Leelaji Stories – Series 1

Leelaji was our maid in Delhi. Aman and I loved her for her wit and sharpness. So this series of cartoons features stories that she shared with us about her life and everyday issues in her unique styles. I sketched the cartoons and Aman wrote the texts.


Leelaji, my ex-maid says, ‘Behno aur Bhaiyo, sab ko naya saal mubarak! Agle saal hum pata nahin kin kin ke ghar jaayenge. Aaj jahan bhi ho, khushi mana lo! Akhir bhagwan to eik hi hai.’

Sisters and brothers, wish you all a happy new year. We never know which home we will end up in next year. Wherever you are today, consider it home. Celebrate it. After all, God is one.

Leelaji- Series 1


Leelaji, my maid recounts her flight from Dubai. The lady of the house often used the phrase ‘bad girl’ to express what Leelaji thought was praise. Leelaji knew no English. When she got it often she was overjoyed. Then one night she asked the owner’s son and he told her that ‘bad girl’ really meant ‘gandi ladki’. Leelaji was furious. She quit. The owners had her passport. She stopped eating. They relented. ‘Aur kya bhaiyya? Badi badi buildinge, un mein hum sab qaid. Na bahar ja sakte hain, na bazaar. Bas ghar pe raho, humesha! Yeh to achha hua main bad gairl ban gayi, wapis aa gayi. Bachh gayi! Izzat ke saamne paisa kya hai?’

‘What else brother? Big buildings and we trapped in them. We can’t go out on our own, not even to the market. Always had to stay locked indoors. Good I became a bad girl, I came back. Escaped! What is money in front of self-respect?



Leelaji, my maid was talking about stretching the cooking oil, consuming it less. ‘Arre Bhaiyya, aaj kal ke khane mein kya hai? Shaam ko chotti si lauki dekhoge, subeh usse injection de ke yeh bada kar dete hain. Bhains bhi injection pe doodh deti hai. Kaash bachhe bhi injection pe thode bade ho jaate, kam se kam hum Ma Baap ko kaam to kam karna padta! Hindustaan aise hi to Umrika banega.’

Brother, what is in the food now-a-days? In the evening you see a small bottle gourd, by morning with an injection they make it huge. Even buffaloes milk upon injections. Wish even small babies grew on injections, at least we parents won’t have to work so hard! That is how India will become the US.



Leelaji, my maid comes in today and tells me, ‘Lo Bhaiyya, maine badla le hi liya.’ She has been working for the opposite house on and off for around 15 years now. Over the years they have not treated her well, they have paid her less, even mildly disrespected her when she has really taken care of the ill 75+ year uncle and a nasty aunty whose son is in Umrika (abroad)! This time when son came because Bangalore daughter had twins the family called her to work. They promised her Rs 2500 for 15 days but ended up paying Rs 500. So, yesterday, she set the hijras on them. ‘Le gaye woh loot ke, pata hai kitna? Challis hazaar! Rupees 40,000! Mujhe dukh to hua, par ab mehngai itni hai. Maine to keh diya, mujhe nahin pata kisne hijron ko bataya ki aapke beti ke judwa hue hain.’

‘I had my revenge. I set hijras (intersex, eunuchs) upon the family. They charged Rs 40,000. I felt sad, but there is so much inflation. I told the family I do not know who told the hijras your family has had twins in Bangalore. They threatened to undress!’



Leelaji, my maid went for the protests last week. She tells me, ‘Arre bhaiya, police se, government se police maange hi to gaye the. Itni thand men nehla diya unhone, maar ke bhaga diya. Ab to sapne bhi paani paani ho gaye.’

Oh! brother, we had gone to ask the police, the government to give us better policing. They drenched us in this cold, beat us up. Now even our dreams lie washed.




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