Doing things Downton Abbey style

This afternoon, I went grocery shopping with Sevrine. We were doing major shopping at HyperCITY, so Jude drove us. While this was not my first experience in an Indian grocery store, it was the first time that I went with an Indian. I learned a number of things on our excursion. Among them that when you leave the supermarket, you should give your receipt to the person at the baggage counter. He reviewed our receipt and handed Sevrine two bottles of Lysol disinfectant. When we got in the car, I asked Sevrine why. Evidently, they do that for promotional items. It is a “marketing gimmick.” Jude’s words, not mine.

But, I learned the most important lesson after our excursion: my place. When Sevrine and I exited the store, Jude was there waiting with the car to put the groceries in the boot (trunk). As we arrived at the flat, he noticed that there was a piece of construction equipment on my side of the car. He hailed one of the garage attendants and (evidently) told him to move the equipment so that I could get out of the car. Admittedly, the only word of what Jude said that I understood was “Madam” (that’s me), but the result of what he said was obvious. The idea that I would squeeze by the equipment was not acceptable. Next, as Jude was unloading the groceries from the boot, I went to pick up one of the bags and take it to the lift (elevator) with me. He said firmly but politely, “Please go stand in the lift.” I was not to lift a finger to help with the groceries. So, I did my part. I got in the lift. As we rode up, I got my keys ready and had them out. When we arrived on our floor, I opened the door and instructed Sevrine to put the groceries away while I took the dogs for a walk.

The idea that I would not drive to the store, carry my groceries to and from my car, or put them away is contrary to everything I know about being a strong, independent American woman. Brian started working in Mumbai in January, so I was alone in Texas for about three months. During that time, I made many trips to the grocery store by myself. I am perfectly capable of lifting a 40-lb bag of dog food into my car. But, it is not my capabilities that are in question when I do these things for myself. It is Jude’s or Sevrine’s capabilities that I am questioning. As an American, I have no frame of reference for how this employer-employee relationship should work. The closest frame of reference I have is Downton Abbey. Even that does not really reflect the complexity of class relationships here. Let’s hope life in India has a little less drama.

7 thoughts on “Doing things Downton Abbey style

    • No. No one dresses me. You should come see. And, bring some Ghost Pepper Salsa with you, please. We are missing that and did not have room for it in the luggage.


  1. Life is India is much easier!!! Watch out, you’re about to be spoiled!!! At the Mumbai airport, do the carriers wear shirts that say “I’m here to serve. No tips please?” That was a huge surprise to me in Bangalore because everyone in the US, especially at the airport, expects at least a buck if they help you in any kind of way. Have a great day madam!!!!


    • Some do. The luggage guys had those shirts. We gave the guy who got us through customs a $20. He asked for more when we got to the car, but we had no more cash on us. I don’t think he believed us though.

      I talked to another American woman last night whose experience was almost identical this entry. It is a hard shift, but I will get the hang of it eventually.

      So glad you are reading and liking the blog.


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