Detached

When I first met her, I remember thinking how she was amazingly put together.  Well spoken, well traveled and well dressed.

 

She had raised three amazing children, and had corralled the sum total of 6 staff members, all without much blood or tears, between the eleven of them, when you add her and her husband to the mix.

 

She had done it all.  Yoga to meet the physical needs, an amazing amount of volunteering and charitable work.  Her husband put in his hours, yet balanced it all with time at home, and a bit of traveling.

 

We met for a chat, a talk.  Officially, I guess it was a handover of the keys, so to speak.  One employer to the next. The moment she would detach from them, and I would take over.

 

We inherited her staff.  The people that made her everyday life manageable and enjoyable.

 

* *

 

We met only just shortly after I landed, but so far into HER time here.  She had grown, stretched, suffered, learned, grieved and become someone she never knew existed.

 

She called me one day, just 12 hours before she was to turn in the keys to her flat.  She asked if she could come by to say goodbye to her staff.

 

“Of course”, I said.

 

* *

 

We made tea.  We fluffed the pillows and straightened up the guest bathroom.

 

This Madam was still the boss, even though my husband’s company was already paying their salary.   She still held their respect, and it was beyond evident.

 

We talked in hushed tones, in the living room.  One of her long legs hanging over the side of our Laz-y-Boy chair from Ohio.  Her opposite arm dangled across the back of the same chair.

 

She mentioned casually that she had some gifts for them.  Wondered if I minded that she stayed a bit longer so that she could get a ride back to the hotel with a friend who would be passing by the area.

 

I noticed that our new housekeeper and cook were in the kitchen, far past their normal departure time.  With her hands clasped around her tea cup, she spoke in hushed tones to them both.  Tears were in their eyes and shoulders were slumped.

 

* * *

 

She decided it was time to go.  After we said our goodbyes, thank yous and exchanged courtesies, one by one she called her former staff into the entryway of our home.

 

She presented them with her small tokens of appreciation, thanked them for their years of service and gave a quick pat on the shoulder.

 

* *

They cried.

 

She did not.

 

* *

 

I remember thinking to myself how bizarre a practice, how odd a behavior to have entrusted the care of your children, the health and wellness of your family, the safety of your lives on the road … to these human beings, for so many years.   Then to simply pat on the back, mutter a few thank you’s … and turn to walk away?

 

* *

 

How bizarre.

 

Three years later, I found myself placing “leaving bonuses” in envelope after envelope (you see, it was customary to give one month’s salary to each employee for each year of service when a family leaves).

 

I find myself stressing out over whether I should be a stickler on the contract that remains unpaid, because our housekeeper needed to borrow money ($94.00 USD) to put her two oldest children through school for the next year.

I find myself wishing that I had spent a bit more time and made the effort to buy each one a parting gift, as she had.  Something that meant something … in appreciation of the time and energy they gave to our family.

 

But in the end, I simply handed them their envelope with their leaving bonus, patted them on the shoulder and thanked them for their years of service.

* *

They cried.

We did not.

* *

I had every intention of writing eloquently about what it was like to say goodbye to our staff in India, but it’s too hard to verbalize anything deeper than that. They became (and still are) a part of our family. They showed up, day after day, to serve our family’s needs.

In the end, when it was time to go, as they shed their tears, I found myself trying my hardest to keep my emotions inside. I wanted to mirror the wisdom and knowledge that she brought to the table. She had grown, stretched, suffered, learned, grieved and become someone she never knew existed. Now I had done the same, as well.

Detached, but forever grateful.

Fellow Passengers.

Something that is very new to me and VERY much enjoyed is the luxury of having a driver.

I don’t have to explain it to you … no hunting for the car keys, no need to worry about reaching behind you to retrieve a thrown sippy cup and no longer the requirement to be “on your game” while behind the wheel.

Guess what else comes with having a driver?  Someone ELSE cleans up the car.  It is freshly washed first thing in the morning, and several times throughout the day.  The interior is cleaned DAILY.  No more finding rancid cheese sticks or melted fruit snacks. 

If I’ve had a long night, I can doze on my way back from school drop off.  If I want to read the paper, I can do it in the car.  If I’ve let my purse get out of control, I can simply go through it, en route to the next destination.

The interesting thing – on the days I choose to look out the window – is that there are loads of other women sharing the same road.

