Okay, time for some realism here. Most of my blogs have been so positive and so determined because, well frankly, that is the sort of person I am. I always do my best to see the positive side of everything. Yes, I’ll have a quick moan but then on I’ll go seeing the silver lining. Sometimes, however, that is quite frankly bullshit! Sometimes, it is damn hard to deal with things. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that there is always a silver lining.
During our cultural training for our move to India, we were warned. ‘Chris will start working in what is in relative terms a situation he is accustomed too. There will be certain recognition of how things work and what the hierarchy of control etc is. The wife on the other hand (aka me!) will be dropped into an entirely new world with the expectation that they will just get on!’ While at the same time, the understanding is that the wife is having the easy life – going for lunch, lounging around all day – because she is not gainfully employed.
While this may eventually be the situation that I find myself in, at times it does not feel that way at all.
So what is my moan about? I guess it is simple: nothing is easy here to organise. You understand that before you come here. You listen in your cultural training; you are aware of the stereotype of the Indian who never gets things done on time but I don’t think you really get it until well you are dumped in the middle of it and simply expected to ‘just get on’!
For days it feels like I have been sat at home waiting for people to arrive. The typical, ‘Mam, we will be with you in morning’, ‘Will you definitely?’ ‘Oh yes, mam!’ so you wait in all morning, waiting for them to come and guess what they don’t turn up. So you call them. ‘Mam, we will be there half hour, definitely, half hour mam’. Five hours later they turn up or possibly don’t turn up at all. So you have spent your whole day waiting around for this person. A whole day stuck in an apartment, which possibly like today has no food in it but I can’t go shopping because I’m waiting for my maid, who on her first day is at the moment 30 minutes late!
It is one thing when you are waiting for one trade / service but for days now I have been waiting for very many. Right now, I am waiting for my maid, a washing machine installer, an electrician and a dishwasher repairman. The washing machine installer and the dishwasher repairman all promised me they would come yesterday, having promised this for the proceeding 3 days. The electricians when they came yesterday promised me they would be right back with the part needed to fix the lights – guess what? They never returned!
Of course, assuming these people do eventually arrive you are faced with another problem – not one that is particularly the fault of the people who have come but it still makes life incredibly difficult and stressful. The problem is most speak no or very, very little English. This is not their fault. These people are probably not very educated and have neither the time nor money to learn English as an adult but it makes it very, very hard.
Of course, they usually hunt in pairs and stand there speaking Hindi / Marathi to each other in long detailed conversations and the turn around and say, ‘Mam, everything t.k (OK)’ while doing the typical Indian head wobble (seriously it does exist and it is everywhere).
While it may be true that everything is t.k. but it also may not be but how are you to know? Indians hate to disappoint you; they are desperate at all times to make sure you are happy and satisfied, even if that means telling blatant mistruths. There is a certain sweetness to this but god it can be very stressful and very confusing.
Sometimes when the conversation needs to go beyond a head wobble and a ‘Mam, everything t.k (OK)’, a phone call is made to an English speaker so they can translate. Problem is, nine times out of ten, it is impossible to understand a single word this person says. You’re better off with the person in front of you and sign language! The person always speaks so fast with such a strong Indian accent that it just is not feasible to understand them. This even goes for those who are perfectly understandable face to face. This inevitable leads to you handing the phone back to the person who then leaves and leaves you none the wiser.
I will be honest, the above is annoying but really not the fault of the person who has come to do a job for you. What is annoying, is the platitudes! Back to the refusal to disappoint or lose face. More than once I have had to leave a person and stand around the corner where I can’t be seen and inwardly scream while jumping up and down. The alternative is to shout at them and that, quite frankly, will not help anyone.
It is excuse after excuse after excuse. My maid has just explained her half hour lateness by, ‘they held me at security’; which is probably very true but when I asked her for how long, it was for fifteen minutes. So, she was already fifteen minutes late. Now I know she comes from a long way on a hot bus so I am not being mean but it is her first day! If she is fifteen minutes late, that is not a crisis but you are honest about the reason why. If she is late, she just stays the fifteen minutes at the end! No big deal.
The realtor’s representative who works for the society as well is the worst case. He speaks very good English, is immaculately dressed and on first meeting seems efficient and on top of things. However, once the plans begin to unravel he becomes the platitude king. Any excuse is given, any positive slant on the situation is found, anything other than to be honest about the situation.
You know to expect this but when you experience it time after time after time and you are alone in your apartment trying to deal with it all – it is not easy. I don’t think in the long-run my husband has a better deal than I do: the exact opposite in fact but I think until things settle down and all the ridiculous paperwork is completed (don’t get me started on that – that is for an entirely different blog – let’s just say yesterday, Chris and I got 24 passport each printed. We think that will be enough for a few days.) then my life will in general terms be very nice. Until then it is hard work both mentally and physically.
To give you an idea about how hard work it is. I generally burn 2500 calories a day 2800 or so if I exercise. Since I moved into our apartment it is more like 3500 or more! It is all the cleaning that is needed; the running up and down trying to get things sorted; going to the Facilities Management office to try and get things done etc. I wouldn’t have thought it feasible to be so active while still feeling like you are achieving absolutely nothing!
Now, I said at the start that sometimes it is quite frankly impossible to see the silver lining in a situation. Well, maybe that is not quite the truth! You see, last Tuesday I had such a lovely day out with some new friends and made some lovely new friends as well.
The morning started with a visit to a friend’s house where her maid dressed us in beautiful sarees, then lunch at a lovely hotel followed by an afternoon / evening on the terrace of somebody else’s apartment with my feet in a huge washtub of water. It was fun, relaxing and just nice to get away from reality for a bit. It helped to remind me that this move is not about trying to get the dishwasher fixed or trying to organise a maid but about experiencing life in a way that I could not at home. And dealing with all the stress of workmen and sitting on a terrace drinking sparkling wine with my feet in a washtub is also an experience of life I would not have at home.
So that is my silver lining. It does exist after all!