The Indian Broom

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While joining my children this morning on the drive to school to go to a parent meeting, I must have passed at least 15 different sweepers on the way.  Eight months after arriving here, the Indian broom is still fascinating to me.  It was something that I noticed right away when we moved here.  I thought that maybe there was no other type of broom sold here in India but when we moved into our home and I went to go buy some cleaning supplies with a broom being on the list, a broom familiar to me was easily found in a market — okay so it was a market that is shopped by more expats than just the local market, but nonetheless I purchased it for our home.  When showing the maid the purchases for her to use, she explained, “That’s a western broom — too stiff.”  So I gave her money to go and buy the broom that she liked to use along with some other things that she needed.

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The broom of her choice is a very short handled broom composed of some type of grass or natural fiber.  This western broom I purchased just collects dust on our back porch where the Indian broom is used daily as our maid stoops over and sweeps instead of using a long handle.  That is her preference though.

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There is no “street sweeper” as we know it in the United States where a vehicle driven by someone drives down the streets spraying a little water and using the brushes on the vehicle to sweep up the dust and waste.  Instead, each street here has an individual that sweeps their “job” every morning.  Each building then pays the sweeper on a monthly basis — which is not much.  We are one of 4 families living in this building and whomever is sweeping our tiny section of the street in front of the building gates receives 200 rupees each month from our family — roughly $3.50 dollars.  I give the money to the maid each month and she knows where to find him and pay him.

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Most of the big outdoor jobs I see the sweepers using a long-handled broom with a straw like brush.  In the large central park and grass areas, they do not use rakes as we would to collect leaves, instead they use these same “Indian-type” broom to sweep up the leaves.  The heat is starting to set in here and is getting warmer so the leaves from the trees are starting to drop.  I am starting to see many piles of leaves that have been swept.  It is still a mystery to me who then collects these piles as I never see a sweeper with any type of a dustpan or bin, only their broom.  One American who has lived here for four years claims that the Indian’s still use their broom style instead of a western broom because it ensures job security by leaving something for them to do the next day for their work.  Either that or the debris swept into a pile is scattered by the next day, waiting to be reassembled.

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