March 4, 2010

Sharing the work

Today I finally sucked it up and left the paint palettes in the sink for the "helper" despite my unfading guilt for leaving menial labor to others to do. Though I still would have preferred to do the cleaning up myself, I decided to force myself to participate in a culture where absolutely every task is assigned to a designated person whose entire livelihood relies on others leaving that very task to them to complete. While servants, maids, washers, and sweepers may be viewed by the West as luxuries or simply as the lower class, here, they are a necessary functional unit of daily life. If you can afford to pay for your laundry to be done, why wouldn't you? Why bother cleaning your dishes and floors when you can hire a maid? Why clean up your garbage when it will be swept up and even sorted for recycling by a street sweeper and a rag picker? Why pump your own water when it can be brought to your bathroom by a water boy? It is not merely a matter of obvious convenience, but the fact that spending money for someone else to take over these duties is employing a huge population of society and indeed by not taking part we deny these people their work. However, I still must stifle my instinct to be independent and self-sufficient, with my American tendency toward avoiding help of any kind. I have yet to delegate dish-washing and laundry to someone, even when these chores are clearly time-wasting. At the same time, I have no choice that my host mom hires a water boy, a maid, helpers in the house, a bread boy, and children to buy even her chapatis from the shop downstairs. But rather than seem like superfluous spending or unnecessary luxury, it has become something I understand as the normal way society works. At the same time, when I leave my mess for these "helpers," I can't help but feel the presence of a socioeconomically stratified society, certainly remainders of the caste system, and I hate the fact that to rebel against it will only insult those whose lives literally depend on my participation. What is the difference between laziness and convenience?

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