Saturday 24 April 2021

 End of April ...

Everything has gone pear shaped ! 

There is a reason why Andrew has treated me to a special mop, I have been the chief cook, cleaner and bottle washer for the past couple of weeks.

Unfortunately, we had to let Mala go. It’s quite a long and complicated story.

 I think that a brief explanation of Indian mindset is needed for this. This mindset is not the same with all Indian people. Nearly everyone we meet here are kind, considerate and their family and work ethic are just the same as in Europe.

But maids (not all, obviously) seem to operate on a different level. They appear to have dramatic and tragic lives. Each one has a desperately sad story to tell and their lives seem to be like a soap opera . 

There is a lot of family pressure to hand over any money that they earn to support the whole family. They have other pressures too such as helping to pay for weddings, funerals and any festival party that occurs. If someone gets married then your contribution is written down so that when a close member of your family marries then this family will contribute the same or more back again. What tends to happen is that there are many family arguments over money. It is like a vicious circle of money lending and borrowing all of the time. Also, large sums of money are borrowed and there is no chance of the amount being paid back. So, if a maid borrows £2000 and they earn £200 a month then it takes a long time to pay back as they still have the family to support. As all the family argues, it can spill into their daily life and affects their work.

This is what happened with Mala. She had frequently asked us for money over the years but we had always said no. Mainly because if Andrew lends money to one person, he’s got a whole factory full of people. Why should one employee be any different because they are in your house?

Just before Christmas, Mala had been living with us because of the COVID situation and she was worried about the bus ride and that was fair enough. But we started to get fed up of listening to the drama of her family life. She used to shout so loud that we couldn’t hear the TV. She would cry loudly and sob her heart out. I asked her if everything was ok and she said it was ok. It was really just like being in Eastenders but that it would go on for hours (except we were a reluctant audience.) 

As Mala was spending so much time shouting on the phone, her work started to tail off as she kept stopping to answer the phone and go off to continue her drama in the maid’s room.

 We decided to take action mainly because we didn’t want to hear Mala shouting so angrily in front of the boys. We always have all the windows open due to the heat so you can’t help but hear everything if it is loud. Max and Milo are not used to arguments as Andrew just does as he is told (!) 

We asked her to move back home. She really did not like this and said she would move out in a month. We said two weeks as a comprise. I got Arjun to have a word about all the shouting and that she needed to do the work that I asked her to. We told her if she was going to argue, with whoever it was, she must go out of the house and down to the bench at the end of the road but that she would have to make up the time. She must not answer her phone while she is working too. 

I drew up a list of her jobs in a chart that had photos on and we went over it so everything was clear. 

Mala moved out but only after I had reminded her twice. She claimed that she couldn’t live on her own. I pointed out that she was nearly forty and that she usually went to stop with her sister at the weekends anyway.

Unfortunately, at the end of January, Andrew had to have stern words with her as she asked me for money and when I said I didn’t have any, she told me that I could go to the bank to get some and that she would wait! This was two days after she had been paid. 

Meanwhile, I was keeping an eye on what she was really doing which included sitting in the maid’s room when she thought I was upstairs. I realised that if I went into the kitchen making a noise she would appear with a cloth in her hand and look busy. If I stood silently, she would remain in the room thinking I was upstairs ( please be reassured that I am not a stalking lunatic but wanted someone to do the job that they were getting paid for) One day, I waited 20 minutes ( I could hear her talking as loud as she dare ) I rattled a drawer and she appeared. I told her that she had been gone for 20 minutes to which she said “ then you should call me”! I was furious. She was supposed to be cleaning. 

So, I spoke to her again and we went over the jobs list. Remember I used to teach four year olds so I’m quite good at simple clear explanations. 

She did all the jobs for about a week and then I noticed she was disappearing again. One morning, as Andrew was leaving for work, he squashed an ant on the tiles as he went out of the kitchen. It is in a prominent place. I went to see him off, went upstairs and forgot all about it. Milo needed help with his school work so I came back downstairs about two hours later. Mala had not wiped the ant away. So I thought, I’ll leave it there and see what happens ( it was torture, I don’t like dirty marks anywhere) . Usually, if I see a mark I’ll wipe it away and Andrew does that too. At the end of the day, I went to see if Mala had wiped the wall but she had left early ( without asking) and the ant was still there.

