Househelp on chhutti? Fret not, reader, here’s a survival guide to get through the torment

I have been eating one orange every night for dinner for the past three weeks. This is not because I’m on an insane diet, or unable to afford a weekly shot of Delhi, Mumbai, and Oprah Winfrey’s diet drug of choice, Ozempic. It’s simply so I don’t have to wash too many dishes in the biting cold of Delhi. My housekeeper has gone on leave for a month – leaving me holding the pail, dogs, and icy bathwater.

Much like Robinson Crusoe, I am left with my dogs for company while fending for myself. Sadly, there is no Tom Hanks, or resounding background score in real life, to make me feel like I’m doing something revolutionary.

This is also the closest I’ve come to one of my other favourite literary characters as a teenager. When I was 13 or 14, I devoured Gone with the Wind. Much like Scarlett O’Hara, even I, oh ye sceptics, had a 17-inch waistline, and a long line of suitors. But little did I realise how, like Scarlett, I would one day be standing hungry, in the cold, with rough hands from washing dishes, promising myself that, ‘As god is my witness, I’m going to live through this! And when it’s all over, I’ll never eat an orange again! No, nor any of my folk.’
Before I dive into my First World (read: Gurgaon) problems, let me say that I’ve always lived on my own, until I adopted some dogs. The reason I work is so that I can afford their lifestyle and can hire help at home. But the domino effect of providing my househelp leave in the height of winter can undo the best of us.

What are my tips for surviving on your own while looking after your house, pets and yourself, and trying to earn a living? If, like me, you have slight OCD and want to be a brown Martha Stewart – minus the prison term – here are my learnings from this trying time:

Avoid watching Instagram reels on cooking gourmet meals, which require you to chop 22 ingredients and cook them for 2 hours. Instead, take a slice of bread, toast it, spread some butter on it – and return to a simpler time. Or live on leftovers. But however much you crave some freshly-cooked ready-to-cook food, do not pick up Delhi’s favourite food: soya chaap. A grey sticky monstrosity, the texture of two-day-old chapati dough, wrapped around a stick. I’m assuming you boil it and dunk it into some gravy. But if it ever comes to that, I recommend becoming anorexic. Don’t eat all meals. Like a good (Bengali) parent, my motto is that my dogs will never go hungry, but I can starve instead. If people can go on 11-day diets while on pilgrimage, I can live off one meal a day. (What are my fat reserves there for?) The only difference is that I am losing weight, unlike devout dieters. Which makes you wonder, does god love atheists more?

To avoid getting cabin fever, go for as many walks as you can – as I do with my dogs. Of course, if the cold doesn’t kill you, the pollution might. But you’ll have the most toned calves a corpse has ever had.

This is also the time to test your friendships. Only those who come over to keep you company in your misery in your big, empty, cold house are your true friends. You can spring-clean your social circle effectively at this time.

Since there is no Rhett Butler to save me from my lot in life, which is not a lot — the solution to this misery is to be born a pet dog. You don’t have to cook your meals, you’ll have warm beds, and someone will dress you in warm clothes. After all, even a rottweiler in the wrong house and part of a custody battle gets spoilt rotten and becomes a social media star.


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