Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lost in Translation

Yesterday the maid was really harping on me for a raise. As I've said in previous posts, she is already overpaid compared to the domestic help of anyone else I know. She kept telling me to please ask "bhai jan" about the raise. Bhai jan means something like "dear brother" and that's how she refers to my husband Duarte. I told her she had a good salary and we weren't going to give a raise. Then I sent her off with some wheat flour that I'd picked up to distribute to the poor.

Now today I watched her interact with Duarte. He said he thought she might have asked him about a raise, but he doesn't understand Urdu save a few words like tea, water, hot, cold, and things like that. He certainly can not discuss salaries and raises in Urdu. Well, what he tends to do when he doesn't understand is to say "thik hai," which means "ok." So here the maid was asking for a raise, and he was saying ok! No wonder she won't let me have any peace about it.

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