Friday, December 11, 2009

The Other Side of Service

After spending the last year and a half serving people, it’s a nice change to be waited on. Since arriving in India, meals are cooked and waiting for us at whatever time specified, a driver is arranged to take us anywhere we need to go, and if we are thirsty someone rings for tea and coffee – a phrase that has taken on a whole new meaning since the invention of cell phones! We are permitted to do nearly nothing for ourselves. Although this setup can be nice at times, my Mum would be surprised to hear that it actually makes me rather uncomfortable to have people constantly waiting on me. I also realised that knowing where to go and how to get things for myself is part of what makes me feel comfortable and settled in a new living situation. Now to convince everyone else . . .

My first step in the quest for independence, in true Seattle fashion, was to insist on learning how to make my own coffee. To bolster my argument I tell Suma that I used to make coffee for a living. Suma humours me and together with Rama (one of the kitchen ladies) teaches me how to make Indian coffee. Next, we proceed to the porch where Liza and I learn how to separate the waste and powder from the lentils that will be used for breakfast. We each work for five minutes on the same basket before Rama takes over and finishes it in 30 seconds. Maybe I’ll stick to coffee!

By getting involved in the kitchen and trading elementary English and Telugu lessons with Rama and Srimati, we’ve developed a relationship where they seem to be comfortable with me and Liza coming in and doing some things for ourselves. It’s important to pick your battles though, so I will continue to suffer through fresh sheets on my bed every other day and a lit mosquito coil when I come home every night!

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