It went viral on social media last week. The video showing a young female housemaid defecating in the cooking pot of her employers! I received it from almost a dozen friends via WhatsApp, particularly from those who were aware that I’d just employed a help about two weeks ago. They warned about the dangers house helps now pose to their unsuspecting employers and offered advice on how best I can protect myself and family from them. Indeed, the content of the video sent a rush of adrenaline through my body. What if, God forbid this was true (with the rising spate of fake news and altered videos, an element of doubt might not be out of place here) and the poor employers have been eating meals cooked in this pot for God knows when? What if this maid had not only been using the pot as her potty but had actually been spicing the family’s food with her urine or poop?
The mere thought of this action and possible consequences is enough to make one’s stomach turn and blood curdle at the same time. Forget the fact that the late Dr. Elizabeth Kafaru, a popular alternate medicine practitioner and Columnist of the Guardian Newspaper, led the advocacy for urine therapy, ascribing great healing potentials and powers to the drinking of one’s own urine, I cannot recall reading that one can drink the urine of another human for any reason whatsoever. When one considers the fact that both urine and poop are items that the body has rejected and passed out as waste, it makes no sense and becomes scary that they can be consumed again through the mouth as food. (Though there are people who are said to derive sexual thrills from these actions, drinking wee and eating the poop of their partners or rubbing same on their bodies. The act is called Coprophilia) The exposure to health risks this may constitute is unimaginable. From hepatitis A and E, to Ecoli, Salmonela, Shigella, and some other bacteria that may not yet be in Nigeria’s medical dictionary. And what with the psychological torture of discovering that you have been eating someone’s waste as locust bean and other condiments? Surely, there is no other word to describe this lady’s action but pure evil.
Ironically, social media has been agog in recent times with stories of the antics of house helps turned devil incarnates, wreaking havoc in the homes of their employers. In time past, we only used to hear stories of accidents or incidents caused as a result of ignorance or negligence, or those where great supernatural powers, capable of turning the good fortunes and bright destinies of their employers and their family to naught, but not the blatant blood chilling tales of evil from the pit of hell as we have it now. And if it was happening then, it was not as rampant and deadly as its been carried out today. Around the Sallah holiday in 2018, news broke about a housemaid who laced the family soup with rat poison. Their offence? According to her confession captured on a video, she wanted to teach the family members a lesson for excluding her from eating out of the delicious vegetable soup they had prepared that evening. But the family spokesperson, a lady whose face was not revealed on the video provided us the reason why she was not allowed to eat from the sumptuous meals she had assisted to prepare. She said the young girl had eaten most of the shrimps they wanted to use to cook the vegetable soup. Her exclusion was actually a punishment meant to serve as deterrent from such greedy actions. But the housemaid, unable to process why denying her a portion of the meal had to be her punishment, decided to mete out her own punishment too. Six family members were hospitalised and treated for food poisoning. Unfortunately, the matriarch of the family, an old woman in her 80’s did not make it back home.
The activities of Jolly Tumuhirwe, 22, a housemaid in Uganda caught on tape while grossly abusing an infant remains indelible in my mind, even though it happened in December 2014.
Following a tip off from concerned neighbours about the terrible wailing of their child almost all day long, the couple installed a CCTV camera around the house to find out what was going on. Their discovery was horrific. As a mother, it was really difficult for me to process such a thing happening to any child at that. And though the girl was tried and sentenced to four years imprisonment, I doubt it can compensate for the pain and damage her actions must have caused to both the child and his parents. Many similar stories are available on social media platforms regaling us of their nefarious activities, some leading to loss of money and fortune, serious or permanent injuries and death. The rationale behind these evil activities are outright stupid or unexplainable.
I have never been keen on having hired helps around my space. I have only ever had one in over 22 years. A Calabar boy who resigned after staying for a month. His excuse was that he did not like the way I always took him with me everywhere I went, even to the office. He said he was used to staying back home to take care of the house and children. We had to part ways as I could not imagine leaving my son who was barely a year old then, in the care of a stranger all day long. And so my son practically grew up on the Vanguard premises. He remains the only ‘young editor’ as many called him then, that has ever ‘worked’ in Vanguard, running in as out of every office, indulged by many aunts and uncles who I would be eternally grateful to for making it possible for me to pull off. However, not all of us would be as lucky as I was raising our families. We need someone to assist and these are the people we rely upon to provide these services. So, how do we get the best out of them?
It is unfortunate that many of us, especially women believe that since the maids gets paid for service rendered, then they do not owe them any other type of care. Some people do not know how to be kind to others who are not blood related, while some will not even bother with you if you are not their biological child. While we may not be able to justify or excuse the vile actions of these evil house helps, it is important that we also examine our behaviours towards these helpless group of people by empathising with them. No one would like to be in their position if they can help it and no mother especially, would love to send her child off to strangers if she has a better option. As a parent, would you be happy to find out that your child is being treated the way you are treating your vulnerable house help? A little show of kindness and humanity can help change the narratives of these horrible stories streaming out of our homes.
I have been to a home where the young male relative from the village brought to assist the family in exchange for a good education in the city is made to eat in the kitchen while the family eats at the dining table. To watch TV, he has to sit on the bare floor in a corner of the sitting room while their little kids whom he helps take care of, are sprawled on the sofas. According to the woman of the house, he does not know how to eat nicely and he is not clean enough to sit on the settee. I have seen a home where the little girl hired as help gets the beating of her life for almost any offence allegedly committed. Yet she doubles as nanny to the family’s young children once madam steps out. And you want her to be a saint? In my neighbourhood, I see a young maid of about 12 years of age running after a boy of about seven on a bicycle almost every evening. Sometimes, breathless and tired, she holds on to the bike, preventing him from speeding off. I figured her job is to prevent the golden child from falling of his bike and hurting himself. Shortly after completing this forced exercise, you may see her running other errands around the neighbourhood. Disgusting, if you ask me.
It is important to remember that what we give is what we will get. You cannot be nasty and expect to be treated nicely. Even those who do good still sometimes get rewarded with evil, how much more one who has already sowed the seed of evil. Sometimes, one with evil intent may be forced to change their mind when he is overwhelmed with kindness where he least expected it. Perhaps, the young lady in the video might not have pooed in the pot if she knew she would be eating from same. Perhaps, given other circumstances, the girl might not have contemplated lacing her boss’s meal with rat poison. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps!! Nothing is certain. We must realise that not everyone will react the same way given the same circumstances. Our tolerance levels differ. There are some you may be able to cow and some others who will resist. Their resistance may have grievous consequences.
It is also very important that we take steps to safeguard ourselves and property from greedy helps who may want to reap where they did not sow. It is a sign of the fast paced world we have found ourselves. Let us learn to keep all valuables and cash out of their view or reach, and do not discuss your business and money matters in their presence. The little they know about you, the better. Treat them with love and kindness, as you would your own child, brother or sister, house helps and personal helps are different from your staff at the office. They live with you. They know every detail about you thus can hurt you irreparably. Be wise and let God take care of the rest.
Do have a wonderful weekend!!