It’s ironic but not surprising that the people suffering the most from the ongoing pandemic are the ones who played no role in spreading it across the world.

I am talking about the underprivileged, the migrant workers, the house help. 

Travelling outside the country is something most of them don’t even dare to dream. Their aspirations are simple: Family members safe with food on their plates.

We, the privileged, couldn’t even ensure that. 

As an invisible virus brings the country down to its knees, there’s one common complaint coming in from every state, every city. People abandoning their maids, in some cases not letting them use lifts, out of the fear that they will transfer the virus to their families. 

A virus that rich people, flying in planes brought here. Of course, it wasn’t their fault either, but stigmatising a section of the society going through a rough patch for no fault of theirs is unfair.

In an exclusive report published in The News Minute, Geeta Menon, who formed the Domestic Workers Rights Union in Karnataka threw some light on the issue:

Over 80% of domestic workers have been told not to come to work for the next two months because their employers fear that they are carriers of the virus. Shutting themselves inside a room when the domestic worker comes to work, all this is insensitive and stigmatising.

She also added that while the fear is justified, given the circumstances, there is a way to communicate it. 

Truly, we need to understand that these people don’t live in cramped places out of choice, they don’t use common washrooms because they want to. They don’t have an option.

So if people are scared that they might be the carriers of the virus, shouldn’t that make them more empathetic? 

The virus could claim their maids’ lives, and it is insensitive that the families they served for years are only thinking about themselves.

In the same report, Sharadamma, a 57-year-old domestic worker was quoted as saying:

Everyone thinks that we live in dirty houses and don’t maintain hygiene. Some of my employers said that since I am old, they are scared of me spreading it to them. Last week, they all told me not to come to work for two months as they are scared that I will spread the virus. Now, I don’t know what to do for two months. They are not even willing to pay.

Imagine facing a life-threatening challenge with little to no money. Imagine not having the luxury to lock oneself up in the house.

These are things we need to think about, as a society.

In this context, it would be remiss not to mention a recent Kent ad for a dough-maker, which read:

Are you allowing your maid to knead atta dough by hand? Her hands may be infected.

Is this how we are going to show our support to people who keep our houses running?

Thankfully, the ad was called out by many and was ultimately removed after an apology. 

But the problem is bigger. The problem is about the mindset. 

One can hide themselves in their rooms all they want, but these things leak and pollute the whole society. Let’s clean our heads before cleaning our homes.