not to the extreme as mentioned, I do have personal experiences of people I know (highly-educated ones too) calling their maids bodoh (stupid), bangang (dumb) and lembab (dimwit) to their faces. I cringe at such rudeness. What has happened to our sense of propriety and decency?

If they were so rich, clever and well-educated, they wouldn't have left their country for a faraway land just to earn a pittance by washing the bottom of someone's else's child, would they?

I don't know the statistics relating to maid abuse in this country, but I would like to think that Malaysians are generally kind-hearted and treat their maids well. I believe those who abuse their househelp are in the minority.

There is another breed of employers - the modern-day Scrooge; they keep an eagle eye on what the maid eats. They even keep track on what's in the fridge. Heaven helps the maid if a particular food item - a fruit or a piece of cake, for example - goes missing.

What irks me so is that the maid is good enough to clean, cook, wash and manage the nitty-gritty of the household, not to mention catering to the whims and fancies of the little masters and misses, but not good enough to share the family meal.

True, there are abusive maids at the other end of the scale. Almost everyone with maids have horror stories to tell. However, I am the absolute optimist; I always think if employers treat their maids kindly and with respect, the likelihood of such maids screwing them up is minimal (unless you really have the misfortune of hiring a witch).

My late grandmother, bless her soul, raised me to value and respect househelp. To her, our maid was family and accordingly, was treated as such. We had the same daily help for almost two decades; I grew up under her wings, shadowed by her kindness.

She actually started as a washerwoman and eventually 'progressed' to doing general housework including cooking and cleaning. Her husband was a fisherman who did odd jobs during the monsoon season.

The maid had a daughter my age named Hamidah and when I entered secondary school, my grandparents adopted Midah so she could live with us to keep me company. She was my best friend; we were like sisters, even sharing the same bed.

We were joined at the hips like the proverbial Siamese twins until we both finished secondary school. Midah went on to a teacher's college while I joined NST. Today she is nearing retirement; happily married and lives and teaches in Perlis.

Her eldest child, a daughter, recently graduated in medicine and has begun working in Kota Baru Hospital. I saw my friend last at my mom's funeral in May this year. She looked good. Her own mom passed on some time back. We hugged and shed a few tears.

My (former) sister-in-law Sofwanah, an angel of a woman if ever there is one, too has been having the same Indonesian maid for the last 18 years. While 'bibik' does all the housework, her husband takes care of the garden, the pool and whatever else that needs to be done outside the house.

Their only child, a daughter named Sahanaya, was born in Malaysia. She attends Bukit Bandaraya school and excels in her studies. She's raised like Kak Nah's own and is treated just like a kid sister by Kak Nah's grown children.

A brainy girl, that Naya. Her English is flawless. She loves reading and tops her class consistently. Imagine, the daughter of a barely literate Indonesian maidservant besting the brains of the uppercrust's offsprings!

Three years ago Kak Nah and her husband Abang Kamal legally adopted Naya, then 12, to ensure all her needs are properly and adequately taken care of. We are all proud of her and are rooting for her to succeed.

I believe in giving people a chance. Kindness usually begets kindness. There is no greater 'amal' than flourishing our own ummah.


Kak Teh said...

Puteri, my siblings have been fortunate with good bibiks and aretreated like one of the family. Here - where I am - i have seen and read about abuses of domestic help. Such as forcing a hand on a hot stove. I have seen with my own eyes, the employres walking and chatting merrily in their fur ocats, leaving tescos, while the skinny maid in just one layer of clothing pushed their over laden trolley out in the winter cold to the car.
On a more positive not, we had a meal with a friend and caught up with news abt this nd that. This friend, who single handedly is raising his son because the wife died eight years ago, has sent his maid to university. She had no basic education, so he sent her off to english classes, and from then her thirst for education is unquenchable. She is now in third year at university. That is what Islam requires us to do - and this man is not even a Muslim.

mamasita said...

Betul cakap you Puteri.Jangan sesiapa menghina sesiapa especially kalau orang tu miskin or susah.

As long as we can be kind in any small or big way,just do it.

If we can't,just feel quietly sad for the pitiful souls and hope they can have a better life quickly and not go on too long with their hardship.Its great to be kindhearted as much as possible.Its very sad when you can't do much to help.

I congratulate you and your family plus your ex-sister-in-law for making so many succeed in life even though they were not blood-related to you in any way..a beautiful and touching story.

kay_leeda said...

Kak Puteri,

What a coincidence, I have just put a posting about my Bibik too. Your words are so very true to the last fullstop. It pays to be kind and understanding with the maids. I was one of those people who were so "ceng-ngeh" with the maid's work in the beginning. But upon seeing what my present Bibik had done for my family, I can thank her enough.

Bab makanan tu...anggap lah sedekah je. Some of them back home, daging pun tak pernah merasa, so kesian.

kay_leeda said... should read "can't thank her enough"

Zawi said...

House helpers should be treated as part of the family. Mistreating them in whatever way reflects the mentality of the employer, which is as low as the toilet, however high their education is.

Anonymous said...

Salam Kak,

Saya tak ada bibik tapi ada baby sitter (nanny yang jaga anak saya)

Masa baby saya umur 6 bulan dia kena attack ngan meningitis..

