Cheap labor, and service-oriented culture

It is hard not to observe how much help you get (like it or not) when you have money in India. I am not just referring to servants and cooks and drivers. It is everywhere. I recently experienced some of it:

As it turns out, my company has a tie up with HSBC Bank for savings accounts (equivalent of “checking account” in the US). They have two points of contact dedicated to my company. I sent an email to one of them, asking him to send me the details of the types of accounts they offer and the terms for each of those so that I can apply. What was the reaction? He calls me from his mobile phone and is in the office with the application forms that afternoon! Not only that, he actually filled out the form for me! After putting all the relevant details in the cumbersome-to-fill form, he pointed me to where I should sign and that’s it.

Later I found out that instead of a joint application, I needed to do a sole application. Guess what? He came to my uncle’s house (where we are currently, temporarily put up) to get the form filled out. Oh, one of the things does not have enough photocopies? He took the stuff, went on his motorbike and made copies himself!

It is not just the fact that they want the business. With waiters, I have seen that they not only serve you every single time you need to be served (like for second helping and such), but when it comes to drinks, they actually put the ice, the drink and the mixer in front of you!

I have a habit of picking up my plate and putting it in the sink (if not actually rinsing it too) after I am done with lunch/dinner. The servants here feel awkward when I do that and keep reminding me that I don’t need to do that. Overwhelming.

I am afraid this hierarchical nature of society (waiters have to listen to patrons, servants have to “obey” the boss, etc.) can give a sense of entitlement to people and that would be very, very bad. For example, I saw at Bangalore airport that a guy was shouting extremely loudly at one of the porters. I am not sure what was the issue because I was too far, but I imagine the porter may have not loaded all the bags on the cart properly or some such thing.

We hope that we don’t become like that guy, and given that as more people get educated the less likely they are to do servant-type jobs, it is inevitable that one day we would have to do much of the stuff ourselves regardless. Better to prepare for that and live mostly like how we lived in the US, than Indian-ize in that respect.


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