She wakes up at 4:00 a.m., gets ready and rushes to the local train station in Mumbai—not just to get to work, but to sell imitation jewellery to passengers on the train. By 6:30, after finishing her train rounds, 43-year-old Deepika Mhatre heads to the first of the five homes she cooks in. Her entire day is spent cooking for families, and she gets free only at 4:00 p.m.
In her tedious routine of earning money for her family of five, cooking for five homes and travelling between Nala Sopara, where she lives, to Malad, Deepika finds humour—the kind that she shares when she takes the stage at stand-up comedy shows.
When I asked her about her family, Deepika said, “I have three daughters… and one husband.” We both crack up at the jibe.
Almost exclusively associated with an urban setting, grievances and experiences, you may not always associate stand-up comedy with the experiences of a domestic help. In fact, as Deepika begins her act, she says,
“I have seen stand up comedians often sharing stories about their maids, but now, I will speak.”
Sweetly smiling at her audience throughout the act, waiting for the applause to die down after every punchline (which happens quite often, honestly) and dropping truth bombs like second nature, Deepika effortlessly wins the hearts of her audience right from the first minute.
So, how did she change her career path from a domestic help to a stand-up comedian?
The truth is, this isn’t a career change at all! Deepika still works as a cook (although that has reduced to a significant degree because of her health issues) and sells jewellery in local trains.
The only difference is that now, sometimes she gets a gig for which she heads right after finishing her chores in the five homes.
Speaking to The Better India, Deepika said, “This started when Sangeeta madam (Sangeeta Das, at whose home Deepika works) arranged a talent show for us “bai log.” No one usually does that, right? But she gave us a platform to showcase our talents—just as a fun activity. That’s where I decided to take my jokes to the stage.”
That day, about a year ago, gave Deepika a stage for her comedy and gave the comedy brigade a talented artist, who shares experiences from “the other side.”
Rachel Lopez, who works with the Hindustan Times, spotted Deepika at her first show and knew she had a good future in comedy. She wasted no time in contacting Aditi Mittal, an established comic in India and introducing her to Deepika. A meeting with Deepika at Sangeeta’s house was enough for Aditi to recognise her talent. She immediately asked her if she would be willing to move to a professional stage.
“I had never performed on a big stage before. So Aditi took me to shows where she performed and mentored me. Gradually, we shot an episode of ‘Bad Girl’ together.”
You can watch the whole episode here.
Where does she fit in all of her gigs, with two-day jobs to take care of?
“The gigs are usually in late evenings or nights. So I return home after 12-12:30 at night,” she tells TBI as if it is no big deal. The next morning, Deepika wakes up at 4:00 a.m. and its business as usual.
So what all does she speak about in her shows?
“There are people like Sangeeta madam, who always do good things for us. But on the other hand, I worked at some places where I am always a servant—an inferior. They tell me not to sit on chairs, only on floors, and to drink water or tea from separate glasses. I speak about all of it—good and bad.”
In her show, in fact, she says “The building I work in, I am very special there. Because people like me, we have a separate lift. We even have a separate mug!
People think servants should have separate vessels. Go on then, hide your own vessels! You eat the rotis that I made, don’t you?” she says to a massive round of applause.
Each of her jokes is matter-to-fact, in a tone which never sound like complaints. It almost feels like a group of domestic helpers are joking about their work and their employers at the end of the day. But it is one woman, bringing to us her perspective, her life, cushioned in humour.
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Nowhere during the interview did Deepika ever sound tired or sad. But the truth is, Deepika has to shoulder the financial responsibility of her entire family since her husband doesn’t keep well.
“He has asthma, and now I have high blood sugar, so neither of us can work. My elder daughter has just started working. A person from Mid-day, who interviewed me, gave her a job. But the financial condition of my family is quite tight—so, my only condition in every interview is a request for help.”
Deepika is open to financial help or more gigs on stage. So if you wish to lend her a helping hand, we request you to please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will get you connected with Deepika.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)