Thoughts from India #4: India’s Status Gap

My time in India has almost come to an end. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed many aspects of my trip, but there’s one thing that I really won’t miss about this place. One thing that frustrates me but upsets me even more, and that’s India’s huge status gap.

Now it’s common here to have cleaners, dish washing helpers, ladies to do your laundry, drivers. At first I found it a strange and somewhat awkward concept, that someone was washing your five plates, or bringing you a glass of water on a tray because you’re thirsty. But this is completely normal here. On the plus side, you’re offering people jobs.

But what I find hugely discomforting is the way these people treat their workers. The minute you have just a little bit more money, you’re rich. And if you have a little bit less, you’re poor and must abide by the rules of the people you’re working for. And take their BS. And chase them like a dog. And do every little thing for them at that exact second, even if it’s extremely inconvenient. And then take the blame for everything that isn’t done as wished.

My worst experience was when I was teaching at the school in Bihar. I used to come to school everyday with the principal, his wife and their 10-year-old daughter. The principal would drive right up to the entrance, get out and walk straight in. No closing the door, no picking up his briefcase which was in the seat right beside him. And then you have the workers scrambling behind him, closing the door, picking up his briefcase, and picking up everything else the wife decided to leave for them. It just doesn’t make sense. It takes about one second to reach for your briefcase and probably half a second to close the door that your body presses up against anyway.

And then when school ends, the principal, his wife and their daughter walk out of the office with nothing in their hand, even though it’s only one briefcase and one schoolbag that needs escorting to the car. And if the workers aren’t already loading the car by the time the family reaches (which would mean they would have to grab the bags and then run in front of them so they’re ahead…), God help them all. The wife starts flailing her arms in the air saying “Hai Bhagwan” (Oh Lord) and complains about how incompetent the workers are.

I could go on and on about how disgusting these people act. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’ve seen this way too much here. The most embarrassing part is that I was attached to this family and had to drive to and from school with them. Nobody was picking up after me.

The problem here isn’t that you have people working for you, it’s knowing how to treat them. These men and women are working to make money just like the rest of us. Save them their dignity and show them respect. Because I tell you, these people are hands down some of the most genuine and hardworking people here in India.