Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Bai Chronicles - II : Itna paisa mein itnaich milenga!

Bai chronicles is back! And this time, I'll talk about a very touchy subject - Pagaar, as in pay. Now, all of employed India, indeed all of the employed world operates on an overworked yet underpaid model. (Is someone somewhere listening?) Even members of the mafia might perhaps believe that they need to be paid more for all that 'conscience killing', 'mental trauma', 'haunting nightmares', 'additional risk of hanging out with super mean boss' etc etc. Well in reality, if that last point did indeed have a yardstick for measuring proposed compensation, 'Is anyone listening again??? Please?'

But while all of us may have serious pay scale issues, most of us are not in that super enviable position that goes with bargaining capabilities. In my humble experience, negotiating one's pay and achieving the life, work and pay one wants is stuff dreams are made of, and only the high and mighty, who perhaps have a core competence anyone would kill for can hope to achieve that enviable state! But as it turns out, our Bais almost always have bargaining power. Especially the awesome ones! And while us pitching a 10% upgrade in pay would perhaps meet with a 'It was nice talking to you, but we'll get back if we have a spot vacant for you', vis-a-vis the maids in Mumbai, they manage to easily wrest out at least a 30% increment per job!

Now, there was this lady who came to work for us once. She came with an awesome recommendation from this lady in a neighboring building. Why did this lady send me this maid, well, once I wept out my 'dukh-bhari-bin-baai-kahaani' to this lady at a shop, and she commiserated with me over a tetra pak of milk. So this maid came over, and I explained all her tasks to her. She listened carefully. And then I asked her the all-important, pain inducing question. 'Kitna legi'? 'Hazaar rupya'. I was over the moon! A thousand bucks! Wow! a true bargain indeed. Given that this lady was trying to find her bearings in the 'baai market' and get herself some 'kaayam ka kaam... (permanent employment), I felt that I had found my very own 'Ramu Kaki'. I imagined myself several years down the line, in horn-rimmed glasses, a streak of gray hair on my well maintained tresses, sitting on my porch with a news paper, saying 'Mandaaaa, ek chaai lana zara' (Manda, can you get me a tea please). And I saw this lady, a few wrinkles on her face walking over with my tea in clean polished China, setting it down, and informing me that the grandkids have left for school and.... 'Total chaar kaam ke liye chaar hazaar maheene ka'. (For 4 tasks, 4000 bucks a month).

'What?' I screamed, almost. 'But we're two people in the house! And both of us leave for work early in the morning. Given Mumbai's sterling real estate scene, I honestly don't live in a palace! We both eat out. So why exactly did she want a thousand bucks to wash four and a half utensils and another 1000 bucks to wash 5 pieces of clothes? Most of my clothes go to the dry-cleaners anyway (thanks to the new fashion trend of jewel encrusted necklines! Bah). And since when did sweeping and swabbing, the legendary, hyphenated jhaadu-patta become two tasks? I gulped in horror, as she stood steadfast, unrelenting. I explained all this to her and all she said was, 'Itna paisa lagega itne kaam ke liye'. When I asked her to be reasonable, all she said was, 'Bhabhi, yeh address mein aake kaam karne ka paisa toh lagega na? Parvadega nahin toh aisa area mein rehne ka nahin. Mere ko bhi bhaada dena padta hai na mere ghar ka? (If you want to live in such an address, you must be willing to pay. If you can't afford the maids of this area, perhaps you must live elsewhere. I need to pay my house rent too, right?) "Chalega toh bolo. Baaki bahut log waiting mein hai." (Lemme know if it works, or else I have a long list of prospective customers!)

I accepted my relative poverty and thanked the lady for her time, as I trudged back to the kitchen and sadly looked at my 4.5 utensils waiting for redemption. I, for sure was not willing to give up a part of my salary so that Manda Baai could pay her house rent. I was not willing to over pay for what I believe is a highway robbery and a plain play on my weaknesses! After doing the dishes, as I sat with a cup of tea and the newspaper, I saw this piece that said that Prince William and Kate Middleton are having trouble keeping a maid, as no one is willing to do all that work for a mere 20,000 pounds a year! Suddenly I felt like a princess!!!

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