One of the things I had on my to-do list for moving is was to find a gardener. The rules here on maintaining your garden are very strict and I’ve never exactly been punctual about mowing my lawn. I usually wait until I hear elephants and find tiger pugmarks before digging out the lawnmower. Besides, we don’t have a lawnmower here and have no idea where to get one. Besides, I have been in India long enough to know that if I try to mow my own lawn, somebody’s driver will ask me, “Sir, why are you doing this. This is not for you. Let me ask around for a gardener”. THEN all of my neighbors will come out and gossip about it – except the Germans across the street who will just quietly find it incredibly funny. Hiring a gardener is less aggravating than trying to explain to uncomprehending people why I’m mowing my lawn instead of paying somebody $15 a month to keep it mowed, especially when that seems like a pretty good deal and I’d be among the uncomprehending.
I was wondering how I’d go about finding a gardener. There is nothing about it in the wiki, so I figured that I would have to ask around. Well, the gardeners here are all self employed contractors. When you move in, they briefly transform from gardeners into touts to compete for the job. A woman and her son asked for the job the other evening. Wrenzo, our driver, was over at SAP and he doubles as our Hindi/Tamil/Kannada/Telegu translator; so I asked them to come again in the morning. I would much rather have Wrenzo translate and have them speaking in Kannada than in their broken English to prevent any misunderstandings. They did not show up in the morning, but another guy did. He said that he was the previous gardener for our house. I reasoned that he probably lost business when the owners moved out, so I said he could have the job.
Then about five in the evening, Charlotte was on the balcony. The other gardener’s son was working across the street and saw her. He pointed at her and they came over to our house and knocked on the door.
Sir, why did you give him the job?
I told her that I’d rather wait until Wrenzo was back so that we could have the conversation in Kannada and he could translate for me. I did not say that I also rely on him for a human feel when dealing with Indians.
I went back in and finished setting up the TV and DVD player so that Sammy could watch Lion King. A short while later, the door bell rang again. This time, the woman, her son, her daughter, a couple of other men, the other gardener and a couple of his people were all at the door.
Sir, we want you to choose
I’d really rather wait until my driver is back and we’ll talk in Kannada.
Then… they started arguing among each other! Loudly! There were eight or so gardeners standing in our driveway, shouting at each other in Kannada! Sammy then complained “Daddy, can you make them go away. I want to watch Lion King and they are loud.” We wanted to do down to the store to get cookies and this seemed like a perfect excuse to escape the passionate mobs outside. We put our shoes on, locked the door and left the shouting gangs in our driveway to do whatever it is that shouting gangs of gardeners do.
When we got back, they were gone. The mother showed up after Wrenzo and Daniela came back. She explained to him that they had argued that he was not in fact the gardener here, he already had 24 houses to take care of, he was encroaching into their turf and they were poor people who need the work. Apparently, the gardeners had agreed among themselves that the mother would take the job.
Landscaping works a bit differently here than in Lakewood, Potsdam and Rotenberg it seems.