Monday, January 22, 2007
India... a million mutinies now
We came to India because life is "easier," since you have "domestics" to help you with all the work. In the year and a half we have been here, we have been understaffed more than half of the time. Understaffed in this 4500 sq. ft house --without dishwasher or food processor, cleaning up after and feeding 4 adults and 1 toddler, and 1 huge terrace garden--means we have had only one servant. In the "good" days we have had two.
To our irritation, most of these domestics first "loyalty" has been to my FIL. It makes sense because a) he is the eldest in the house, and b) it is he who pays the bills (at least they get it directly from his hand on payday). This isn't really loyalty, it's just that his work takes priority - his clothes, his cup of tea, his room getting cleaned, or any project he has assigned. Those tasks will always get done first and then they will move onto whatever I have assigned to them.
My FIL has been gone not even 24 hours and one of them kinda gave notice. Of course, this is India, and we have given her family an advance of 3000 rupees before she even started working --- so she didn't come right out and quit. She gave lots of stories upon stories. First, she told my SIL (who's a college senior - the "kid" of the house along with Anjali) that her grandmother is deathly ill and the doctor didn't think she'd make it much longer, that she wanted to go home and see granny before she died, but would come back in a few days - oh, and her granny is 100. Now, I did the math and taking into account her reported age and she is from rural India (with its teenage brides and unaccessible health care), that this could not be her grandmother she was talking about. The next day we heard the same sad news, but this time, her grandmother was only 85 and not 100.
So we called our plantation supervisor (who counts amongst his duties finding domestics for us), and asked him to verify the story for us. That is how we found out she was lying and that 3000 rupees had been advanced to her family for her to start working - turns out they said they were in a very tight spot and couldn't pay the school fees. My SIL confronted her (my poor SIL has to take care of all this stuff because she speaks the languages here very well). Over the next 12 hours she revised her "truth" in so many ways - grandmother still needs her, her younger brother's wife is due to give birth and they have to do some puja, we don't eat enough non-veg for her liking (she is Christian), she doesn't like our other "domestic," who talks as though she's her MIL, her mom is beating her kids because there is no money for their school fees, etc.)
This new domestic has been with us for one week, the old domestic for 10 weeks. The older domestic treats all of us like we are her daughters-in-law, only she doesn't give us work. She just keeps yapping yapping and gives us backtalk occasionally, and almost always butts in on our conversation to ask stupid questions. Also, she has always told little lies. She told me she doesn't like ghee, but when I asked for a dosa she was making herself, it was so soaked in ghee, it practically slid down my throat. She's been giving us all sorts of information and misinformation about this new girl - which we think is ironic because the two say they don't speak each other's language and so do not understand each other. The "senior" domestic knows we have given 3000 rupees in advance and is now saying that she deserves a similar advance.
Yes, life is much "easier" here.