Tag Archives: domestic

Wrong Question…………

When I start talking about having staff in India, I know some of you are thinking – oh jeez, here she goes again. But please bear with me because today I figured out the number one reason that having staff was bad for my family – or any family who is not going to have staff working in its home forever. You get a little too used to it. Our reality does not include a driver, a cook, a guard, a housekeeper, a gardener, and a laundress. Well, it does – but funny enough, they are all the same person – me. And the pay ain’t quite the same.

So, for those children who actually read this blog – both of you – are you listening? Here are some of the wrong conversations/situations to find yourselves in….

Scenario 1
Mom has done the laundry (including your smelly gym clothes and soccer socks) and has washed the all the breakfast dishes (after making you breakfast) and now has brownies in the oven (because she knows you love them – she even went to two stores to find the exact ones that you like – because God forbid you have your second favorite kind of brownie warm from the oven right when you walk in the door from school). She has just finished wiping off the counter and sweeping the floor. She turned off the news when you walked in the door (even though it was the story she had been waiting all day to hear) so she could listen (with focus) to how your day went. After you chat and have a yummy chocolately treat, Mom goes to sweep the floor again because there are now mysteriously brownie crumbs all over it.

It is here that the real potential for danger exists. If she then asks you to take out the trash or vacuum the basement or even lick the litter box clean – the exact wrong question is……do I have to? I will help you here because I know most of you are treading on new ground. The right answer is …..O!M!G! Mom, I would so love to do all of those things for you. And, by the by, you actually then have to do them (because sometimes it is more than the thought that counts) and then say ….. and Mom, did you get your hair cut because it looks marvelous. Do you see the difference?

Scenario 2:
You have decided that it is in your best interest to join a practice group that practices very early on Saturday mornings. This causes your mother – who sleeps through tornadoes – to have to get out of bed at 5:15A.M. on a Saturday morning. The roosters have not even learned to crow at this point and your mother is up and driving you to practice. And, yes, she is very proud of you for getting up and getting out the door – that is not the problem. Read on.

When you get back home, your very tired mother makes (okay, warms up) waffles because that is what you asked for (and no it does not matter if they are frozen v. homemade). She also makes eggs and biscuits because that is what your brother asked for. And she also makes bacon because apparently your sister would like that. You are distracted by the goings on of SpongeBob so I can understand why you don’t realize that was a lot to accomplish before 8:30am. But you push it a tad too far when you ask …… Mom, can you pour syrup in to a small bowl and bring it over here? Really?

Here’s the problem – at some point you are going to want to drive a car. If you cannot handle pouring syrup into a bowl (even a small bowl) all by your lonesome, I am pretty sure that operating heavy machinery is off the can-do list. The right answer is…….Mom, these are the most delicious waffles I have ever had. They don’t even need syrup. And by the way, did you get your hair cut because it looks amazing. Or maybe you lost weight. See how that is different?

Scenario 3
You love to ride your scooter. You have ridden it and fallen off of it a million and one times. So, your mom knows that you are one tough cookie even if you scream like a banchee. Sooooo, if you fall off said scooter the exact moment that your mom calls a friend to vent over another mom who is making her c.r.a.z.y. and she sees you fall, she might not panic and hang up immediately because she knows you are okay. And she knows that you had a 14-minute delay in crying. So, she really might not hang up the phone right away. No matter how big those crocodile tears are – because if you can stop and have a snack on the way to tell her how hurt you are, the reality of it is – you are probably going to be just fine. Operating heavy machinery may also not be in your future but you most likely don’t need to be rushed to Children’s Hospital. You might need therapy later – but right now, it’s all good.

Please forgive the parenting rant – but seriously. I don’t know how single parents do it – God love you!

Another one bites the dust…………….

Plain and simple – I stink at having staff in my house. We just fired our cook and his wife. And by “we” I totally mean “me”.

Just so you know I don’t get rid of staff willy nilly – please remember that we have had Ravi (our house keeper) since the day we got here a year and a half ago. And I am only on our second driver – and the first driver was simply reassigned within hubby’s company so he was not “fired”. We don’t have loyalty issues. But dang it. Another one bites the dust. And this was a two-fer.

If you haven’t been taking notes along the way while reading this blog, this is the 4th cook we have fired. Hubby fired the first 3 because I was just a big fat chicken and simply did not want to deal with it. So Francis and Rani were my first “fire”. I really, truly could have lived my entire life without firing someone. It’s not pretty. There were no cameras, no lights, no dramatic “cue music” like when Donald Trump does it – and certainly no applause. And they did not get to ride home in a limousine.

Francis and Rani have been working with us since October, when cook number 3 (Laxmi) got canned. My first warning sign should have been the day we hired them. They stood in our driveway and called Laxmi’s mother to find out if this was the house that Laxmi worked at and did she know they were interviewing new people. Thick as thieves these guys – literally.

I have been grappling with what to do about Francis and Rani for a few months. When we first hired them, we really liked them. They worked hard and Francis made excellent breads – which forever endeared him in the heart of number one hubby. But then I realized they weren’t honest. Francis was doing the shopping and on the way home from the store, he would rewrite the receipts to his benefit. They were not nice to the guards or the other people working in our home and they were making decisions that were not theirs to make. And they were stealing. They were smart enough about it – my earrings are all still in place but they would take little things that I probably wouldn’t notice.