I still didn’t wipe it off. Andrew came home and noticed it straight away. You really couldn’t miss it. So we left it and I resisted my usual obsessive wipe down of all the kitchen cupboards and door handles. We realised after a couple of days that I had been cleaning the kitchen all along and Mala wasn’t doing it as the dirty marks got worse and worse. They were on the handles, dishwasher buttons, washing machine, all over. It looked like a toddler had gone around. We had been blaming Milo for all the dirty marks, poor boy,

 We knew the marks on the dishwasher did not belong to Max and Milo as they never touch it believing that the draining board is the dishwasher or the desks in their bedrooms. I also realised that this meant that Mala was not washing her hands.

My next plan of action was to indicate sternly that she needed to clean the dirty marks and I pointed to the dishwasher as an example. But guess what ? That was the only thing she cleaned! The ant was still on the wall and all the other marks when she left ( again early and not having asked because I would have followed her as she wiped all the marks off ) 

Things were getting serious, I just don’t know how anyone could ignore such dirty, disgusting marks. It was now Friday and we decided that we would both talk to her the next day to give her a final warning. 

Saturday morning came and we had resisted cleaning. She rang up to say that she wasn’t coming in because she couldn’t get a Tuk Tuk. She would come on Monday - maybe -or Tuesday or Wednesday. I was so mad I was bouncing around like a ping pong ball! 

We had people coming for dinner so now my plan to not clean all the dirty marks backfired because I had to clean it all anyway. Andrew set off with vacuum cleaner and we got the house clean between us and then prepared the food for the evening. I like cleaning but not when I ‘m supposed to be paying someone else to do it. 

More or less at the same moment as we had been cleaning. we both decided that enough was enough and that we would tell Mala that we would pay her until the end of the month and that she needn’t come on Monday. This meant she had three weeks to give herself the opportunity to find a job. We would pay her money when she gave her key back.

I composed a message and sent it. I also sent it to her sister who speaks and reads English. I sent it to Arjun and got him to phone to explain. (I tried to phone first though but Mala can not understand English on the phone but she didn’t answer the phone anyway.) 

I felt a sense of relief. 

I told our friends what had happened that evening and decided that we had done the right thing. One of the ladies said, “you need to take Mala off the gate permission” ( all workers in Palm Meadows have to have a gate pass and each time they come in in the morning and leave you get a notification to tell you that they are on the way or have left. This is how I knew that Mala was leaving early if I had gone out ) The lady  also explained that if you terminate the contract for a maid you don’t let them back to work out their notice because that is when they can steal things ( but not Mala, I thought ) 

I spent the rest of weekend cleaning happily to get things back to how I like things clean. I had a great time. I tried ringing Mala again but she didn’t answer  ( understandable ) 

On Monday morning, as Andrew set off for work with Arjun, he spotted Mala walking in Palm Meadows. So he stopped at the gate to ask how she had managed to get in. The guards reported that she had said she was going to the office( a lie ) Andrew was suspicious and explained what had happened. The guard said he would catch up with her and sort it all out. 

Meanwhile, I had packed all of Mala’s things ready for Arjun to take in the evening. When I had done this I locked the front door and went upstairs to have my coffee on the terrace.

Imagine my surprise when I had finished it and came through the upstairs door to find that Mala had let herself in with her key and was standing at the top of the stairs. It was like something out of a creepy horror movie.

 I let out a small scream as I wasn’t expecting her to be there. She said she had come to give the key back and to ask for her job back. I lead her downstairs and explained that we had given her so many chances but that we need the house to be clean. 

She then started to cry and would not let go of me. Annoyingly, I had left my phone in some obscure place as usual. It was on the work top in the front room so I edged towards it, put the key down and picked up the phone to send Andrew a message. Mala admitted that she had not been doing her job but that she wasn’t going to leave and that I couldn’t make her. Unless I physically grabbed her and threw her out  then this was true.i wouldn’t fancy my chances as she’s much stronger than it am ) I edged towards the door and she followed me. I managed to open it but she ran forwards and slammed it on my hand. That wasn’t a good move as I told her really sternly that she needed to stop this behaviour and now she had to leave or I would call security. 

Meanwhile, Andrew had phoned Max to help me if things got out of hand. Andrew  called security anyway. They arrived very quickly and I went outside to speak to them. At this point, Mala ran swiftly to the back room to pack her things ( already packed) I asked the lady guard to come with me while the two men stayed outside. Mala protested but the lady was very firm. I explained  the guards what had happened and they told Mala that she had to leave with them. She said she would wait for a Tuk Tuk . They said she  could have a Tuk Tuk but at the gate, not here. 

