Monday, February 12, 2007

Cut The Cheese

Nah, I don't mean THAT cut the cheese. Our gardener, Paneer, quit.

Paneer is a local cheese food, similar in texture to tofu. The kids never could understand why someone would name their kid Cheese. Maybe paneer means something different in Tamil.
Not that any of that matters. When we hired him, with our driver as translator, we agreed on Rs150/day. Just over $3. Trust me when I say that's a decent pay for an uneducated, untrained gardener who had never actually been a gardener before. Our driver worked with him, they have a little vegetable plit growing and Paneer's main jobs were to sweep the driveway, rake the yard and keep the grass free of snakes. He carted out a lot of tree branches and dead grass over the past 5 months.
But he was hired for Rs150/day and 6 days a week. The days he showed up I tallied and paid him for at the end of the month. If there was a need to go to his village, or a string of holidays or a sick father, he didn't get paid. That's the basic method of day wages and that's what we agreed to when he was hired. At least I think so from what I gathered through Aruna. Apparently by last Friday Paneer had had enough. He waited until Mercy was gone for the day and Aruna was getting gas in the car, and he snowballed me with Tamil and broken English, a spattering of words including "father," "fever," "Rs1200," "February," "Monday" and "salary." I asked him over and over to wait until Aruna arrived so I could calrify what he was saying and/or asking, but he kept going, repeating the same words among a string of language I couldn't understand. That's my fault I know, I should be learning Tamil too not just Hindi, but suffice to say I didn't know what he really wanted.
I pulled together the various words I did know and asked if his father was sick, he needed a Rs1200 advance on his February pay and would he be back on Monday? He stated he would. I don't know if he understood my summary, but we seemed to have reached as far as we could in understanding each other. I gave him the Rs1200 and noted it down in my book.
Monday came, he didn't show up. Mercy didn't know why, Aruna didn't know why. Today, Mercy learned from Aruna, who learned from the neighbor gardener that Paneer had quit over the perceived unfair pay scheme.
I talked with Mercy a bit and explained to her (because obviously stories get around right quick) that Paneer had been on a day to day pay scale while she and Aruna were on monthly salaries. It's what we had each agreed on. Whatever and how the neighbor pays her gardener has nothing to do with me and what Paneer had agreed to.
She figured something fishy was going on. Whenever she has something up, she tells the others, and then there's always the checking up on each other. Neither she nor Aruna had been told anything about Paneer's father or his quitting. He'd been lying to me and had waited until the others were gone because they would have known.
Ah, the drama. But it's no big deal, really. I wish him well in finding another job that pays the same or better for what he did here. And guess what, the driver already has someone else in mind to garden for us.
Of course he does.

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