Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Last year we, a family of four, set out on a head-hunting expedition. Please don't get me wrong; it wasn't the kind of mission the cannibalistic gourmets of Sarawak excelled in, no sire. ( though the members of my family wouldn't hesitate for a moment to eat me alive for breakfast if the situation so demanded). I was referring to the mundane task of prospecting for a housemaid.

The task was laborious what with too many prospective employers chasing too few maids (no pun intended). With the effort that went into the search, we could have discovered Lockness Monster or the Abominable Snowman of Himalayas if we wanted. And just when we, in frustration, braced ourselves to make do with anything that wore a skirt and walked on two legs(and worked), Sophie breezed into our lives.

At a walk-in interview at Sophie's place, which we attended with trepidation, Sophie probed into, inter alia, our family head count, number of guests who visited us per annum and the carpet area of our abode in order to 'guesstimate' the likely work load. Having satisfied herself, Sophie spelt out her pecuniary demands that included hefty severance pay in case Sophie's services were unilaterally terminated by us. Despite all indignities, we clung on to the maid (not physically, of course), little realising that we were embracing 'Hurricane Sophie'.

And hurricane she certainly proved to be. For, Sophie, like the stars of Bollywood, worked in eight shifts (of 45 minutes each), flitting from house to house. Her modus operandi was simple: she worked at a blistering pace. Her act of sweeping the floor, for instance, reminded us of splendid hockey wizardry displayed by topnotch star players in their heyday. Wielding the broom-stick, she moved on nimble feet dribbling a few select bits of litter from room to room and hit spectacular 'goals' through the backdoor. And the dishes were washed before you could say 'Dish...um'. She washed the clothes using an ingenious technique called 'Drench-n-dry'.

The faux pas led us to a classic catch-22 situation: we could sack Sophie and cough up the hefty severance pay or suffer in silence. We took refuge in the latter option, if you could call it an option. In exasperation we tore our collective hair out and did everything else one did in such situation except the bungee jumping!

At this juncture, a distant glimmer of light shone through the mist of gloom. A strange quirk of fate catapulted Sophie into a candidacy for the ensuing municipal elections. A win at the hustings, we hoped, would make Sophie quit the job on her own. Sensing a golden opportunity, we threw ourselves into the election campaign in favour of Sophie. We went from door to door persuading, cajoling ( and often threatening) voters to support Sophie. Sophie did, ultimately, scrape through by a margin of a solitary vote. For us, it was as close a shave as shaves could get!

The morning after the elections results, Sophie appeared at our doorstep with her entourage. We waited with bated breath for the imminent proclamation. Sophie chewed on her gum vigorously and spat into a distant flowerpot with the precision of the Tomahawk missile and said, "Ma'am, the changed circumstances have forced me to quit my maid's job. But, considering your pivotal role in getting me elected, I have decided to work exclusively for you." Choked with emotions, tears of gratitude gleamed at the corners of Sophie's eyes.

Our eyes too brimmed with tears - tears of someone who had not only found the Lockness Monster but also was saddled with it as though for eternity.

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