Just one of the many examples of the things they did that was less than impressive was this – our guard stands outside of our gate in 110 degree heat. He does not get the benefit of the air conditioning like some of the other people who work here. Our guard asked Francis for water. Now, mind you, Francis and Rani used to fill up about 6 large soda bottles a day and take water home with them. But Francis said the guard could not have a glass of water. He never even asked me my opinion. Just decided all on his own that the man guarding my house and my family did not need to be hydrated, while he sat fat and happy in the kitchen with air conditioning. Let me just say this is probably what sealed Francis’ fate because it told me that his heart is black. How can you look at a person standing outside in the heat all day long and deny them a drink of water, especially when your cup literally runneth over? Especially when it frankly is not even your water.

Of course, there were many other things along the way that caused me concern. But the plum that broke the boss’ back was actually just that – a plum. Now, I know this will sound absolutely ridiculous to most of you and as I think about how to write the story so that it makes sense, I am not sure I will be able to find a way.

Most people who have staff here just accept that they will be dishonest sometimes, that they will take a few things here and there, that they just don’t look at life the same way we do. After all, we have so much and they don’t. And most people will argue that it doesn’t really matter if they take things from you as long as they don’t take anything important. A year and a half ago, I would have been incensed by that and argued the morality of it all. Now, I understand that it can make you crazy and if you just don’t think about it – then it is not a problem.

But even after having a long heart-to-heart with Francis and Rani about being honest and playing nice with the other staff, they still thought the rules did not apply to them. These heart-to-hearts are supposed to snap staff back in line faster than a rubber band and buy you a few weeks if not months of no conflict. But it was clear that Francis and Rani did not take me seriously and that they thought I am not the brightest bulb in the pack. Even after I explained to them that I know exactly what is going on in this house and, just because I don’t address something immediately, does not mean I am not aware of it.

Oh “yes, ma’am” they said with heads bowed. “Yes ma’am, yes ma’am, yes ma’am.” Augh.

If you are a parent and you have had this type of discussion with a child, you know just how I felt. It was pretty much “yeah, yeah, yeah” and they went right back to their antics. Immediately right back.

So, I waited until I knew that they had taken something and I asked the guard to check their bags. There it was – a plum. Along with half the contents of the fridge that I had actually given them. I cannot stand for food to go bad – so we give a lot of leftovers to our staff. (Which by they by, means that they are forever making too much food so that there are leftovers – see how this all works.) That day I had asked them to make sure to clean out the fridge and take home the leftovers. And when I walked in to the kitchen, I saw Rani’s bag with a plum in it. Completely separate from the other food. And no, I did not look through her bag – it was sitting on the counter and the plum was right on top.

Right about now, you are probably thinking, well you gave them food – how did they know the plum wasn’t on the menu. Trust me. They did.

Or you might be thinking – seriously a plum? Yes, because enough already.

As I said, there was a lot that lead up to the great plum incident of 2010. And I am writing this – not to get your sympathy or not to earn Francis and Rani your sympathy – but so that I can remember this. This blog is a great big “note to self” for me to remember my experiences here. Already, just a few days later, I am questioning my sanity. How did I let myself get so wrapped up in this? Why can’t I just let some things go?

And now I am left with a plum that is rotting and that cannot do laundry or cook dinner or wash dishes.

But, how can I stand in my own kitchen everyday and look at people who are dishonest and whose hearts are black and pull money out of my wallet to pay them to steal from me?

I will surely never reconcile this whole having staff thing.

This is (kind of) funny………….

Upon hearing that we were moving to India, I got a boat load of questions – the two most common were by far….

Do cows really roam the streets there and aren’t you going to have like a million people working in your house?

The answer to number one quickly revealed itself as YEP, they sure do.

And number two was – well, not exactly a million.

Now, if you are used to doing most of your own housework, shopping, cooking, driving, and cleaning, having a “staff” initially sounds very appealing. And once you get the right staff, it is really nice in many ways. But there are shortcomings and some of them make me laugh.

Here is what happened today.

As I have mentioned, we just got a new cook. So far she rocks. She made homemade chocolate chip cookies today. Sweet mother of chocolate chip God. They were fabulous. Yes, they WERE, because we have almost completely polished off the entire double batch. And yes, by saying we, I really mean me. And, yes, I promise not to complain about gaining weight later. Pinky swear.

Oh wait, before I can pinky swear, I have to lick this chocolate off of my pinky. There. Okay, now, I pinky swear.

Laxmi is also doing laundry for us. And putting laundry away. Enter the funny part.

I wear tank tops under my shirts because it is too flippin hot here for a bra with padding and/or underwire. My 10-year old daughter also wears tank tops as a pajama top. So does my 12-year old son – as an undershirt.

Do you see where this is going? I have never been accused of being well endowed – even pregant, I was a member in good standing of the little bitty committee. But, even if you are fully aware and even accepting of reality, it is not exactly a boost to your ego when the person who puts your clothes away confuses your tank tops with your son’s and daughter’s tank tops. Really, truly it is not.

Domestic Dispute…….

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.

First day:
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!