I said goodbye to Mala and that I was sorry it had all gone so wrong. One of the guards stayed with me to get some details down. I went back in and rang Andrew.

 I went back to doing house things. Andrew sent me a message asking about the key. I said I’ve got it but then I realised it wasn’t where I had put it. I searched everywhere. It had gone.

I sent a message on the emergency message system to the guard room to say to check for the key . I thought I must be mistaken. 

But I couldn’t find the key anywhere.

My friend Sindhu came round after I sent her a message to say what had happened. Sindhu’s from Bangalore and explained what can happen when a maid works for you for a while. There is a saying that some people ( not all remember ) are “work thieves” . They start off well meaning and working hard but then become manipulative and do as little as they can get away with. Sindhu advised me that we would need to get a new lock fitted. She knows the people over the road who are close friends so she went to have a word with them. She pointed out that Mala knew our routine and would know when the house was empty. Sindhu wanted them to keep an eye on our house.

So, this is where being an expat means being slightly wet behind the ears as I think we become too trusting. 

Shortly after Sindhu had left, one of the guards turned up. He had found the key. We think Mala had snatched it when she had dashed back into the house. She had tucked it deep into one of her bags.

I know it was hard on her losing her job, she had been warned so many times and I think we were too lenient but to lie to the guards at the gate to get in, to come into the house which was locked without permission and to accost me, to refuse to leave and then to steal the key, was not good and it was an awful end to her working for us. 

I thought afterwards that if I had been elderly or vulnerable , it would have been an intimidating situation. 

The next week I spent cleaning and cooking. It didn’t take me too long but by the second week I decided that having to sweep, vacuum and mop every day was too much as well as seeing to the boys online, washing and ironing etc. I know that I sound like a princess and that most of you do this too but here in Bangalore, the heat and lack of rain means that everything is super dusty. There is also a lot of construction in the area and this creates even more dust. Each day there is a thick layer that has to be cleaned away or you breathe it in. The mosquito nets collect this dust too and they need cleaning frequently. The dust settles on the furniture inside and on everything. You have to clean in a sequence to get rid of it all.

I managed to find a maid that wanted part time work. She works part time with one of our friends. She started two days ago and is on a  month’s trial. She noticed straight away that the nets were dirty and I caught her putting gel on her hands before she came in the house and then she went to wash her hands as she came in. She worked methodically through the house and Max was super impressed with his room when she had finished 

Her name is Grace. We will see how the next month goes and whether it works for us, and for her, but so far so good. 


We are currently on a weekend lockdown to see if it can curb the situation at the moment which is quite worrying. The cases in India have exploded. Last year India was brutal in their lockdown but it appeared to work. The numbers are rapidly increasing. We are being advised to try and stay in when the lockdown is lifted and there is also a night curfew in place. We do wonder whether there maybe a full lockdown on Monday although the local government says it won’t do that because the economy can’t cope. When we had been out in the past few weeks, it was noticeable how many people were not wearing masks and had become complacent. The Karnatakan government have said it is up to people to be responsible for their own actions but it clearly isn’t working as the numbers are rising so quickly.. In some cities there are problems with bed shortages and lack of oxygen. The problem is that you just don’t really know what is the truth and what is rumour so it’s hard to judge. There are quite a few cases here in our community but the rules are very tight about quarantine and self isolation. 

Andrew and I have both had our second vaccination jab. We got a notice to ask us to have the second one earlier than the government was saying. They were saying that there was a wait of 6-8 weeks but the. They decided to go back to 4 weeks. We have certificates to say we have had both of them. Palm Meadows managed  to get one of the local hospitals organised a vaccination drive here in Palm meadows which was well attended so that was good. The MC also organise testing camps regularly. 

It s the beginning  of the mango season. It is very exciting .

We went to the Conrad hotel for lunch one day. 

Second vaccination. 

Sunday 4 April 2021


April ‘21

The Maldives

Max and Milo are continuing to develop their confidence in doing activities other than sitting in their bedrooms and listening to online school, pushing their boundaries by being adventurous, diving and snorkelling in the beautiful sea in the Maldives.

We had had a holiday tentatively booked for the Maldives since November 2020 in the hope that Covid had started to ease, which it had in India. The quick break in Goa in February was a moment of madness, but this had been carefully planned

Covid Jabs

As the end of March approached, the numbers of infections in India started to spin out of control and to go back up. There was talk of another lockdown. We started to get nervous that the trip might be called off if the flights were stopped. At this time of year there are lots of weddings and festivals. People were beginning to drop their guard and not wear their masks and the local government is threatening action if people do not comply.

