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Priyanka Kher misses these servies she was used to in India.

HAVING GROWN UP IN INDIA, I got used to a range of home services that made life that slight bit easier. But living here in the US, if I forget to buy milk, for example, then we have no milk. Which means no coffee. Which means grumpy mornings. This would never happen back home.

1. Doodhwala — the milkman

Doodhwala is the guy who delivers fresh milk to your doorstep every morning, so you never run out. He usually gets paid on a monthly basis and there is no extra charge for delivery. You just choose what sort you want — whole milk, toned, or double toned — and that’s the first thing that arrives each morning, without you even needing to take a step out of the house. Nice and convenient.

2. Dhobi — the ironing guy

Dhobi is the guy who irons your clothes. Every morning the Dhobi comes to your house and collects the clothes that need to be ironed. You count your items when you hand them to him and then count them again when he comes back in the evening with the ironed lot.

Payment is individually negotiated and can be daily, weekly, or monthly. Charges range from around Rs 4 (about 7 cents USD) for standard clothing like shirts and pants, to a maximum of Rs 6 (about 11 cents) for something bigger like a complete suit. Some Dhobis also wash clothes for a nominal fee. Bonus!

3. Bai — the maid

A Bai is the lifeline of every Indian household. I grew up in India and I have yet to come across a house that doesn’t have one. She’s a part-time cleaning woman who comes to your house once every morning and then once in the afternoon to broom and mop the floor and wash the dishes. Dishwashers are non-existent in India, and the floors aren’t carpeted — they’re either concrete, marble, or tile, and require cleaning every day.

The maids are nerve centers for gossip, which they transfer from one household to another.

For an average monthly charge of Rs 1000 (about 19 USD), the Bai takes care of it all for you. Bais are also nerve centers for gossip, which they transfer from one household to another: each Bai works for more than one house at a time, which gives them special access to the internal affairs of most households. The Bai will usually negotiate one day off per week, but other than that, life is good!

4. Koodewala / Jamadar — the trash guy

The Koodewala, or Jamadar, is the guy who comes to your house every morning to collect the trash. Like most other services, he gets paid on a monthly basis. Having the Koodewala come to your doorstep every morning means there is no stinky trash lying around, even if you forget to take it out one night.

5. Chotu / Babloo — the convenience store delivery guy

Almost every apartment complex or individual housing complex in India has a convenience store located by it. Almost all of these stores offer free home delivery and the delivery boy is usually named Chotu or Babloo or Bittu or something similar.

Call into the store and order what you need, have your address noted down, and ten minutes later the doorbell rings.

All you need to do is call into the store and order what you need, have your address noted down, et viola! About 10 minutes later (or even quicker) the doorbell rings, and the goods you ordered have arrived. I have ordered things ranging from eggs, to shampoo, to cookies, and once even a single pack of safety pins. All part of the good customer service in India.

6. Kabadi — the junk/scrap dealer guy

The Kabadi is essentially an extension of the Jamadar. You can fix with him to come over to your house once every month or (maybe) two weeks and he takes away your junk and stuff that can be recycled. This includes newspapers, cardboard, glass bottles, and any other metal scrap that you might have. And before he leaves, he pays you money for it all, based on weight or number of items.

[Note: Matador editors selected this Community blog post for publication at the Network.]

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About The Author

Priyanka Kher

Originally from India, I have lived in New Zealand for six years and am currently residing in The United States. My travel stories are inspired by my experiences in these three very different parts of the world. I feel I have a lot to share and in the process am trying to learn something new every day. To read more visit my Matador profile.

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  • gurpreet Kaur

    So true..Beautiful article again. Miss all this here in UK as well. People in India think we r living better life in foriegn countries. I think the life in India is best. You dont have to do pay little for doing anything for you.

    • abhishek

      Completely agree with you Gurpreet…and I live in India [ ;-) ]…I lived in Europe for a while, and after the initial euphoria died, I actually started missing all these services..

  • Mscathy Ly

    Wow! 11 cents to get a suit ironed? That is crazy! This was such a fun post to read because I plan to go to India at some point in my life. Thank you for sharing!

     Cathy Trails         

  • Sara Clarke

    We have our equivalents in New York. For example the “drop off service”, where you drop off your laundry and they wash and fold it for you (some even pick up and deliver). Or the way you can order any food delivered to your house. I recently discovered that my neighborhood liquor store delivers. I’m not quite enough of an alkie to go that route, but good to know if you’re having a party. 

