Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Financial Paradox

I have breaking news. My Apartment is Clean. Repeat: My Apartment is Clean. Now, this may not be breaking news for your average, tidy person. But I am not known for my tidiness and living in a somewhat dirty country has made for a super dirty living space. My shower has been growing mold since the monsoon but I just couldn’t bring myself to clean it. It’s a hassle.

But now my Dirt Days are behind me because I hired an ayah this weekend. Ayahs are basically all-purpose house-keepers. They do anything from cleaning to cooking to child-care, depending on the needs of their family. My ayah, Raji, will be coming once a week to do basic household tasks. She started on Saturday, while I was gone, and when I returned, my room was swept, my bed made, my bathroom scrubbed, my dishes washed and my laundry done. It was astounding. But you want to know the really amazing part? For all of the above, I will be paying about $7 per month.

And that really got me to thinking about what a paradoxical country I live in. India has one of the world’s largest discrepancies between rich and poor and this reality manifests itself in small ways all the time. The ayah thing is just one of them. Woodstock School does not pay well. Its teachers make virtually nothing by American standards—my friends make on average about $300 per month.

And yet, everything else is so cheap too that most of the Woodstock staff have ayahs and cooks and gardeners. We have a gardener at Mt. Hermon that we pay about $10 a month and she does beautiful work. But it’s just so strange to me that in a place where no one has any money, everyone has servants. It’s this bizarre tension between luxury and poverty and I don’t know quite what to make of it.


Post a Comment

<< Home