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Maids in Manhattan
On the frosty slopes of the Swiss Alps, shrieks of "baba, dheere" are as common as Yash Chopra film units. Indian women in patterned sarees crumpled under long overcoats are spotted carrying bright pink 'Dora the Explorer' bags and trailing little people. Their job is to baby-sit, change nappies and feed crying babies between digging into white wine risotto and living in deluxe rooms so that "the holidaying couple does not feel like it needs a holiday to recover from a holiday".
The trend of families abroad traveling with their own staff - even canceling vacations if the maid or nanny doesn't get visa approval - is very much on the upswing among well-heeled travelers. "Well-to-do professionals or those belonging to large business families usually take nannies along if they travel with their children, " says Karan Anand, head, relationships, Cox and Kings Ltd.
Before the bai is herded on to the aircraft, she is usually given a beauty treatment and a rigorous training session. "You have to give them a makeover, buy a pair of nice trousers from Zara and jacket from Roopam. You can't have them looking like refugees in some fancy country, " says stay-at-home mom Arpita Khandelwal matter-of-factly.
She got her domestic help a "nice haircut" before the family vacation to Singapore. Khandewal says nannies have to be taken care of well. "You can't have them just watching as you spend away, so you have to take them shopping too."
"They are booked economy class and in standard rooms that are close to the families as they are required all the time, " says Karan Anand. Some might even buy a business class ticket for the nanny if it's a long-haul flight as her primary role is to take care of the kids, allowing the parents to enjoy a hassle-free flight. But for shorter flights, such as to south-East Asian destinations, the maid or nanny travel economy while the family flies business.
If the holidaying couple or family rents a villa, chalet or apartment - as is common these days among a certain class of travelers - the nanny usually gets the hall. If the family chooses to live in a hotel, the child and nanny share a room. "The class of rooms that are booked are usually villas, Swiss chalets, junior suites, apartments and beach bungalows where the staff stays along with the family, " says Madhav Pai, COO, leisure travel-outbound, Thomas Cook India. Anand reveals that many large families that travel together to Europe take cooks along. Such vacationers usually stay in villas, which come with wellequipped kitchens.
"Getting the travel requirements processed for domestic help isn't very difficult because in these cases, the employers are rich and very well-travelled, " says Pankaj Shah, spokesperson from Mumbai's Gem Tours and Travels.
According to Madhav Pai of Thomas Cook, taking a maid or help along on a vacation ensures that the kids are taken care of by a trusted help while the parents take a break and enjoy the holiday. "For this customer segment, paying extra to ensure a comfortable, relaxed holiday with the family is worth it, " he says.
The nanny or help is there to make sure toddlers don't fall into the water, slide off chairs in restaurants or get lost in the shopping mall.
For Delhi mum Samira Dhawan, domestic help is something she can't do without. "It's more a necessity than a luxury. Taking a nanny or maid along for holidays gives us the flexibility to go out at night, see the sights we're interested in at an adult pace. At the same time, we also know that our kids are well cared for by a familiar person, " says Dhawan.
Foreign travel is also an incentive that canny mums offer while hiring. On nanny-agency. com, a Mumbai-based mother has posted a listing for a "soft-spoken, dignified, trustworthy and flexible maid who can be assured that she will be a family and not a servant". The job includes cooking, feeding the children, taking the kids to the park and other classes. The perks include "traveling all over the world with the family".
WHO TAKES 'EM?
'Evolved' travelers, which includes FIT (free individual travelers) and luxury travelers belonging to categories such as high net-worth individuals (HNIs), expats, and large business families.
Exclusive resorts in south-east Asia;European themed holidays such as wine-tasting vacations or traveling across the Continent in a luxury car (self-drive holidays); adventure holidays in Australia and South Africa;family vacation spots such as Euro Disney. "They prefer destinations that highlight history, art and culture. Also popular are beach holidays, castles, plush villas and palace stays, wild safaris, spa packages, adventure tours, themebased and experimental holidays and golf, wine and wellness tours, "says Kashmira Commissariat, COOOutbound, Kuoni India.
On an average, up to Rs 8 lakh per person.
TUTORED FOR VISAS
Most agencies coach the staff for their visa interviews. Some also provide tips on deportment. "Often they are coached with respect to clothing and general carriage, but not for language, " says the Thomas Cook spokesperson. As for food, the nannies and maids traveling are usually comfortable with foreign cuisines since they are used to eating with the family at home and while dining out within the city, he says.
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