Losing the grip


Four years ago, I got to know an Indonesian girl, SP, who just moved into my neighbourhood. She hailed from Central Java. She was very tall and slim, with big eyes and long perfect lashes.

She looked after an old lady in the area, helping her around the house and cooking her meals. The old lady lived with her 2 middle-aged daughters and a grand-daughter. The old lady was really quite hard to please. This was well known in the neighbourhood.

She behaved like the dowager, always demanding for things to be done in a certain way. She was very critical and intolerant. Since an operation years ago, the dragon lady could no longer cook or wash. She had to rely on SP. She became resentful about being reduced to her pathetic state and often lost her temper at everyone.

She never layed a finger on SP, but her really nasty words were painful enough to cause SP to die many times. Still, SP tried her best to be patient and kind toward the dragon lady. She was afterall just an old and sad woman, who could only dream of her glorious past.

She prepared the dowager’s medicine, accompanied her on doctor visits, cleaned her night pot, and massaged her legs.

The rest of the family knew how difficult it was to live with the dowager. So, they were grateful for having such a handy helper around and often rewarded her good work in many ways. They increased her pay each year. They joke and talk with her. They gave her some money when she went out on her off days. On her birthday, she received gold jewellery.

They recognised that SP was a very fast and eager learner. She never skived on her job, and tried to do everything to perfection. She was a real gem to this family. They knew it was impossible to find someone who could tolerate the dowager’s fiery temper.

Today SP came to tell me that she was planning to return home at the end of her four-year contract. I knew her employers were trying hard to persuade her to stay. They offered her bonuses, a significant pay increase and even paid computer lessons.

But her parents pressured her to return home. It turned out that her younger sisters wanted to get married, but according to Indonesian customs, they could not do so until she was.

So, she has to go back and look for a husband, so that her sisters can form their own families. “After I get married,” she said, “my parents would let me go anywhere, and do anything.”  

I almost cried when I heard that this sweet-natured girl was leaving at the end of the year. What would happen to the dowager and her family? I doubt they would ever be able to find another outstanding helper like SP.

She was definitely the most dedicated, sincere and earnest domestic helper in the neighbourhood, and I did not want her to go. I want her to stay and be here. I will miss her.

Because SP is my maid. And she is a bloody good one.

Explore posts in the same categories: Family, Life

One Comment on “Losing the grip”

  1. […] of our 5-day family holiday would be our day trip to Hong Kong, where we reunited with our ex-helper, Su, where she now works. We last saw her in 2007 but recently got into contact with her again and […]

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