Friday, 29 July 2011

Vineeta is Unwell

I had a meeting on Wednesday afternoon near my flat, so ended up coming home from work a bit earlier than usual. Vineeta, my maid, was there when I arrived (I could tell by her flip flops outside the door) but when I walked into the flat she was nowhere to be seen. Until, that is, I very nearly tripped over her prone body lying on the floor of my living room.

I'm fairly sure she had decided that she needed a lie down, rather than actually fainted, but when she realised I was there and jumped to her feet she looked truly dreadful - drawn face, unhealthy sheen, coughing, the works. Vineeta was clearly not a well lady.

Despite her clearly fragile state of health she was clearly embarrassed to have been caught lying down on the job and to my great consternation immediately set about cleaning my bedroom. Having tried to communicate that she should go home, I ran down and brought up Anil, our driver, to provide translation. It took some doing, but eventually Vineeta agreed to take a couple of my ibuprofen and go home, and I asked Anil to drop her home. (He told me later on that she did no such thing, but carried on to the next house she was due to work at.)

Anyway, Vineeta didn't turn up on Thursday so I assumed she had wisely decided to take a day off and recover. However, she arrived at my flat this afternoon as my colleague Rajat and I were busy planning round my dining room table. She looked, if anything, even worse, and told Rajat she had not been to the doctor's. Rajat and I set about trying to get her to do so.

What a struggle. First she refused point blank (in between coughs). Then she said she'd go home after she'd done the breakfast washing up. Then she finished the washing up and started sweeping the floor (after which she would go home). Next thing I knew she was wiping down the surfaces. There was another Talk. She agreed to go to the doctor's, then two minutes later was in my bedroom gathering up the laundry.

At this point I decided direct communication was necessary, marched into the bedroom, took the laundry from Vineeta and said "out!" loudly. She giggled, coughed and left the room. Two minutes later I had to repeat this process when she made another assault on the kitchen surfaces.

Getting Vineeta to stop cleaning and go and attend to her health was starting to make the US debt ceiling negotiations look like a co-operative little chat.

Lengthy negotiations with Rajat followed. After repeated guarantees that (1) I wouldn't fire her; (2) I wouldn't report her to her other employers; and (3) I wouldn't dock her pay, Vineeta finally agreed to go do the doctor instead of finishing off her shift at my flat. I gave her 150 rupees to cover the cost of the prescription (Vineeta does not make much money and has an unknown number of relatives depending on her for income), and made her promise to take it as easy as possible. We also made her promise to show us the prescription when she returns to work (since otherwise there was every possibility she would skip the doc's and give the 150 rupees to her family).

I really hope she went to the doctor, and I really hope her other employers recognise how ill she is and cut her some slack. From her point of view, she can't risk losing her income with her family relying on her - hence my battles to get her to lay down tools. Of course if she doesn't get herself well she is taking an even bigger risk with her income, but you can understand why that doesn't hold much weight with Vineeta.

Sick leave is an unaffordable luxury if your family is depending on you to eat and your employers are under no obligation to keep you on a day longer than they feel like. Life here can be very unforgiving.

1 comment:

Anj said...

Chris, I'm so proud of you!