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. 

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...