Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Molae" Exploitation

My husband's younger cousin-sister lived with us while she finished her studies in Bangalore. She is a "molae," which in Malayam means daughter or girl, and anyone of a certain age can call you that. A Molae has a lot of duties, but most of all she must serve the elders in the house. "Go get my wallet from my dresser upstairs." "Run and get my cell phone before the caller hangs up." "Help Chechi with the baby."

I discovered a formula while I was there - the more someone calls you molae, the more work you have to do.

I, also, lived in a state of domestic servitude while growing up. I had to run and fetch eyeglasses and other on-the-spot jobs, in addition to whatever I did for my "allowance" - dishes, vacuuming, gardening, snow shoveling, etc. But I only served two masters, my parents. If I served anyone else, it was out of love and/or respect, like my grandfather.

I feel so badly for all the molaes I have met. Our household molae mostly gets assignments from my father-in-law and husband. Neck and shoulder massages, leg massages, in addition to running for the cell phone when it rings. When my mother-in-law comes (my husband's parents are divorced), all hands are on deck but it's mostly "Molae, this" and "Molae, that" when she wants something...everything from chai to reheating the chai because she was too busy talking to drink it when you first gave it to her.

My empathy prevents me from assigning Molae any work. I would feel like a jerk, remembering the relative independence and fun I had in my college years contrasted with the duties of her college years.

Perhaps that is why she speaks highly of me to her friends. "You have an American chechi (older sister)? What's that like?" She tells me she tells them that she thinks she is lucky she didn't get another indian chechi because then she would really have to work.


Anonymous said...

Jill it is susan from chat masala:) found ure blogs and i have to say that being called molae by my parents to do something was the way to butter me up cuz i would do it without a complaint but if they said Eddy!...forget

Anonymous said...

"Molae" has a different meaning in Kannada, the language spoken by the majority in Karnataka (although not Bangalore). It refers to the female breast. And when you said "molae exploitation" I was really scared on what to expect!

Nice reading your blog.