Friday, July 29, 2011
When Jason first suggested a move to India, I was understandably reluctant. Move me away (a LONG way) from my friends and family? Quit my job? Scary. But Jason said the magic words...."you could have a maid...and a cook".
Sign me up.

Well, I'm finding out that I might be a little too American for servants. At least according to our neighbor.

Before the kids and I flew over, Jason made a friend. Our next door neighbor works at HP-India, and his wife is a stay at home mother of two. In her mid-fifties or so, she was nice enough to feed Jason somewhat regular meals while he was without a wife or cook to prepare something for him. (As noted in an earlier post, it's pretty much assumed that a female will prepare meals - men over here are useless :) )

She comes over occasionally to check on the boys and I now that we are here, and yesterday we got in to a discussion about maids. She tells me I am way too easy on my help. My maid, Lakshmi, as she so graciously allows us to call her (we cannot seem to get our Oklahoma tongues around her full name), comes every day at eleven in the morning to sweep and mop our entire apartment. This is approximately 2200 square feet of tile floor, as most of the residences here do not have carpet at all. She also washes any dirty dishes we have, and takes out the trash.

I'll readily admit I am not much of a housekeeper, but I cannot imagine sweeping and mopping my entire house, every single day. Especially when this is the broom she uses.



And yes, before you ask - this broom requires you to be bent at the waist while sweeping. My back says ouch. Jason managed to find a "normal" broom for me at the "foreign store", but the above is what the people here call normal. But the house is very dusty because we leave the doors and windows open almost all the time to keep a breeze in our air-conditioner free home. The mop Lecksmi uses is a standard bucket mop. My neighbor saw the bucket and mop and told me she does not allow her maids to use a mop. Instead, she requires them to use damp towels and get down on their hands and knees, because 'they miss the corners with the big mop'. My back says double ouch.  Also, she tells me I should make Lakshmi dust my furniture.

We pay our maid approximately 50 USD (2500 INR) a month. Our neighbor says we are paying her too much. She only pays hers (she employs two) 2000 INR per person. Call me crazy, but I just can't feel comfortable making her clean with rags on her hands and knees for that price. I can't help but compare these salaries to those in the US.

We also recently hired a cook/nanny. She comes in around 11:30 every day except Monday (she is Catholic and this is the day her church has mass), fixes lunch, then watches the kids for me until around 4:00-4:30pm until it's time to prepare dinner. We pay her 6500 INR. For the meals, I give her money, she goes to the store (during the 11:30 to 4:30 time frame) to buy supplies, and brings me back the change and receipts. Very handy, except my cabinets are filled with items I have no idea how to prepare.

I found out while talking to her that she moved to this apartment complex when a son in the family she'd been working for got married. She moved here with the new couple in January, and was serving as a cook for the previous tenants in our apartment in her spare time. She is older than the twenty-something Lakshmi by about thirty or forty years, and she has definite ideas on how she wants the kitchen set up.

Since I'm pretty useless in the kitchen in general, I am more than happy to get her what she needs. She, along with my neighbor, also has firm ideas on what my maid should be doing every day. It seems there is a definite class system at work, even with the servants, and from my estimation, "cook" ranks much higher than "maid". I feel a little as if I've slipped in to one of my period romance novels, where the cook is lord over the kitchen, and the maids are treated as non-entities.

Very disconcerting.

I'm often uncomfortable when the servants are here, mostly because I feel terrible sitting here on the couch, typing away at my computer while someone scrubs the floor beneath me. I'm hoping I'll be able to get over this, since I once tried to pick up a plastic cup one of the kids left on the floor so Lakshmi could sweep, and it totally freaked her out that I was "helping".

The cook is also very deferential, to the point of making me squirm. She refers to Jason as "bossman" and to me as "Madam", despite my repeated attempts to teach her how to pronounce Lorenda. And when she first came over, I asked her to help me stock the kitchen. Without thinking, I sat down on the couch to use the coffee table as a writing table. She also sat down--in the floor directly beside an empty chair. I quickly assured her that I prefer my guests to sit in the chairs where it is comfortable, but I'm afraid while I eased my discomfort, I increased hers.

Jason continues to assure me that they are being paid well for their services, but I still can't help but feel like I've stepped back in America's pre-Civil War era and I'm basically a slave owner. I guess my Christmas gifts to them will need to be awesome.


6 comments:

Josh Edwards said...

To be fair, I don't think anyone understands how to pronounce "Lorenda" for at least the first month of knowing you...

Adrienne said...

Make sure they both celebrate Christmas. I didn't see if your maid was Christian or Hindu. You may offend her even more with a Christmas gift.

Lorenda said...

Josh - I'd be cool with a "hey you" at this point. "Madam" makes me squirmy.

Adrienne - My maid is not Christian, but she works with several "foreigners" from Pakistan, Germany, etc (she speaks very good English for her class) and is used to the Decemberish holiday season. Plus, it works out that Christmastime is very near our staff's 6 month anniversary with us, so we might just call it a gift for that.

Chance said...

"Bossman". haha, that cracks me up.

Lorenda said...

I think I'm making him a t-shirt.

Anonymous said...

In my country (Balkans) man dont cook either or work much around the house, but I have had luck and married modern man, he helps a lot with cleaning, I still cook all meals but he cleans dishes :-)

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