When I was in college, I was in a sorority and we would have roundtable discussions – where we were free to voice our opinions and let others know what was bothering us. But in the spirit of sisterhood, we were not allowed to specifically mention another sister’s name. So we would start our discussion with “sister x” did this or “sister x” should really think about this. Well let me tell you about “cook x”.
Anyone who has lived in India for at least 5 minutes has a domestic staff story to tell – so the fact that it has taken us 7 weeks to earn our story to share is probably pretty good.
Number One Hubby hired our cook the week before the kids and I got here. He speaks good English, cooks American food, irons clothes well, and was supposed to have making bread as his specialty. He agreed to cook, clean, and do laundry for a family of five. And he promised to make yummy homemade bread. (The way to our family’s heart is with with yummy homemade bread.)
Enter a family of five.
Oh boss, I cannot cook, clean, and do laundry for a family of five. And, I need a raise. Yes, on his first day.
So, we continued with Ravi who was cleaning just for hubby. He comes in for 4 hours a day and is thorough and unassuming and very kind. So, that’s okay. We like him and not having to let him go was okay with us. Now cook does not have to clean.
We even gave the cook a raise. A 20% raise. We liked him too. (Just in case you are new at this whole staff thing – apparently, you start with someone on a temporary basis and a lower salary – then after a few weeks, if you plan to keep them, you give them a raise. We got to the whole raise thing a little early.)
So then he asks for us to include bus fare in his salary. This is really not a big deal because bus fare usually does not run more than $20 a month (and that is on the high end). So, bus fare it is. I think it might have been $10 for our cook.
We did not pack our kitchen up and bring it with us. We have just gotten things as we realized we need them. There has not been one thing he asked for that I did not get. Not one.
From what I can gather, domestic staff usually work about a 12 hour day in India. Our cook generally worked a 9-hour day and had most Saturdays off completely – or if he worked, he just worked a few hours.
Then our cook’s wife started a new job and they were moving. So we gave our cook several days off of work to move and coordinate moving.
Along with the move came the need for a security deposit. I don’t know if you just heard the collective gasp rolling across Delhi – but the number one rule in having domestic staff is to NEVER lend them money.
We lent him money. I know, I know!
He was to pay it back over 5 months. Honestly, I will not regret this decision. We immediately agreed that it was the right thing to do. It was not so much money that it was life changing to us – but it was for our cook – and it helped him get a roof over his head. So, we did it – and, yes, we would most likely do it again.
Our cook was not happy with our smaller washing machine – so we have ordered a larger one. Our cook was not happy with our fridge – so we got a larger one.
Finally, our cook’s new digs did not have drinking water – so every night he would take lots of water home with him. We were happy to let him do that.
And quite possibly the straw the broke the camel’s back – the cook never made the promised bread for hubby. That was not a good idea. A fresh, warm loaf of homemade bread forgives a multitude of sins.
So, what I am saying is – he had it pretty good.
Or at least we thought so. Apparently he did not agree. He wanted a uniform allowance. Which is not uncommon – but we felt that we had given quite a bit already. (Again, if you are new to having staff – what I have found out is that it is normal to give domestic staff a clothing allowance for summer and fall. And a bonus at Diwali. But that the clothing allowance generally comes after they have been with you for 6 months or so.)
Hubby said no. Here is a note to staff – perhaps it is prudent to begin paying back the one month’s salary before you ask for a uniform allowance. Just think about it – ‘kay? Especially if you are new to the family.
Then he asked hubby again. The hubby said no – again.
Hubby is not impressed with having to say no again.
Our cook has been working for us for about 5 weeks at this point.
Then our cook asks me. Here is a second note to staff. If my hubby says no to you twice – I am not going to say yes. I err on the side of hubby. Period.
I told him he had to talk to the boss about it – that was his department – I can tell him what we want for dinner – that is my department.
Hubby overheard him ask me. Note to staff number 3 – it is not wise to try to win the wife over in earshot of the hubby. Not very wise at all.
So hubby comes into the kitchen and gives me a way out of the conversation. Thank you hubby.
But hubby is not done with the conversation.
Hubby outlines all of the things we have done. Cook tells hubby that hubby just does not care and that the wife is more understanding. Do I need to insert the fourth note to staff here – I bet I don’t – I bet you know all by your lonesome just what it is.
Needless to say, after talking in circles with our cook, my hubby invited our cook to leave and walked him out the gate.
It turns out that our cook had been bad-mouthing us to our driver and Ravi. They both are happy that he is gone. We both felt bad about letting our cook go – until we heard this. Note to staff number 5 – do not bad mouth your boss to the other people who work for him. They will sell you out. Quickly.
So, while I will miss his pasta salad, I now have a domestic staff story. We have two leads on new staff people – and you know I will let you know how it goes!