Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Maid - When They Are No Different From Other Family Members

I had never seen Suri*'s eyes as red as yesterday morning while at Changi Airport.

She was sending My Niece off to Beijing.
Her parent was already there since last week and since school is close for 4 weeks, the whole family reunited.

Suri, for the time being, will be in Singapore.
She is still waiting for her result.

At the same time, My Younger Sister is looking around for Suri to be enrolled in local university.
She sees into her study.
My Elder Sister's Daughter too, chipped into Suri's education, guiding her A-Math.

And Suri herself, the three of them, are all confident of getting her enrolled in university.
After all, she had always came out first in a class of 30 students, all housemaids.
Suri herself very well knew, she will be a graduate, one fine day.

Just hoping she can continue working with the family and furthering her education in Beijing.
She was together with them in Beijing during the March holiday which I had blogged earlier.

When teary-eyed Suri left Terminal One before My Niece checked-in, the memory of the late Puji which I shared here, flashed back at that moment.
Not only Suri left the airport crying, but My Niece too, red eyed with blank stares as Suri walked away.

But since the 6-year old Girl knew She will be together with Her Parent, so She stay-put at Her sitting place.
Otherwise, She will run straight into the bibik's arms.
These two-weeks is going to be the longest time My Niece is away from Suri.

Previously, after her two years was up, and she was asked to return home, she refused.
Then when My Sister went to Australia during her third year, she could not follow.
She still had two more papers to sit for her examination.
That was when she decided to make a short return home to Demak.

Again, that reminded Me of a Filipino maid Hilda Estopasi Xavier, who stood by her employer when the husband died of heart attack.
She did not mind her employer has no money to pay her salary.
She just wanted her to employer to pay the Singapore government her levy.
All because of the three young children whom she was attached to.

It reminded me yet of another maid, who offered to help out with her employer's daughter-in-law, a person I know, of financial difficulties.
The maid would wake up very early to prepare breakfast 'Nasi Lemak', to be sold by the children.

The maid was employed by the working mother-in-law, as her son was in jail.
The elderly lady paid the maid's salary and government's levy of S$265.
She took full responsibility of her son's absence from the family, so that her daughter-in-law can go out to work to pay for the housing and the five children's education.


That's so much about Suri, and more in the previous postings.
She has great concern for everybody.

She was never without home-cooked food for mothers waiting for their children whenever she waited for My Niece to finish Her "Iqra'" class.


"Ummie, rasa,"
as she shoved me the curried pickled gooseberry, "acar cermai" when I was at My Sister's place, when My Mother was there. 

"Bawa balik Johor."
She showed me the big quantity that she had cooked earlier.

I tasted one, and declined her offer.
It will be left untouched at My house.

I was curious seeing the big amount of gooseberry in the pot.
She claimed as most of her SMA classmates were working for mostly expatriates and some Chinese (she is the only person with a Malay family), none of them ever knew that the fruit exists in Singapore.

When she was at My house last April, she did not forget her Business Study classmates too.
I was having a feast then, and she packed food for her friends.
The class was about to end, so they wrapped it by having potluck the next day.
The class was conducted by staff of a well known Indonesian cosmetic line.
The students are all housemaids.

Suri had wanted Me to attend her farewell gathering at one of the hotel along Orchard Road.
She was proud of her booth that she set up and had been talking about it for days.
Unfortunately, I could not leave Nora* with My Mother alone at My house, as she was still new to the environment.
Though Nora* is with My Mother now, Suri still never forget to prepare what My Mother likes best.


Before, there's just Suri.
But now, Nora has become family members too.

She used to ask Me,
"Bu, kenapa harus tunggu empat bulan baru Bapak ambil saya?"

I have no answer to it.
And I am not the person who harp and regret on past incidence.
Whatever happened, there must be lesson for us to learn.

