We usually wake up to their existence when they don’t turn up for work. And the first response is annoyance, because of the inconvenience caused to us. Many professional women don the title of being superwomen because they manage jobs and homes — work life balance. But in fact the real superwomen are these silent workers, without whom few professional women in India would be able to function.
Yet, while those in formal employment get sick leave, casual leave, privileged leave and weekends, our domestic help is not entitled to any of this. If she rests too long, she’s lazy. If she doesn’t turn up for work, she’s a shirker. It would appear that these women don’t have the right to relax, to fall sick, to have some fun. And of course, no one acknowledges that when they’re done with our homes, they still have their own homes where they have to do the very same jobs, sweep and swab, wash clothes, cook and take care of children and elderly.
Nishtha Jain, a Mumbai-based documentary filmmaker has done what all of us need to do. She has not just acknowledged that this silent worker in her home has a name, but she’s followed her life so that we see the person behind the name — a person just like any of us. And instead of viewing the woman from a distance, the filmmaker has bravely placed herself in the frame, honestly dissecting her own relationship as an employer. Lakshmi and Me is a remarkably honest documentary about 21-year-old Lakshmi and the filmmaker, Nishtha.