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Archive for December 26th, 2008

My house has been in a state of turmoil these past few days. It began with my maid’s son’s school graduating to class 1. With the promotion came a change in school timings. While earlier he used to attend school for a couple of hours in the morning, he now goes from noon to 5.30.

This resulted in flurry of adjustments. The maid had to take off sooner in the morning so she could reach home and prepare him for school. So the jhadoo pocha were shifted to evenings.

Now even in the evening, she used to come in at 5-5.30 to prepare dinner. But now, she has to go and fetch him school then. She asked me if she could come in earlier, say at 4. I screamed and shouted, “Am I going to house bound forever (she doesn’t have a key)?” She relented and said she would come around 6. This suited me fine. “But,” she added darkly, “I will bring my son.” Faced with the prospect of daily baby-sitting, I was ready to cook myself! I would done it too had it not been for my race to finish my next book.

But things turned for the better. The son decided my company was boring and elected to stay at home. Amidst typing frenetically on my computer, I kept trying to teach him spoken English. Not exactly thrilling for a 6 year-old to come from one school only to get into another.

A change was affected yet again. She would pick him from school in the evening, lock him at home and come to work. A most satisfactory state of affairs. Till a fire broke out in the vicinity of her shanty and her son was trapped inside, all alone. Thanks to the quick-mindedness of her neighbours the son was rescued, more frightened than hurt.

Then she declared she didn’t want to leave him alone at home and that she was quitting. Cooking, that is. Panic buttons were hit all around. Not that she’s a great cook or anything, but the thought of finding and training another one was just too much.

Then days went by and nothing more was mentioned in this regard. One day, just out of curiosity and with a lot of trepidation, I asked her, “What happened? You said you were quitting?”

She looked at me and said, “And how am I supposed to manage? Everything’s so expensive. Onions are still 18 rupees, 3 rupees for one egg, up from 2 rupees, dals are at 60 rupees, rice…” you get the picture. So she has no option but to either risk the safety of her son at home or bring him kicking and screaming along with her.

Similarly with my press-walla. Just the other day he urged me to give him more clothes as he needed the money. Now, I’d already started giving him my night clothes as well for ironing. The only way I can I help him more is if I stated giving my undies as well. I refuse to do that. I mean, how freakish is it to wear ironed undies?

My heart bleeds for all of them and in my own way I try and do as much as I can for them. But by how much and how many can I help? Inflation is hitting me just as hard. My fruit and vegetable bill has gone up 50%. My restaurant bills have doubled. Before you cry, off with her head! for this Marie-Antoinetteish statement, let me explain that a lot of business in TV and film is transacted in pubs, coffee, shops and restaurants.

The government and the media might cry themselves hoarse that inflation is on the decline and that there is hardly any year-on-year growth. That’s just it. There is not much year-on-year growth because inflation was already at 12% last year! Plus a large part of the basket comprises oil. And oil prices have dropped. Never mind that the decline hasn’t exactly resulted in reduction in your expenses.

God, I hope the royalty cheque comes in soon!

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