Sapa pun tak nak jagak anak saya kecuali baby sitter ni..(my baby teruk..dia fit 8 hours)..doktor kata dia mungkin cacat (buta, pekak dan lembab)..inshallah tak jadi..tapi masa tu dia 6 bulan.."this remarkble baby sitter" tak tau nak describe berani nak jaga anak saya yang semua orang kata tak payah sebab baby ni (anak saya payah nak di jaga)..

selalu jugak kena masuk balik hospital (saya memang kena tabah masa ni)..

dia yang lebih teruk dari saya berjaga..

dia lebih teruk menangis dari saya

dia yang lebih teruk susah hati dari saya..

saya tak sangka..kasih dia seperti ibu sejati walaupun dia tak melahirkan....

namun anak saya membesar di bawah jagaannya sihat, (dia jaga sehingga 6 tahun)..lepas tu saya pindah..

kalau hari raya saya tak ziarah..menangis lah dia rindukan anak saya...

saya bersyukur kehadrat tuhan..yang menganugerahkan saya seorang yang mampu menjaga anak saya dengan sepenuh hati dia (by the way..dia tak ambik pun anak orang lain nak jaga)...dia jatuah kesian kan saya masa dia lihat wajah anak saya ketika pertama kali saya bertanya..lepas kecewa sangat tak siapa nak jaga anak saya ketika itu...

ya syukur ya syukur ya syukur

zaitgha said...

how irony kan Kak Putri, they trust the maid to care for their nice house, to cook their food and to take care of the children but yet they treat the maids sometimes worst than the dog...i was blessed with wonderful baby sitter for 5 years and good maid for 6 years and i am still me they are family until now we still in contact...

btw, i came here from Kak Teh...

Salt N Turmeric said...

Kak Puteri, tht man and his wife deserved the 32yrs in jail and rotan and more if I had my hand in the system. How could they do that? And the wife boleh joined in as well? I know tak baik doakan yg buruk pada orang but i cant help hoping tht they would get raped themselves in the prison. baru diorang tau macamana tht girl rasa. grrr. marah sangat ni!

I pun tak faham employers yg berkira pasal makanan. My parents maid dulu ran away fr her employer and out of pity my mom took her in. the first few weeks she ate like there's no tomorrow. terkejut kitorang tengok dia makan sampai 3 plates padahal she was skinny. I guess she was so deprived of food tht she was afraid there would be no more food for her later. sad kan?

Just me...Naz said...

Kak Puteri,
Believe it or not, I started writing about *bibiks* too yesterday.
Social responsibility is something that we Msians still need to learn, I think. We pride ourselves with being/believing that we are a caring society but we keep on hearing these kind of incidences and we keep on witnessing people who unashamedly talked about their domestic helps in such a despicable manner.
Having said that, I know that there are also many bibiks out there who are *trouble* with a capital T. They are only human.
I think being able to strike a balance between social responsibility and street-smart might just be the thing to keep us and them safe and sane :)

IBU said...

Treat people how we like to be treated. Kan?


Anonymous said...

My friend, Hindu, ada maid Islam (Indonesian). Lama dah dengan they all. Siap hantar maid tu pergi umrah dan haji sekali. Tabiklah...

Kama At-Tarawis said...

kak teh - my apologies, tapi pak arab kaya ni sudah lumrah agaknya mcm tu. when i lived there, I saw basically the same thing...

mamasita - you are spot on. kalau tak boleh tolong, just sympathise. tak payah hina orang susah because the likelihood of their heart lebih kaya dari orang berduit is high..

kay - cenge takpa, as long as hati baik. what's inside counts a lot. makan is one thing kita tak harus berkira, because the rezeki comes from Him.. kalau Dia sekat satgi, tak ker haru kita..

Pok Zawi - brtul tu Pak. Pelajaran tinggi tak guna if takdak perasaan rendah diri.

Anon - yu had a most wonderful babysitter. not many ppl want to jaga budak sakit..

zaitgha - tq for droppin by. indeed you arfe lucky to hv had both a good babysitter and a maid. makan is where we should never kedekut.. He provides..

Farina - I pun..hangat hati betul when I read that piece of news. They never think.. what if orang buat mcm tu to their own mother ka, sister ka.. would they like it?

Naz - dapat good maid ni pun macam lucky draw gak. if you are lucky, u get a good one... hehehe..

Ibu - precisely. tapi yg i heran, how is it that they never think mcm tu, ya?

Anon - kindness ni is not the privilege of muslims saja. some non-muslims lagi baik perangai than our own ummah.. shameful to orang islam, kan?

Pp said...

puteri kama....

yes, in saudi they have put up an advert on encourage people to treat their maids with respect compassion. it has gine very bad...

ps: i am now at new url temporarily.

n.i. said...

kak puteri,
our maid's 'lifetime' with us is approaching the 5th year... She was our second maid... our first maid wanted to work with a non-muslim family after her 2 year contract expired (reason:higher pay)...

Alhamdulillah, Siti (our current maid) is ok... i believe in the 'give and take' rule... as long as you know how / what / when / where / why / who to do your work, then it's ok with me... recently, my maid got married (her second) and his husband is working here in malaysia... what worries me is what if she becomes pregnant... kalau i pregnant, dia pregnant, haruuuuu...

but, that i couldn't control, kan?

my family has always treated our maids like family... unfortunately, some are not grateful for that... i pity my sister who has changed about 5 maids in the past 3 years... 2 lari, 3 nak balik before contract ends... we later found out that these maids tak ikhlas nak kerja... datang malaysia as a reason to find soulmate... sabar ajelah... now, she is maidless... tak sanggup nak suffer mentally...