Is there a choice?

July 1, 2017
Zara Maqbool


By: Zara Maqbool

This year my maid/ children’s ‘Apa’ who had been with me for almost fourteen years got married. My biggest regret when it comes to her are two things: Firstly for never educating her literally and secondly for employing her when she was eleven years old. Between kids and many other excuses I never got around to educating her. Other than that I treated her as fairly and lovingly as I could. When she got a proposal from a “sapahi” from the army I was very happy. We made sure she got the wedding of her dreams and I felt as if I was marrying off my own daughter. And with a heavy heart “Apa” got married and left us. I was happy that she got married or I would have felt for her that she is reduced to being my children’s ‘Apa’ for her entire life.

Yesterday morning I received a call from her and she was crying her heart out. She lives with her in laws in the village, as her husband did not get the family quarters that she and we both were told that he would. During the entire conversations she kept on saying, “ I am not getting any of the things I used to get from you”. Ever since I spoke to her I have been feeling guilty and confused about whether I had made a mistake by treating her like a daughter and exposing her to so much privilege that she sub consciously I knew she would not be able to sustain.

For example she had two mobile phones on her, her own room and taken almost everywhere with us. My children loved and respected her and I used to feel offended if anyone would refer to her as a “maid.” My husband used to travel a lot and she was my confidant and companion. She would always be dressed well and I did my best to groom her and teach her many things. Many times my friends used to compliment and the comment usually was that, “she didn’t look like a maid.” I realized then that kept in a shabby manner was how maids were supposed to look like.

My mother and many others used to keep telling me that this over gratification will be a problem for her but I used to find the idea obnoxious. “ You are spoiling her…when she gets back to her old life she will have an issue.” and I would still ignore it.

But her phone call brought back all those words with great force and I questioned myself. “Was this pampering a mistake? ‘ Will my love cost her the happiness for her remaining life?’

Stuck in a village with no electricity and taking care of a big family is her future life. She actually regrets getting married and other than financially helping her I feel helpless about her situation. These days the difference between the classes strikes me more than ever. Was there always so much poverty in our country? Or have I woken up from my slumber and just trying to shed off an extra layer of selfish skin with many more still there?

Having young girls as children’s help is a common phenomenon in Pakistan. Most of them get used to the comforts of a better life for many years till they are back to the basics and the life they had. Are we selfish for hiring them for our own needs and then callously throwing them back to where they come from? And then more importantly what choice do we have? My help was a good looking sophisticated girl but then could she have received a proposal from a better family? With all and many other unanswered questions I hope with a heavy heart that our beloved ‘Apa’ settles and stays happy!