Segregation was part of my growing up. Akkachi had her own plate and cup and she had a special place to keep them. She was not allowed to use the family dish rack. It was the same with clothes. Akkachi had to wash her clothes separately.
In Chengannur house the workers never came in through the front door. They walked to the back of the house and stood a few steps away from the door. I was not supposed to play with the children of farm workers. There were so many rules that ensured that we could enforce the upper class ideologies without much struggle.
Yet, within the family and friendship circle, we shared clothes, shoes etc and had no problems when our friends came home and ate food from our plates! Chechy had to wear my aunt’s clothes and I had to wear my aunt’s and chechy’s old clothes and my sisters..yup you guessed it right.
As an adult you try to do the right thing and for me one of it was to accept that my Amah is part of my family and she used the plates and cups we used. I must say that it was not a decision I could make easily. I had to convince myself that if I could eat at a restaurant where the same plate was used 100’s of times and I am relying on the cleanliness of the dish washer to ensure that my plate is clean! then my Amah could use the plates in my own home.
But using the washing machine..that was a different issue. It wasn’t that the Amah had cooties..and I knew my scrubs in the hospital was washed centrally along with everyone else’s. But I just couldn’t bring myself to allow my Amah to wash her clothes along with ours.
Then I went for two weeks holidays and stayed with a friend. I had gone out to do some errands and when I came back, my friend had left a note telling me that she did the laundry and had put the clothes in the dryer and asked if I could take them out when I am back. I opened the dryer to find my clothes and her clothes and her boyfriend’s clothes in the dryer!
I took my clothes out and washed it again., and was so worked up that she would come in any time and I will have to explain why I am washing my clothes again.
I thought about my idiosyncrasies..Most of my work clothes were send for dry cleaning. My scrubs were washed at the hospital. So why am I getting worked up when it comes to washing my clothes? Reluctantly I accepted that there was no point in separating clothes!