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  • Delhi Diaries: Dealing with house staff part 2 (Flips flops at 50 paces)

Delhi Diaries: Dealing with house staff part 2 (Flips flops at 50 paces)

My first mistake regarding my maid, who was found for me by my helpful landlady, was to translate INR into GBP. Yes I know she only came for 1.5 hours each morning but surely the salary I was paying her was, even by Delhi maid standards, a pittance. So,
I upped it, not by much, INR400.00 per month (though this was a third as much again the amount I had been told to pay).  Now, not realising how much interest there was in working for the only white girl in the area and not realising how much these girls talk, Flopsy, as I called her, immediately went rushing back to her place of abode and bragged about this raise to all her maid friends, all of whom worked for the Indian families in my colony, and all of whom then went round to their employees and demanded pay rises. Needless to say, when I got home from work, the ladies of the colony, who were already determined I was a lady of ‘questionable morals’ simply by the justification that I was white, were waiting for me in what can only be described as a lynch mob. Not the best way to ingratiate myself into the local community…

A few weeks later, I found myself in yet another unique situation in having to referee a fight between 2 sparring maids. Or as I prefer to call it, Flip-flops At 50 Paces!  You see again, firangi naivety led me to think that when my maid, Flopsy, told me she was going back to her village for 10 days, I actually thought that this meant, 10 days, silly me! Being British and having that ‘getting on with it attitude’ I figured I could cope without a maid for this length of time, the clothes washing and ironing could be outsourced but I soon realised how spoiled I had become, how quickly the dust built up (it would take 6 months in the UK to accumulate the equivalent of 2 days of Delhi dust), how I was no longer used to preparing my own breakfast and how negotiating for vegetables even in Hindi still left the white-faced woman paying triple for her groceries. As 10 days stretched into 2 weeks, I decided to follow the advice of my landlady and find a new maid and soon found Kalpana, a whiz, who made me realise just how little Flopsy had actually done, or how much I had let her get away with. Kalpana wasn’t as reliable as Flopsy and only managed to turn up a certain number of days a week but the quality of her work was far superior and so this was a compromise that I was happy with and for the next 4 weeks, things progressed harmoniously, until Flopsy returned.
Being as things are in the neighbourhood of the maids, Flospy soon found out that I had a new maid, similarly Kalpana had found out about the return of Flospy and so in an attempt to outsmart each other, they both (bearing in mind that both usually had problems with an 0800 start), trying to outsmart each other, turned up on my doorstep at 0645 the following day (a Saturday morning) arguing over who was going to work for me …. Let me tell you, there was nothing smart about waking me up at that ungodly hour on a Saturday and they were very very nearly both fired on the spot.  With that terribly British attitude kicking in again, this time with the ‘what will the neighbours think?’ refrain that we are famed for, but not being fully awake, I rushed out of the front door to put a stop to the fight that was ensuing, not realising that all my neighbours would already be up at that time and watching the spectacle and that I was clad only in my pyjama’s.  Mind you, that soon got rid of the crowd as wives dragged their husbands inside so quickly that sparks were seen flying off their chappals  – lesson number 2 in how not to ingratiate yourself with the neighbours!
Anyway, having then calmed them both down and realising that something needed to be done, I was faced with the awful dilemma of struggling to make a decision as to who to keep in my employ.  Flopsy to be fair was rubbish, spent more time hiding clothes she didn’t want to iron, flicking through magazines and ‘borrowing’ my nail varnish than actually working but, she did make me laugh.  On the other hand, Kalpana, was excellent, slightly less reliable but rather dull.  Anyway, I decided that for what I was paying them each per month I would keep both on, only it transpired that they couldn’t  actually be in the same room as each other without scratching and fighting and in the end Flopsy stormed out and was never seen again!
Kalpana turned out to be a challenge of another type, but that is for another post. See: About Kalpana. https://memsahibinindia.com/2015/06/15/about-kalpana/

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