Kindness can help dreams come true
2018-07-23 15:04:12 -

Mariaam Bhatti: Tales of a Domestic Worker

I have met very few people who don’t have dreams in life. Those dreams could be anything; some dream of building or buying a house, getting to university, going travelling, finding a ‘good’ woman or man, or even a being single forever. The list goes on.

I have many dreams, too, but I have never dreamed of owning a car. Despite this, I have dreamed of magically owning a driver’s licence. I don’t like the idea of going through driving lessons at all. I have done close to 30 of them at this stage but still procrastinate in booking a test. Every time my driving instructor calls to say he is on the way, I start feeling feverish and wish something would happen to his car so he would cancel the lesson.


Each time a lesson is scheduled, and the time is getting closer, I feel like escaping through the back window and only stop myself because I am paying for it and my instructor doesn’t deserve that. He is such a sweet man; we chat about lots of things when we drive around, although conversations become shorter when I am behind the wheel.


In between the chats, I dread stop signs, traffic lights and traffic itself, as this means I have to use my eyes, voice, ears, hands and feet at the same time – something I find challenging.


On the same topic, I recently happened across a very sweet video of a domestic worker being taught how to drive by her longtime employers in Cape Town. The video, which has apparently gone viral back in South Africa, is taken from a dashboard camera and shows a young person, probably aged between 18 and 22, being a driving instructor to a terrified woman behind the wheel, still clad in her red-and-white maid uniform.


I could relate to this woman’s every exclamation, such as when the car seems to be approaching an intersection and she asks frantically: “Where do I go!? Which way!? [Gesturing with her hand off the wheel] That way?” Her instructor, however, seems to be enjoying every bit of it, sometimes struggling to contain his laughter. And at one point she cries “Oh! I almost died” to which he responds “You almost killed me!”


The woman seems relieved when the lesson ends. I could relate to it all, and recognise how whenever I am driving with my own instructor, I keep eyeing the dashboard clock without making it too obvious.


However, I now feel more motivated, reminded by that video how people can be so kind to others. There are many other stories where people have been similarly kind to their domestic workers and supported them to achieve their dreams. I would like to see such stories collected and put together to show that it is not impossible for employers to be kind to their domestic workers. As for this particular lady, I wish her the best of luck — and to the young man and his family, to continue having such a big heart for her, their future workers and everyone else they meet.


Mariaam Bhatti is a member of the Domestic Workers Action Group and Force Labour Action Group of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland.

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