My first research subject was a lady that lives in the flat across from us known only to me previously as “Kane Kaku” (pronounced kaa-nay kaa-koo, kaku means aunt). Kane is a typical koknastha brahmin name, what some people in punne call “ekaranta koknastha” because “nay” makes an eh sound (it is supposed to be the higher subcaste in the caste Brahmin). Tejal tai (one of Pushkaraj Kaka’s collegues/relatives/friends) had a lot of experience in research and interviews so she had come to observe and help me.

By the way if you live here long enough, you’ll find that you are related to half of Pune in some way or another.

Kane kaku was a short, stout, umbradge-looking lady with a fair complexion with light green eyes and a slightly nasal sounding voice. She ushered us both in and offered us food (it was a bit after lunchtime and it is a custom to offer guests food/ coffee/teapretty much at ever time of the day) which we politely declined. I offered her a small ziplock of chocolates from the US ,which I had planned to give to all the employers, and began my research schpeel:  What I was doing in Pune for a month and why on earth household maids interested me to which the response was almost always

  1. soft chuckle, “interesting”
  2. oh, wow you’re marathi is good, how long have you lived in the US

Kane kaku also replied with a soft chuckle, curious stare and hesitantly started answer my questions.

The funniest part about all of this was that Kane Kaka, hur husband, sat on the sofa just across from us pretending to read a paper (but actually chiming and totally involved in the conversation, every time he thought he needed to clarify a statement). A tall stern looking gentlemen in his late 50s who in the 15+ years my family had known him smiled twice.

 

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About Vaidehi Dongre

Vaidehi is a sophomore majoring in International Studies with a focus on Southeast Asian political economy and development. After graduation, she is interested in obtaining a JD/MBA in International Law. Vaidehi will be working with scholars in Pune for four weeks to explore the difference in relationships between female employers and female maids depending on age group and income level.

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