At the same time, the local hospital started to roll out vaccinations for the elderly and vulnerable (over 50s!) .
A week and a half before we were due to go to the Maldives, Andrew and I managed to get vaccinated. It was a smooth process, and all went well. We both have a certificate to say we have had it. We await our second jab date.

We felt fine for the first 24 hours and then both had the same symptoms of feeling tired and very lethargic. As I was home, I was able to sit on the sofa, watching BBC TV. Andrew eventually came home from work and did the same. 
My symptoms carried on another day and then went away. Andrew is made of sterner stuff and was bouncing around again by the next day.

The Nervous Wait to Go

We were glued to the local news and had our fingers crossed that we could go to the Maldives the following week.
Two days before departure, we had to have a Covid test ready for the flight and we had to fill in a form to upload for the Maldivian government and the airline.

Our friends, Michael and Ken, offered to have Andy. On the Saturday, he was happily whisked away, jumping into the back of their car without any fuss or bother. 

No local lockdown or restrictions occurred so this meant that we could go.

On Sunday 21st March, we set off early ( 7:30 am) to avoid any last-minute running to the plane, (11:30)  like we usually must do.

Getting onto the flight was quite long as at each stage all the documents were checked and rechecked. We had to prove that we had somewhere to stay, had negative Covid tests and a flight back.
We had to wear the face shields again but no PPE clothes this time.

The flight was good and took 2 hours, although we spent the last 30 minutes circling the island of Male. Unfortunately, we could not see much as there was a lot of fluffy cloud. As we came into land, I decided not to tell Milo that it looked like we might land in the sea if the pilot made one error of judgement. There is no room for making a mistake on this runway.

A quick transfer on the speed boat of 10 minutes, and we were on the island of Bandos. This was the island that we went to before. We chose it again because it is not quite as expensive as other island resorts (!) The accommodation is good, food is good and there are plenty of things to do.

Milo sitting on his own on the boat , acting cool .

(We were pleased that we did this, as everything and everyone was very efficient and polite, just like last time. The island was busier than we thought it would be and it had many Russian clients. Even the Karaoke night was in Russian!)

Our Week

But back to the arrival, by 3pm, we were swimming in the sea opposite our beach hut. 
This beach hut was more of a villa that was two storeys high. There is an open -air bathroom with a huge jacuzzi with a thatched shelter so that you can have a bath without getting wet (although, I know that you get wet when having a jacuzzi!).

This time we were all inclusive and it meant that we could order drinks and not worry about how much we were spending. The boys spend most of their time eating now and the three meals a day were needed .
We kept a tally to see how much we would have spent out of interest. The boys need to know the value of money and this was a good exercise. Their eyes widened at the cost of the drinks over the course of the week.

The Kids Club

The last time we had visited Bandos, Milo had spent time at the kids club. Walking past the club one day, Milo and Max decided to call in and say hello to the ladies there.
 It was unbelievable, as the lady opened the door, she smiled so happily and said, “Milo, Max , you have both grown so much”. 
How on earth did she remember their names ? What a memory! We had spent four days on the island two years ago and this lady had remembered our children without any hesitation.
Then, she went on the recall the names of the two other children that we knew from Bangalore that had been there by coincidence when we were there the last time. Amazing!

The Red Parakeet

Milo and I were walking to the dive centre one day, when a bright red parakeet and its mate flew very close and landed in a low tree. The tree had a little platform for the birds and one of them sat on it and put its head to one side as we talked “parrot “ fashion to the bird. It listened to us and chirped back. Parakeets are my favourite birds and I was so happy to get so close to a red one.

The Sea

The sea has many different shades of blue and the water is crystal clear. Over the week we saw so many coloured fish, dolphins, turtles, sharks, moray eels, stingrays, even a lionfish (poisonous if you stand on them)

Andrew had a strange encounter when he was snorkelling. He was in a different part of the sea  from me, swimming above the coral when he gave a shout of alarm. It made me look up and he was swimming away from something very quickly. Apparently, he had been bitten on his knee by a fish! He had swum close to it and it had suddenly shot towards him and sunk its sharp teeth in his leg. As he got out of the water, we could see the teeth marks. Now, of course, we all found this rather amusing and spent a while laughing. On investigating “dangerous fish “ of the Maldives we discovered a short list that included sharks, lionfish, moray eels, stingrays, and trigger fish.