Nora was reluctant to work abroad, if not for her failed crop.
She was half-hearted to go to Singapore, as she had never heard of Muslims in Singapore.
And she was half-hearted to go to Malaysia too, thinking of the salary.
She definitely did not want to return to Saudi, too faraway.
But when she was told that there are Muslims in Singapore, she prayed hard that, Singapore Muslims have the same believe as she does.

Maybe, just maybe, although she was confused when she was returned to the maid agency which I had blogged earlier, GOD wants to show her that not all employers are the same as the one she had earlier worked for.

Nora is a person who makes religion her way of life.
She covered herself.

She put on the smallest headscarf she could find, just to cover her hair, much to her previous employer's dislike. 

"Singapore is no Saudi. So, don't cover yourself."

The employer used to remind her whenever she covered her hair when there were adult males at home.
But she still covered herself in that four months, refusing to let go the small scarf when her employer's husband or her father-in-law was around.

Nora performed her Zohor at 5pm, and Maghrib at 12midnight.
Midnight was when her work ended, for the day.
Luckily she had her employer's mother-in-law who stood by her.

Occasionally, from My Brother's house, Nora will call the elderly lady to inform of her well being.
Nevertheless, she thanked her 4-months Singapore employer for opening her eyes to the other side of being Muslim and being Singaporean.
Not all Muslims are tattooless, and some Muslims are clothed the minimal possible.


Nora had always told Me that she pray for Paradise for her former Saudi employer and her family.

She said, although the woman is one very beautiful woman on earth, she had never looked down on anybody.

Even when Nora intended to give some rice to her then one floor neighbour friend, as the employer is said to be a non-rice eater, her employer insisted that the neighbour's maid is very well taken care of, just like her.
The employer has had never bad thinking of others.

Communication breakdown is common issue about runaway maid whom I had encountered and shared here while waiting for a bus to MRT.

Misunderstanding often led to frustration and led to abuse, which I had blogged about of many incidences in this blog.
Again, not to about shaming others and My own religion, but that's reality in life.
When I showed Nora about happenings to Indonesian maids in Saudi in this blog, that's the first time she knew more of it, not only about bad employers, but bad maids too.

Same as all the above maids, Nora faced communication difficulties too, during her first few months in Saudi.
But her excellent employer asked her to take her time, as she herself has to learn Nora's language too.

Nora was never lonely in Saudi.
Her employer's mother lives next door.
Come weekends, the married children of the elderly mother will usually gather at her place, all bringing their maids, all happened to be Indonesian, and all from Java island.
Or, Nora would accompany her teacher employer to frequent wedding invitations, which maids, mostly Indonesian, will tag along.
She had performed her Umrah and Haj, all paid by the excellent Saudi employer. 

When the employer intended to move to their 3-storey bungalow, Nora was informed.
That was when she decided to return home after her 4-year stint with the only employer.
The employer asked her to choose another Indonesian maid to accompany her and to lighten her workload.

After the chosen one was briefed by Nora, she insisted on going home.

To make her stay, the employer negotiate hard with her, to which she replied,
"She will not be able to use the salary she earned, to send home to feed her family, if she worked half-heartedly. 
The money will not be  blessed, can be considered "haram" too, for doing things without sincerity.
There are effects we knew not, if the employer's family will not be sincerely looked after."
Nora was then quickly sent home to Surabaya.

The other day, My Eldest Sister said, She had never seen more beautiful Qur'an than the one She saw Nora was reading.
I shared the same view as Her too.
Maghrib to Isya' is her reading time, as what My Mother does everyday.

And yes, Nora said, the Quran is a gift by a niece of her Saudi employer before she depart home.  


"Bu, piala siapa punya?" 
Nora asked as she cleaned and arranged the many trophies.

"Kesemuanya anak saya. Kenapa?"
I was curious.

"Kalau punya orang yang dulu, saya tak mau bersihkan. Tak enak."
That is Nora.