    I definitely wish I had a dudhwala, though. I hate waking up to discover I’m out of milk for coffee.

  • Louise Jourdan

    I am currently living in Delhi, India and my favorite is the ice-cream delivery guy.

  • Lauren Seidl

    Wow, the convenience store delivery guy sounds like a dream come true! If I didn’t have to physically go to the grocery store, I’d never get to the point of eating cereal for dinner. Great post!

  • Dan

    This all sounds amazing. It must take a special skill for the ironing guy to deliver clothes without re-wrinkling them ha. Also, if the US had a home junk dealer I might be retired right now. Cool post Priyanka.

  • Priyanka

    Thank you all for your comments. If I had to pick one, I’d go with the Dhobi( I hate ironing!).


  • Zoe Alexander

    Priyanka, I love this. Here in the UK we have our Doodhwala who delivers freash organic milk every Mon, Wed and Fri!  Personally like you I’d settle for the Dhobi!  Bargain price too!!!!  Never did like ironing!

  • EHA

    I’m in love with this. The chotu sounds like a dreamy dream come true…especially on a lazy Sunday morning. Such a fun post, Priyanka! :)

    • Priyanka

      ha ha! so true Emily. I am looking forward to availing some of these once I get back home later on this year:)

  • Charushrivastava24

    Real good piece of writing Priyanka…Keep up the good work :) All the very best.

  • Abhi

    You missed the cook! When I was in Bangalore, we had a cook who used to come to our home and cook 2 times a day and he even bought all the foodstuff for us. :D I miss those days now that am in UK and surviving on a diet of maggi (you know!)

    p.s. I really miss the ironing guy too.

    • Priyanka

      Most Indian guys I know live on Maggi for the first six months of their expat life. Totally relate to that. ha ha!

  • Arch

    Bai – The maid – Maid services are available in US. It is just a service affordable to the affluent. Nevertheless, the service is available.

    Koodewala – Trash pickup is available service by the city. You just have to bring your cans to the curb. Infact in the US you can sort the trash and recycle in seperate bins and they will pick it up.

    Dhobi – In US they are called dry cleaning services and the only caveat is that you have to take the clothes to the store. They will wash and press them for you, and some of them will hand them to you as you drive-through the comfort of your car.

  • Vile

    You all make me sick! Bourgeois scum. Ever thought of doing anything for yourself, oh no best get some serfs in to do it for you, dont want to get your hands dirty like some commoner…

    • Taylor G Record

      Society is built upon an exchange of services. Unless you live in a completely self sufficient environment sustained entirely by yourself, you’re being a hypocrite. This article is not about hiring serfs, its about a different culture that has different occupations that the author remembers from her childhood in India.

      • Priyanka

        Thank you Taylor for your reply on this. 

        What I’d like to also point out here is that In India, mainly in the big cities, these services make a lot of sense as they offer employment to thousands of people. I would term it as dignity of labor. Just like all of us, they work and earn a living, adding value to our life and their own.

        Priyanka Kher

  • Audrey

    I remember there was also a guy that came to people’s homes to sharpen their knives!

    • Priyanka

      ha ha! actually there is too. I forgot about that, probably because didn’t use it on an everyday basis. Good point!


  • Choti

    My in-laws in India don’t have a maid.  Maybe they are an oddity.  They are fairly well-off but prefer to do the housework themselves.

    What about ear cleaner?  Guy with a scale on the sidewalk so you can see how much you weigh?  So many more interesting ones you could have written about.

    • Priyanka

      I suppose you haven’t read the introduction to this piece properly. It clearly states- I got used to a range of ‘home services’. An ear cleaner or a guy with a scale on the sidewalk is not a home service.

      Reg, your in-laws, they are definitely a minute minority and frankly to each his own really. 


  • Daisy Brambletoes

    Now, that’s the true meaning of a service economy. Bet it solves a lot of unemployment problems, too.

  • Hina Srivastava

    This is so true..For initial days in Sydney I was like “”Why is any kind of service so expensive here”" Well m used to this now but life is so much easier back home with maids cleaning everything for you , no tension of calling guests home coz you know all you have to worry about is what needs to be cooked and the rest of the stuff around it is taken care of….wow! I miss all that.

  • Harsh Modi

    cannot agree more!

  • Manu Stanley

    Very true! :)

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