Just three months ago, Deepika Mhatre would begin her day around 4 am selling imitation jewellery on Mumbai local trains, work as a housemaid for several hours thereafter, and then take care of her three children in the evening. A chance appearance at a stand-up comedy show, however, seems to have changed her life.
Mhatre, who has been making waves in the comic scene, mines content from her real-life experiences of discrimination while working as a maid at upscale societies of Mumbai. “Wherever I worked, I noticed little things that ‘madams’ do. That has become my content. Utensils are kept separately, there is no place to sit for maids and if we sit on the staircase, then we are scolded,” Mhatre, who has worked as a domestic help for seven years, told indianexpress.com.
Mhatre was spotted and approached by a journalist during a talent show at a housing society where she was performing for the first time. “Our madam arranged a talent show for us maids and asked us to perform whatever we were good at. A journalist, who was present at the event, liked my show and suggested that I should get in touch with Aditi Mittal (stand-up comedian),” she said. Soon after, Mittal visited Mhatre and prepared her for her first stand-up comedy show.
A few months after that show, Mhatre did her first stage performance that was received well. “Many people came up and congratulated me. There were others who even apologised for the discrimination I have faced,” she said.
Her audience mostly comprises people of the same strata that she makes fun of. “I told my ‘Madam’ that I am going to crack jokes on you. She just laughed. People don’t raise a voice because they fear to lose their jobs. I am not scared of anyone. These women need us maids more than we need them. If we leave their work, they are at a loss. We can always find new homes to work in. Comedy is my way of raising voice,” Mhatre said.
In a field largely dominated by men, Mhatre has managed to carve a place for women who are from a different section of society. “Every woman should progress in life and should not back down in any circumstance. Stand-up comedy boosts a woman’s confidence when she takes the stage and talks to people,” she said.
Now that one of her videos has gone viral, Mhatre has been approached by several television channels to feature her in their shows. Her children, who earlier dissuaded her from participating in such shows, are now proud of their mother. “My children were apprehensive at first but now they proudly say that I am their mother. Even women in my society now recognise me.”
Though Mhatre is happy with her new-found fame, the question of a regular source of earning worries her as she said she does not earn anything from comedy shows. She had to quit her housemaid job owing to medical reasons. She relies only on whatever she earns by selling jewellery.