* *


Some of them are fellow expats.  It’s obvious that they are expats, though not visually apparent from which country they hail from.  Some (if not most) sit in the same seat as me, eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses, nose buried in a book, or fingers typing an email.  Some appear to be exhausted, succumbed to the daily grind of getting through their days in Delhi.  Head resting in their hand, body slumped.


Others appear to be actively engaged in discussions with their children, or the fellow female passengers – possibly on their way to a lunch date or a morning coffee.

* *

Some of them are young students, crammed into a tiny bus, with brilliant white uniforms (how they keep them white is a secret I may never know).  Hair braided into two braids, tied off with big ribbon bows with oversized barrettes holding back the wayward strands of hair and bangs.

* *

One day I saw a very white and very blond woman.  If I had to guess, I’d say she’d only been in the country for a day or two, judging by the paranoid look on her face.  A beggar approached her window, which was rolled down, and pointed out the baby on her hip.  She got aggressive and began holding the baby up physically to the window, speaking to this petrified woman through the open window.

I could see the look in her eyes, as she glanced towards the rearview mirror – trying to ask the cab driver silently with her stare – to help her.  The air conditioning must not have been working in the cab, and that day the heat was stifling.

She let tears fall and tried to close her eyes.  Each time she attempted to shut out the drama right outside her window though, her eyes sprang back open.  As if she couldn’t help but look, listen and experience.  The relief on her face as the traffic light turned green, and her cab inched forward, away from that woman and the baby, was evident.

* *

I see blue license plated cars, which means its a diplomat’s car.  Is the woman riding solo in that car the diplomat, or is she married to one?  Does she like it here or would she rather return to their last posting?  Does she speak multiple languages and have a road map of history that would take years to tell?

* *

I also sometimes glance out of my window and see a yellow and green rickshaw.  Because of the way they’re constructed, often times you can’t see the passengers inside, only their feet, and their hands – most often folded neatly in their lap, clutching their bags.



* *

I see all of these other women … every day.  I’ll most likely never know their stories.

What if I did know their stories?  Would I take the time to listen?  To offer a bit of advice or a shoulder to lean on?  Would I smile a fake plastered grin and say “yea, lunch sometime sounds nice.”  Would I take the time to really get to know them … if the glass between us wasn’t the barrier, would I bother getting to know them?


When it’s not convenient to make a friend … do you make the effort anyway?
(reprinted from Delhi Bound, my blog about our time living in India, 2009-2012)

Chandni Chowk

There are virtually TONS of markets in India.

Just when I thought I could puff up my chest and say “oh yea, I’ve been THERE”, someone chimes in with a market I had never heard of.

Chandni Chowk was on the list of “must do” markets, but it was a ways from our house, so I hadn’t calendared it as a ‘must do’ market.

When I was in need of groceries, or a location to pass the time, or specific items in mind, I’d much rather have visited the markets that were in a 10-20 minute radius of our home/school.

Enter Kate, who suggested we visit Chandi Chowk together for spices.

Now … although I did 80% of my grocery shopping (Kushal, my driver did the other 20%) I was NOT cooking.  So my first response was “spices?” … I don’t need spices.  ROSY needs spices.  BUT, I am a sucker for exploration and seeing new things, so we set out.

Come with me … explore!


 
 
“Traffic Jam”
 

Peppers!

 

Inside the courtyard

>
They sift through the peppers with bare hands, looking for the perfect sack!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



(these funky things, which I never did identify, caught my eye because I thought they were wickedly shaped pasta.  The green-eyed Punjabi man explained that instead they were snacks …to be fried in hot oil.  I bought 4 kgs of the stuff.  They didn’t turn out so hot but they were sure pretty to look at!

 

 

 

What to Pack for Delhi

What to Pack for Delhi India

For me, the thought of packing for our relocation to Delhi in 2009 was the recipe for nightmares!

I scoured the internet and found new blogging friends to help with my packing list.  I created spreadsheets and lists galore in an effort to be organized (I’ll share those later).

This is a difficult post to construct as your situation may differ from mine.  Your shipment allotment may be larger than ours, or you may have a smaller budget for your move.  Your company (or the government) may dictate what you can and can’t bring with you.

My best advice to you is to start laying out the suitcases and boxes early on in your adventure and plan for lots of changes to their contents along the way.

[Read more…]