Houseboat ‘Winsor’ – Srinagar
Shortly before I left London, a friend asked me to visit some friends of hers in Delhi and take them a present of some baby’s clothes.
I got to see Achil and Achana at their new address, a flat no bigger than yours or mine, in fact, smaller. Of course, they offered me floor space, but where they live is some distance from Connaught Place, the centre of things such as making arrangements to leave the city.
Connaught Place today
Achana set out a meal to introduce me to Indian food: puri, raita, potato and peas etc., perhaps not realising that back in London it was my cuisine of choice! It was very filling yet a kind of very polite demonstration. There was nothing I could put my finger on, but they gave away little of themselves, nothing about politics, lifestyle, entertainment etc. They were obviously very caring and indulgent of their child (name forgotten), and she is expecting another in August. Given that their first born is bright, now a regular little toddler, the clothes I brought will do for the next child.
Achana is looking forward to six months maternity leave as it will give her more time to be a mother, a role somewhat delegated to their live-in housekeeper stroke nanny and cook.
I found it difficult to understand that relationship. No doubt, as a guest I was formally e3ntertained, but their hired help was relegated to the back kitchen and in not eating with us was very much a ‘lower’ person. Considering their middle class status – Achana working in a residential home for the mentally handicapped and Achil as a factory manger, I would have expected a relaxation and liberalising of attitudes.
So here I am, and the biggest problem is the servant. India remains an imperialist country where the number of paper weights on one’s desk indicates the pecking order in the bureaucracy.