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Posts Tagged ‘uncomfortable’

It was a moment I’ve been oddly dreading.

At 10am this morning we left our guesthouse and went over to the empty apartment. Waiting for us was Nisha, our new housekeeper, arriving for her first day. She’d been recommended to us through an expat group and we were relieved to have found someone so quickly and someone who didn’t want to live with us (often a requirement here).

I’ve been of two minds about having a housekeeper. One side says: it’s a job for this person, they’re making a fair wage, it’s not that much work compared to larger families. But the other side, the side that has this weird American anti-colonialist guilt keeps saying: how can I pay someone the low amount that they’re asking for? It’s criminal. She’s almost twice your age – she’s supposed to pick up after YOU?  Pick up after yourself.But rationality wins the day. We had accepted the wage she asked for, so it pushed my guilty conscience a bit to the side.

When we stepped out to meet her she took to Phoebe right away, which put me at ease. She and I decided that first up we would go shopping for some household goods.

It turns out that she had previously been working for 12 years in catering, a job that required her to get up at 3:30am every morning to travel down to South Mumbai and begin cooking very early in the morning. She’d gotten sick of it and wanted to be able to spend more time with her two sons. This job will allow her to live at home and keep more normal hours – even if her home is a full 2 hours by train from ours. Guilt for her travel time? Or happiness that a woman who wanted a more manageable job has found one?

She helped me navigate the home store – while every sign and number was in English, the people working IN the store seemed more comfortable and ready to help in Hindi. My early reluctance was beginning to fade. I need this help, I thought.  Then I came up to the register to pay for my odds and ends – cleaning supplies, a few odd dishes to tide us over, an iron – and I looked at the total. I looked at Nisha to see if she saw. She didn’t. The total was only a little bit less than what she was earning in a month. The number blinked at me from the register and I quickly moved to pay.

I met Daniel back at the apartment and I didn’t have time to dwell on the blinking number still burning in my mind.  We had to go get furniture if we ever wanted our empty apartment to turn into our home.

Home Town - India's "Largest Home Making Destination"

We left Nisha with Phoebe and drove out to the aptly named Home Town – an Ikea-esque store in every visible sense. But we found that there was one difference: like every other part of Mumbai, Home Town existed in India Time.

India Time refers to the fact that Indians don’t really seem to suffer from the grips of punctuality. There’s always a traffic jam, always something making everyone late or slower or arriving the next day. And no one here seems to mind because they all live in India time.

Daniel, however, does not. We started inquiring about furniture. “How long until we could have this couch delivered?”

“25 days. It’s not in stock.”
“And this one?”
“25 days as well. Also not in stock.”
“Why don’t you show us things that are IN stock.”
“Ok, this couch here is in stock. 6 days for delivery”
“Why would it take 6 days to deliver something you already have?”

And on and on it went. Our customer service representative, who’d greeted us with a badge that said “Ask me for help!”, was continuously confused by these two gora (aka white people) who didn’t seem to live in the same time zone that they did.  Why ever would we need a mattress quickly? Don’t we understand that things in Mumbai don’t just appear, even if they are in a store only a short drive from our house?

The conversation continued. Daniel asked to speak to the manager. He got them down to two days. It was consensus.

And as a bonus we were going to get voucher for a certain amount off since we bought a bed and mattress set. But the voucher was upstairs. Then it was lost. Then they needed a new one. I looked at Daniel – if he had been a cartoon character steam would have been coming out of his ears as he tried to remain calm. We had to get back to meet an electrician. It would be ok though – they’re all on Indian time too. They expected us to be late.

We came home to a happy Phoebe who looked from Nisha to us and back again. She had given her seal of approval. And as we dropped her off at the train I watched her walk away feeling like the day had gone as well as it could. This is the world we’re living in. Indian time and unfair-seeming wages and all – it was ours now. And now at least we’ll have a guide who can help try to keep us on the right track.

(Just FYI, for anyone who is concerned Nisha is not our housekeeper’s real name. I’ll be using aliases throughout this blog for anyone who specifically hasn’t mentioned that they don’t mind me using their real names)

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