I had just moved to a new place last April.
The former owner had left many still new and untouched belongings.
The house had been empty for a few years, only occupied when many relatives of theirs from Northern Malaysia whenever they dropped by.

The owner maintain the house in good condition, with cleaner dropped by to clean the house every month.
They had asked us to move in early, the moment My Husband and I said We intended to purchase the house from them, some time in July last year, so that they knew their house will still be looked after.
The husband had even promised to send over pots of flowers to be planted around the house.
But the house has already no less than 30 potted plants around the place. 
The couple have great affection for the house.

But no papers had been signed, not even any monies had been paid, so not too nice for us to move too early.


I was surprised at Nora's question.
But soon realised when she told Me she knew of people bought trophies to be decorated at home, for pride.
What ??? 

"Betul Bu. banyak dikampung seperti itu."


Nora had mentioned rose guava to My Elder Sister.

But when My Elder Sister bought for her at RM6.00 per kilo, she stopped her from buying for her again.

"Jangan beli lagi, Bu. Mahal. Ini kan buah belakang rumah."

"Cuba tengok, apa ada belakang flat Nyai. Mana ada pokok jambu. Rumah orang adalah," 
as My Elder Sister pointed to the kitchen window.

Nora laughed at herself.
She is in Singapore, not Surabaya.
The guava was tasteless to her.

When I happened to get for her not sooo fresh guava at RM2.80 per kilo, reminded her to eat all of it, and not to leave any, she thanked Me because upon tasting, she said, that's how guava should taste.
I could not figure what she meant.

Last week, I showed Nora the way to Sheng Shiong at Bedok.

"Bu, tak mau beli. Mahal. Cuma 4 dollar saja diGeylang."

"Kalau mahal, belikan Nyai aje."
True enough, she took just two of the big Yellowtail Scad or "Selar Hijau" for My Mother.

"Mahal Bu. 40 sen."

"OK. Kalau mahal, beli soya, bikin tempe sendiri."
She quickly took only 2 of the fermented soya cake.

I told her, if everybody wants things cheaply, then there will be no nearby amenities.
We take it that the excess we pay is the price of convenience and great saving on time and transportation.

Before we headed home, she was adamant to change the rice grain that My Brother bought, for My Mother's sake. 
But when I asked her to get her choice of food, she said, she eats what My Mother eats.
Do not have to waste so much money.
But one thing she cannot escape is munching away NTUC carrots as her snack.
I bought for her too from Giant when she was at My house, but she said it tasted different.
She did not touch any.


My Mother had wanted to follow Me home when we returned from the airport, after sending off My Niece.

But I need My Husband to drive them to JB.

Upon hearing that, I could see Nora smiling and her eyes sparkled as she reminded Me, 
"Suruh Abi ambil kami cepat sedikit."

That reminded Me of her when she laughed very heartily.
After eight months since she left her hometown in August 2010, finally she get the opportunity to step on real soil.
The earth under her feet, the sky above her head.
Not other person's roof below and on top of her.

She thanked GOD for giving her opportunity to rake away dried leaves.
Being a farmer's daughter, she was happy in getting herself close to mother earth, touching the soil with her bare hands.
She did not mind getting them dirty.

Always choosing "ciku" of the day, My Mother's favorite fruit.


And Nora really wanted the roses at My house to bloom just like her grandmother's, atop Kelud Mountain in Surabaya.  


remgold said...

Susah nak dapat helper yg baik dan lebih payah lagi nak dapat majikan yg baik. untung ur helpers.
I never had extra hands in the house and perhaps never will. Best wishes.

Ummie said...

These girls do not work for Me.
But since they are staying with My Sister & My Mother,
surely they are just another family members whom we cannot alienate them,
lest they don't feel welcome.
Their feelings & sincerity with their jobs will have great impact on our & their family in the long run.

*Nora has also started to ask Me of short classes conducted by nearby mosques where Indonesian maids usually attend.