The Dilemma

Our maid’s 34 year old son is sick. His doctors are not 100% certain, but it appears to be cancer and it appears to be too late to do anything about it. This is a familial tragedy in the making.

To date, we have paid for nearly all of his diagnosis and treatment. Unfortunately, we are starting to have second thoughts about the degree to which we help.

It started shortly after we hired her. She mentioned to me that she had been unemployed for seven months and had borrowed a considerable amount of money from a loanshark. We did not want her to be in debt to a loanshark, so we gave her the money to pay it off. A few weeks later, she had her purse stolen on payday. We decided to reimburse her for the lost money. We’ve given her extra money to send to her mother, to pay for dental care etc. I once saw her simply ask Daniela for 1500 rupees. To top it off, we pay her way above the going rate for domestic help.

And yet the hand is always extended. Daniela suggested that we split the next bill and her balance comes from her Christmas bonus (she is a Roman Catholic Anglo Indian, so she gets her annual bonus at Christmas instead of Diwalli). She started crying:

It would be a very sad Christmas.

She has this way of making us feel guilty.

In addition to the amount that we’ve fully covered, and in addition to the tens of thousands of rupees that we’ve given her as no strings attached additions to her salary, we’ve given additional advances for the medical coverage of her son equal to about one and a half month’s salary. I halfway suspect that when asked about paying it back, she will give us a sob story about sad Christmases and sick mothers. One of her brothers is an MD and the other is a chartered accountant. We get the feeling that we, the naive and stupidly generous foreigners, pick up the slack for a family all too happy to dump its problems on us.

Daniela and I are of two minds. On the one hand, we are simply sick of being regarded as a walking cash mashine. Our initial inclination towards generosity has been rewarded with more requests. We’re happy to be generous, but we don’t want to be taken for granted and we do expect the other party to be fair. Her hand is always out and we’ve not seen one single indication that she or her family is willing to step up to the plate. This suggests that we should cut her off from any extras, no discussion. On the other hand, her son is dying; so it’s not really a good time for rough statements about not being her endless source of cash.


4 responses to “The Dilemma

  1. StreetSmartIndian!

    Ohhhhh…I’m laughing, crying and wanting your help in helping publicise this All Too Common Story on reading this!

    My take on this will take up 10,000 characters at least, so I’ll keep it brief:

    95% of the “Helpful Indian helping cancer victims/brother with a polio leg/mother with a heart condition/running orphanage ” ((btw (fake)orphanages are very popular ’causes’)) are excellent covers for free, no strings, social security

    Ask around – most of the huge houses built in the newer areas of Bangalore ( Kamanahalli, NGEF Layout) are funded by the sob-story-meets-gullible-westerner
    charity money. Guess where the ‘orphanage’ sob-story money goes?!!
    Your maid is playing you very well – hats off to her. …!

    You can e-mail me – I’ll be happy to give you my tips on how I handle these situations – as an Indian who’s always lived in India 🙂


  2. StreetSmartIndian!

    btw you story has a LOT in common with my stories…I can give you my number privately via mail and talk.

    The very nature of Palm Meadows ( yes am v. familiar w it) itself lends itself to some of these “sob story money extraction” schemes

    • It is sad to say that we’re becoming generally more suspicious of people. The sick son actually has something of an ending. It’s just that I’ve been putting off writing about it for a few days as it is a heavy subject and will be a long post. Perhaps I’ll get to it tonight.

      In the meantime, feel free to rant away.

  3. Pingback: The Dilemma Ends « A Year In India

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