Monday, June 25, 2007

two maids, two minutes

My daughter has a soft spot for cleaning ladies, one and all.  In India, we benefitted from live-in help who did the jadoo-poocha - the sweeping and swabbing -- on a daily basis.  The maids have always been much happier to have their work interrupted by my curious toddler than me.  This mutual admiration of cleaning lady and toddler has continued here in the US. 

A luxury we indulge in around here is to call in a cleaning service every so often.  Each time the Senior Maid comes, she either brings 3 maids with her and they all stay and clean in the space of an hour, or she comes with one maid and surreptitiously leaves to do another house, coming back only when that maid lets her know she has finished the job - which can take up to two and a half hours.

The other week we had a small party to celebrate my husband's attainment of American citizenship.  I called in the cleaning service for the morning of the party.  My daughter loves interacting with the maids, most of whom speak Spanish to her.  After tiring of the maid or being shooed away by the maid, my daughter came back to me.

"Two maids, two minutes!," she proclaimed loudly, holding up 2 fingers of her right hand.  "Two maids, two minutes!" 

Sunday, June 24, 2007

You should Never go Back...

Another superstition that my husband has tried to impart to me over the years is this: it is Very Bad Luck to go back to your house after you have left for work or some other important journey. For example, if you leave the house and walk towards the car, but then remember you
left your cell phone inside, you cannot go back to get it. You have to send someone else to go and get it for you or do without it. Those that go back inside are doomed to very bad luck that day.

In India, you never leave the house alone; instead an assembly of family members and staff members will gather to send you off. Kind of like when Daddy Warbucks would enter and exit his mansion in Little Orphan Annie, but no smart uniforms or even smart people, save for the
family members of course. The maids would stop their work, corral my daughter, and head downstairs to open the driveway gate. My younger sister-in-law would also hang about the front door, overseeing the maids. I was the only one left, not sending off the menfolk (my husband and his dad), but doing my own productive work.

As the days wore on, I began to feel that I was engaging in Very Bad Manners in not attending this Sendoff Assembly. I soon started to linger downstairs in the mornings to half-heartedly join in the celebrations. I realized how helpful such an assembly is and wished I had one back home in the US. "Oops, I forgot my cell phone upstairs," and "I want a thermos of nimbu pani to take with me to the office," or "one more chai," or "get me that cord I need for such and such.."
One dutiful member of the assembly would immediately "do the needful" and fetch the last-minute items for the decamping party.

While you wait for the dispatched to bring back your needed items, you have time to engage in one more smoke or even a chance to abuse one of the cast of Gate Lingerers. There are Gate Lingerers aplenty in such a populous nation - i.e., the labourer who has no TV set of his own to
watch, so instead he observes the comedy and drama of your household for 15 minutes each morning, the paperboy who tries to make up for the day he took off by sneaking in yesterday's paper with today's, there's also the carpet seller, the vegetable seller, the pooja flower lady,
and the cable guy coming to inspect the signal or get payment. Not exactly Amazon, but a world of goods is available to you at your doorstep on a daily basis.

So the Question of Forgetting a Thing and Needing to Go Back is not a question that needs to be asked in India. Someone will be hanging about the gate until you drive out of sight, just in case there is something you forgot.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Bangalore? Modern? huh...

I was surprised when I first came to Bangalore, after all the hype I had heard from Indian friends and acquaintances. To their minds, Bangalore was the most "westernized" or modernized city in all the subcontinent. But as you tour the city's streets and byways, you don't see much modernity. You see that the majority of commuters get to work by foot, cycle, auto, moped, bus, lorry and the minority are in a/c automobiles. Many wear Tommy and Levis to work, but many more like to wear gaudy imitations of the Tommy and Levis fashions - while there, I realized that the more common folk (chai boys) would rather wear something awful just because it looked Western. And when you see the ladies of Bangalore heading to work, in the place of power suits and pencil skirts, you see lots of colorful saris and salwar kameezes.

I guess I thought that "modernized" meant that if I were to be teleported from Times Square to Cunningham Road, that I would see a lot of similarities and would feel at home in either place. That is why I laugh with recognition when a fellow expat, who has been to Bangalore, asks me "what did you think of Bangalore? Did you find it very modern?" I say, "no way!"

But as I read more of Maximum City and of happenings in Delhi, I think that by contrast Bangalore is more modernized. I think it is the mindset of the people of Bangalore that is "modern" or "Western," and that is what their countrymen have recognized. That peculiar Indian clannishness is falling by the wayside in Bangalore, as people come together to kick Western asses out of their call centers and BPOs.