Andrew identified the trigger fish as the one that bit him. They are not big but have sharp, pointy teeth. They guard their eggs and if you get too close will attack. Not long after Andrew’s encounter, there was a woman screaming in the same area, it had obviously done the same thing to someone else. Andrew decided that he would say that there were sharks in the sea and he got bitten. Not that it was by a pretty fish as big as his hand….. 

About ten black tipped sharks swam into the shallow part of the beach.


Max’s Diving Achievement

Before we had gone to the Maldives, Max had started his PADI diving training, and he continued at the diving school on Bandos. This was another reason to go to Bandos as the diving school has a good reputation.

Max did so well and is now a qualified diver. He had to do several open water dives in the sea and two off a boat. 
One of the dives in the sea was carried out in a heavy thunderstorm. Max said he could hear the thunder and see the lightening through the water, but he was not worried ( I was, watching from the beach café, I could not wait for him to resurface and come out of the water!)

Both Andrew and Max went diving off the boat at another island 40 minutes away. The current was quite strong in places and they both said it was like in the film Nemo, when the turtles swim on the current, the water pushes you along quickly.

The Weather 

In India, we always watch the weather in the morning and the Maldives weather is given as well. The Maldives has quite a bit of stormy weather due to its position near the equator and being a string of islands. We always say when we see the rain “ don’t go to the Maldives “ 
We looked daily at the weather and it was forecasting rain and thunderstorms every day, but we were so lucky. 
We had one late afternoon of rain and thunder ( when Max was diving). Another evening, when it rained, we were caught off guard without the hotel’s umbrellas and we had to break into a Peter Kay run to get back to the hut.
Otherwise, the forecast was not correct, and the rain did not appear. We had hot, sunny weather with the occasional relief of a bit of cloud.

We left Bandos island on the Friday, at 6pm, and went by speed boat back to Male. 

The Final Night 

We stopped in a hotel called The Paralian. It was a wonderful small hotel. We had a suite with a balcony overlooking the sea. The service was swift, efficient, the room was clean and shiny. It had a restaurant on the roof. We were impressed and would recommend it.
When we woke the next day, to spend our last morning, it was pouring with rain. It did not stop. Milo was worried that the plane could not fly but we reassured him that it was waterproof and able to manage. 
The boys went for a windy, wet walk and then it was time to go to the airport.

We were there in plenty of time, after Goa’s drama of running for the plane, we wanted to avoid any last-minute hitches.
We were in the queue to check in the luggage when a very polite member of staff asked if we had filled in the online form for entry into India?
No, we had not and neither had most of the plane queue. We had to go out of the queue and fill in the most complicated online form that has ever been invented! Luckily, the young lady was patient and helpful. We could feel the time ticking away as we had to put in every detail available. I am surprised it did not ask what school we had gone to when we were small! It seemed to take forever to fill in it. Andrew did it and I acted as his secretary, reading out all the numbers and information. 

As we were doing this, we noticed a plane load of Russian people all running to get their bags checked in and then dashing to get their flight. It makes a change from us running.

We were casual in getting our flight this time and it took 1 hour 40 minutes, so it is not too bad.

We were expecting trouble at the immigration desk as we approached the “foreigners” passport control, but it went smoothly and none of us were detained or heavily questioned which makes a change.
We have been home a week. The weather in Bangalore is really hot and quite uncomfortable, it has been 35 degrees in the day ( but 37 today !) and about 23 at night. 
We did have

the cool relief of being able to use the club swimming pool but unfortunately, as from yesterday, it is closed until 20th April as the government has said all gyms and swimming pools must close. Although, we can go to a (small) wedding of 500 people if it is outside or 50% capacity for the cinema. ( which is inside ) but we cannot swim in a pool with 10 other people? Last week, on most days, there were three of us at the pool in the morning ....
On reading the newspaper today , the government has changed its mind and let the cinemas be at full capacity until next week and the gym owners are complaining about business.

None has said anything about swimming pools yet. 

Fingers crossed they open it again soon or on the date they have said. Otherwise we are back to our trusty blow up luxury paddling pool at the hottest time of the year !

Some more photos....

These were taken on the main island and not Bandos. It rained on the last day but was still so warm.

One of the Island hopping seaplanes about to land

Update ! April 2024

  20 people sharing 2 menus! When we go to a restaurant, we seem to spend a lot of time trying to keep a straight face so that we do not ups...