“We are migrants from Bengal and work together in a household as domestic helps…”

“I do the cooking and she manages all the other chores. We bonded because of her language barrier; she only speaks Bengali, which our employers didn’t understand. I am fluent in both Hindi and Bengali. I acted as an interpreter for the initial few months, which brought with it some rather funny moments that helped break the ice not only between us, but between her and our employers too.

We chatter in Bengali and keep breaking out in giggles in the middle of work, much to our employers’ amused exasperation. Living in a society where exploitative and inhumane attitudes towards domestic helps are common– and we have had our fair share of harsh treatment from other households we have worked in – it feels nice to be part of a space where we can get in a few laughs.

Both of us have a fighting spirit. I can be quite headstrong; I quit work in this household a couple of months ago when they were starting to treat me too unfairly. She is more tactical. She won’t rant or lose her temper, like I am prone to do, but she knows how to stand up against oppression without raising her voice – like quoting a lesser wage to her husband than she gets so that she can save up on the side, which he won’t let her do otherwise. I know how difficult it can be to get to have agency over our own earnings – what with all the familial pressure – and I admire and learn from these little steps she takes to ensure that.

I find it really funny that we have such similar sounding names – the only difference is I have an “a” where she has an “i” – and share the same surname; people mix up our names all the time. I am still half-convinced that she is my long-lost sister!”

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