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Staffing burp!

In Being Ma'am on August 29, 2010 at 2:00 pm

The staffing hiccup earlier this month started a chain reaction that came to a conclusion on Friday … I have a new housekeeper, Swapna. A swan of a sentence; you cannot see the furious kicking going on underneath. The kicking was the angst of not having the home set up I wanted, the actual practicalities of finding new staff, the stress of getting anything done in India and the resulting arguments with my husband.

After our inside maid resigned, my other staff started to make moves to replace her; someone knew someone who knew someone. I had an overwhelming feeling of being out of control. I wanted to make the appointments in my own home. I also wanted to appoint an English speaker. I suddenly became aware of everything I couldn’t do because I couldn’t communicate with the staff in my home. I also became aware (perhaps unfairly) of all of the limitations of my housekeeper including the fact that he was male. I wanted an English-speaking, female housekeeper.

I knew that the moment had come for change. Fortunately Bill took me to Delhi for the day to meet Kelly and go shopping. Between the three of us we came up with the theory of what that change might look like. The practicalities of implementing it have proved a bit more problematic and have been emotionally draining for me. In addition Dean has been ‘getting it in the neck’ although of course, that is his job!

Initially Dean was at best unenthusiastic about changing housekeeper. During our trip to Mt Abu he begrudgingly agreed. I think that Dean was principally concerned with the personal cost to Vishnu of asking him to leave. However as I was slipping into a depression and threatening to leave India, even Dean could see that the personal cost us and our relationship of not making changes would be higher.

Unfortunately I was ill the following week. That didn’t do India any favours – it’s very easy to think a country is dirty, smelly when you are suffering from food poisoning (which I have never suffered from before). During that week, on the advice of my expat network, I managed to visit a staff agency in Delhi to see about a replacement housekeeper. They weren’t very helpful. Further advice, e-mails and asking around followed but still no replacement. Even though I knew I was moving in the right direction I was still feeling ‘strung out’, moaning to everyone and giving Dean grief.

The week after that, again on the advice of others, I visited the ‘maid shop’ at the American Women’s Association (AWA) at the Embassy: They have a register of domestic staff looking for employment with expats. They only take staff with experience and check references thoroughly. Every Friday between 9am and 1pm, staff looking for work arrive and wait. Expats looking for staff also turn up, look at the files, interview anyone they are interested in and arrange for a ‘trial week’. I interviewed 4, had a shortlist of 2 and asked Swapna to come for a week’s trial on Monday 23rd.

In the mean time we gave Vishnu notice. We stressed that it was not to do with the quality of his work but was because I wanted an English-speaking female housekeeper. This was all translated to him via Raj, our driver. Raj was upset by the situation too and has tried very hard to find Vishnu a new job. Amazingly (and I am amazed) he managed to get Vishnu a job with the firm who provide our security and Vishnu now guards our house at night! I’ve sacked our outside maid because we paid her too much and she didn’t appear to want to work any harder. Also, I’ve never really understood the need for a separate inside and outside cleaning role. So I now have one person to do both and that person is Vishnu!

So am I now in control? Well maybe not completely but one thing at a time, or as Swapna would say, “slowly, slowly”.

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  1. Ah love, I’m sorry things have been so hard. I hope you and Dean are getting over the stress. Didn’t you say you would be back in London some time before the end of the year. We’ll have to make sure we really look after you for whatever time you’re back. I hope things get better. xxxT

    • Of course there are worse stresses in life! Yes, things are on the up. I am beginning to enjoy the differences rather than react negatively to them – a big step. Looking forward to seeing you soon. Hx

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