So, its probably 2010, Manjula the maid is now working for me at Moksha Marga. She’s an experenced Maid working for Indian families but what is her view of foreigners?
this quote is taken from a series of recordings made by Manjula in her own language and details an incident from before she met me and started working here….
” I lived at my brother’s place. Once my brother’s wife and I were out to purchase something from a shop, it’s a small village, it comes after Hassan, it’s called Salgami. On our way back home we saw two foreigners, a couple, they were cycling. My brother’s wife said in astonishment, “Look how these English people are cycling in our village. I think they like to see villages.” She continued, “If you work at an English person’s house you will earn well enough, they’ll offer you good food, nice and rich food. Imagine, if I was not married, I would have worked at an English person’s house. I would have eaten the same food as they did, I would be happy and jolly. “ I said, “Ayyayappa! English person’s house? A big NO to their house. They eat insects, they eat all kinds of meat, they eat cow’s meat, pig’s meat and what not! And a few also eat insects.” I said this as I had watched in television; in a few shows which showed them eating many creatures “
She said, “It’s not necessary that everyone eats. The ones who eat will eat and there are the ones who don’t eat at all. “ Later we reached home.
After 6 months, I came to Mysore. Look what happened with me? The same thing what my brother’s wife had said, I got a job at an Englishman’s house. I remember Stephen had asked for a maid for this house, a girl or an old lady. I was lucky to find his house and he was lucky to find me. I was wondered thinking about all kinds of meat I might have to cook. Later I heard it from Vasanth that Stephen was looking for only vegetarian food to be cooked. “Thank God!” I was relieved. I eat chicken, mutton and fish. I can cook them all but if it was any other meat I wouldn’t have touched it. I would have reluctantly said “NO” to cook any other meat.
Vasanth with his trusty auto rickshaw (not its not a tuk tuk!) provides a great ‘Fare’s Fare’ service to our guests. I met him hustling for a fare when I arrived in Mysore on my very first trip after a few days in Bangalore. He’s become a great friend and an invaluable source of help and support.
we’ve had requests to provide a bit more of an explanation.
So this was over seven years ago, maybe a few months after she’d started at ‘Moksha Manor’. good old enlightenment street! She came every day for two hours, had to make lunch and a range of other jobs for the princely sum of 1000 Rupees per month. In theory with one days holiday each week.
Starting from the top left and working clockwise in a sort of spiral. Some jobs were daily, weekly or monthly…
floor sweeping, sink cleaning, pooja, dusting pictures, cooking, cleaning work surfaces, tables, f (special one this, looking after her skin. she was having a reaction to something, it worked out to be the sun, after a few false trails), watering flowers, cleaning toilets (yes cleaning toilets, more on that one later), being friendly to the dog, teaching me Kannada (big failure there, on my part, obviously) feeding the dog when I’m not there and bathing her, washing clothes, daily time keeping, cleaning the grills (anti crime and Monkeys) at the windows, floor cleaning, dusting and washing shelving in ‘hall’, cleaning bathroom. Clearly this was also supposed to be fun! and there were a few other more complicated concepts such as trust 😉 believe it or not and it did take the involvement of a few friends but we even managed to discuss egalitarianism (using different words, obviously) so what had she let herself in for?
so, to explain the job. Ok we don’t speak the same language, she’s probably a little worried and intimidated, coming to work for an unknown quantity: foreigner, male, living on his own, can be a bit loud and over-energetic… so of course, I used my well developed training skills. …… and got out the whiteboard, flapped my arms and generally danced around a bit. I seriously wonder what she thought. On many occasions she shown people the photo of my drawings. Promptly followed by sniggers and giggles.
So I wonder what she really thought of working for a Firangi!
I arrived at my friend Cariappa’s house to meet the prospective maid.
I have no photos of the meeting. I think the whole thing, for everyone involved was all too intense! We were checking each other out. How weird. Would we get on? How would we know? It’s quite an intimate thing. Inviting someone into your home to cook, clean, and look after things. This was a whole now experience for me. Manjula of course had been here before she had worked as a maid for over ten years for one family, amongst many other things. Me, I was the beginner, the intrepid explorer stepping out into the unknown.
I’d only supposed to come out to a India for a few months’ pilot. Now I was renting a house, furnishing it, employing a maid. What had happened there… A whole new adventure, in a crazy land and with so many twists and turns…. Whatever next!?
…. if only I’d known!
What would she be like? What did I want and how would I communicate it?
What would she think? (I found out later!) Working for a foreigner would be so different, maybe! It’s worth me remembering I’m from a poor background that’s shifted into the middle class and now living abroad in India. ‘The old poor made good’ which as it turned out, is exactly the path that many in India are taking.
Manjula was quiet, shy, reserved. She’d brought a friend with her for moral support. Good idea! We spoke a few words with Cary and his wife Ganga helping out. I just wanted someone to cook a meal and clean. We then walked round the corner to my house. Things seemed to be going well. They looked around the place, it seemed so big to me. There’s so much to clean but only me, honest! Just the upstairs house with three bedrooms (known locally as a 3BHK) the downstairs house came later. It was sparsely furnished with little on the walls, it’s hard to imagine what it was like ( so, so different now) but then oh no……..we hit a problem….. it was all off ……we’d found the deal breaker..
India will change you. It’ll take you out of your comfort zone and you’ll not want to find your way back. Maybe 😉
Most people love India and it’s people, an admittedly a very small number find it a step too far.
Whatever you feel it’s unforgettable.
You just need to be aware that it will seem contradictory, and unfathomable but it’s a good thing.
It helps to find somewhere extra easy for the first few days while you find your feet.
If we’re from the west. We often wish to experience, analyse and understand. We try to place things in boxes and stick on a label. India by contrast is consistently inconsistent, so to put it mildly you need to expect the unexpected.
It can’t really be boxed. It’s important that you ‘go with the flow’ you might be the equivalent of bobbing about in the river, shooting the rapids or on the ups and downs of the rollercoaster. But whilst it’s exhilarating just follow the basic traveller rules and it’s safe with mostly helpful people that want you to love their country.
At times it can feel a bit full-on and in-your-face, so you may need to build in places to stay or find hangouts that provide some respite so you can just switch it off
There’s a great article on the BBC that might help, check:
Once upon a time. Travellers from the north of India visited Mysore. They had an ambassador and a divan. 😉
The twits left behind their beautiful king and queen who became sad, lonely and dejected.
They had each other but were used to living in a welcoming home, bursting with life, with lots of fairs including quite cool
Carousels, let alone that they had lots of friends (ok some were subjects, but they seem very liberal and easy going monarchs). Maybe there is another side to the story as they were left behind!
Then a joker (no not from a playing card) from a far away land happened upon them.
He was in Brexile.
He fell in love with the couple and was saddened by their state. They were lonely without their people, a bit battered from their experiences, dejected and frankly a bit tarnished.
So he developed a cunning plan.
They were languishing in the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya and the ransom for their release is hefty. So the cunning plan isn’t very cunning at all, as it’s a question of haggling. Unfortunately the joker is from England (there are a lot of jokers there) and they’re crap at negotiating. So we’ll just have to see.