Friday, 3 May 2013

A New Laptop

No, not for me.   

The lovely lady who helps out around the flat (sorry, but I still can't bear to say the word 'maid' and the word 'cleaner' seems to undermine everything she does for us) - has never once asked us for anything.  Reetha has never even requested a payrise.  This is in contrast to our driver who once asked for a 10 lakh (GBP 12,000) loan!! I will add that he is now, sadly, our ex-driver.  

It is quite common for people working in a westerner's household to ask for loans or gifts of money - either to help them with their housing needs or to pay for their children's education.  Expats who develop long relationships with their staff commonly pay for rent or school fees.  And from the perspective of the worker you can understand why they may come and ask you for money. They see and clean - and perhaps covet - the trappings of an expat on a daily basis.  Taking Reetha as an example: she lives in a chawl up near the airport (probably a room 12 ft x 12 ft) with her husband and two children.  Her husband is an alcoholic - rendering him virtually useless around the home. So she holds down three or four cleaning jobs to pay their way.  She comes to work on time every day and always with a smile on her face.  She is diligent and hard working and does the same, repeat jobs each day without faltering. Sometimes we chat about our lives and as it transpires, we are almost the same age.  It makes me think a lot about fate and how differently our lives have turned out.

As a result of her own hard work, Reetha has been able to provide the best education for her children that she can afford.  The children in turn, have been encouraged to work very hard at school in order to achieve the things they want most out of life.  Her older son has just graduated from college in Bandra with a Hotel Management degree and he will take up a position in a fancy hotel in Bandra Kurla in the summer.  Her younger daughter, who has just turned 15, is in the process of taking exams and thinking about her future.

And this is where the laptop comes in. A while back, Reetha expressed that her 15 year old daughter needed a computer to do research for her studies.  She wasn't asking me outright (maybe just a little hint!) but I jumped in immediately and said we would buy one for her.  We always said that we would like to help her in some way - and assisting with the child's education seemed like the right thing to do. Especially as I know that Reetha would never directly ask us for money.

Yesterday, Reetha's lovely daughter came over to be introduced to her new computer and be shown how to use me.  I was so charmed by her youth and confidence (bearing in mind her living circumstances).  She is a bright, funny, young girl who wears all the latest fashions.  Of course in the end, she ended up showing me how to use the laptop.  The computer's operating system is the new 'Windows 8' which rendered me clueless! However, and perhaps more importantly for a 15 year old, I helped her set up her first ever email account and her Facebook page.  

When we came to say goodbye later that morning, I told her "homework first, Facebook later!"...but I guess like all teenagers, it's bound to be the other way around!


  1. Good job!! Many students who excel in studies in India do come from poor families.


    1. Thanks John. It's impossible to help everyone in this city but it's nice to be able to give an opportunity to someone close to home.

  2. Another reason they ask for loans is to secure their jobs - because you will keep employing them to pay off the loan.

    1. Hi Brenda - that's a totally good point that I never thought of!



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