I live in an ivory tower, quite literally. I am on the 17th floor of an apartment block that is quite ivory looking. Not only that our block – one of seven in our society, as they call apartment complexes in India, has the biggest apartments and the best views. I have a wonderful driver, Datta and a maid, Maggie who I complain about but who is learning. I have a wonderful fruit and veg guy who comes in his little blue van twice a week and sells great stuff at cheap prices.
Yesterday, after a mild ‘what the hell am I going to where on my feet in monsoon panic’, I went and bought a pair of Clarks sandals (Clarks simply because they fit my big clunky Irish feet). Discussions were had this morning on whether Chris and myself and some friends would all go out for dinner together on Thursday night.
Last week, we bought a gorgeous new bed and a stunningly unique table and bench and had chairs re-stained to match them. I ‘helped’ a friend yesterday bring in lots and lots of plants and trees that she bought for her balcony – I intend to do the same on Thursday or Friday.
Yesterday, my driver drove me 30 minutes to a shopping mall only for me to discover I had left my wallet at home so I got back into the car and he drove me home and then drove me back to the mall.
Last Friday, I went out for dinner with Chris and two friends. We had three bottles of wine and lovely Datta was waiting outside the whole time to take us home when we were ready.
I live in an Ivory Tower practically but also metaphorically.
Daily I drive by the ever evident poverty: the women walking miles in the heat so they can go and clean somebody’s house just like mine; the child begging on the street, clearly drugged so she would keep still; the construction village just below my balcony where 500 people live in tin sheds with one communal water source; the little children that come and beg at your window when you stop at traffic lights; the whole families you see digging the streets with little more than their bare hands; and so many more examples.
It confuses me.
Tata would not have employed Chris if they felt he did not have a skill that was not readily available in India. The cost of bringing him here and maintaining us here is far too much for it to be a crazy idea that simply wasn’t thought through. Surely, his presence here is playing a role in the development of the Indian economy – hopefully opening up more people to opportunities to better their own economic situation. Our relative ‘wealth’ surely also gives opportunities for employment that otherwise wouldn’t exist – maids, cooks, drivers, bar staff, mall employees, relocation agents etc.
On the other hand, I am in danger here of becoming blasé to the poverty around me and thinking that the lifestyle I lead here is nothing special. It would take nothing for me to never walk on the streets here but to always head to the clinical safety of a mall or the ‘expat approved’ restaurants.
If I do, I will not experience India – I will only experience a part of it. The last few weeks have convinced me more than ever that I must do some form of charity work here. I have a skill that is in high demand and really I must use it. I thought previously that I would do paid tutoring. Indeed, perhaps I will but I think I must remember that to sacrifice time that I could be spending with a charity for the sake of my own personal gain is probably not the best use of my time. I am in the very fortunate position of not needing to work economically.
Luckily, some connections have already been made with one charity where hopefully from September I will go out to a village once a week to teach the girls English – thereby giving them a better chance of having choices in their lives. The more educated they are the less chance they will marry young and live a life of drudgery and being considered secondary to the men around them. I do hope this opportunity and others will begin to emerge that will give me a role in India more than being the housewife and the lady who lunches.
I need it.