Jason stared helplessly over the hood of a leased Toyota Innova wondering where to find tampons in India. This was a topic with which he was thoroughly unfamiliar. He knew what tampons were—25 years of marriage has that effect—but was mostly sheltered from having to consider them. As his driver barreled through midday Hyderabad traffic, Jason carefully considered his options.
Among domestic help, maids are arguably the second most important member of the expat staff. India is a breeding ground for bacteria, ash, pollution, and dust, all piled atop normal wear and tear like heaping mounds of peanuts on an environmental ice cream sundae that sends Oscar the Grouch cowering in the depths of his garbage can. The best way to keep up with the tidal wave of needed cleaning is to hire the right maid.
A driver is not just a driver, he is an expat’s Indian ambassador. Finding a good driver takes effort and a fair bit of luck, but it’s worth every minute spent preparing, interviewing, evaluating, and praying on the off chance Ganesha will remove any obstacles to hiring the best of the best. Unfortunately, even the most diligent expat can end up with a dud that is far more trouble than he’s worth. But once the right driver is hired, everything India is easier.
Most expats are unaccustomed to having help around the house—unless we have children, or as we used to call our kids, “little indentured servants.” Indian drivers, housekeepers, nannies, and cooks are foreign concepts—no pun intended. But in India, most of the places you’ll consider living have servant’s quarters, a separate servant’s entrance, and potentially a separate elevator. What is a normal part of affluent Indian life seems quite absurd to many of us.
House hunting in India is an exhausting mix of sightseeing, assessment, and ultimately, decision-making. Some organizations provide guidance in the form of a handler to ensure the would-be expat doesn’t cause an international incident, while other people will arrive with nothing more than an outdated map and best wishes. Both use-cases provide an opportunity to share some hopefully beneficial information.