Wednesday, June 03, 2009

R.E.S.P.E.C.T or how the Cauvery dispute must have started

There’s just something about water that brings out the worst in the two neighboring states. This week, the battleground was our humble home.

It all began with a phone call our maid/nanny/cook/caretaker made to our driver on Sunday. She apparently wanted the phone number for the store that supplies us drinking water. Our driver informed her that he’d already ordered the water can and it would be delivered Monday evening.

Come Monday evening, no sign of water, and every fiber of her Tamilian persona bristled at the lack of water. She marches down to the basement to seek a resolution to the water dispute once and for all.

Now, the Gowda community in Karnataka is not one to be trifled with. Men do not take it lying down when a woman raises her voice to them and that too in public. Our maid, in all earnestness at the injustice of water deprivation, started yelling at my driver. Here’s where things get muddled a bit as it’s a lot of ‘he said’ and ‘she said’. We will commence our narrative with the maid’s version.

She walks down to the basement and tells him that since he didn’t get the water for us, she’ll call for it herself. Illogically, our driver reacted sharply to this request and asked her to take a hike. He also told her that he would get 4 men to come sleep with her. Ok, don’t ask. I don’t see the progression and logic either. He then wrapped up his innovative tirade with a ‘shut your ass up and go’ which is the best translation I can do for a common Kannada curse phrase which sounds delightful in that language but doesn’t translate too well to English.

Full of righteous indignation (and without that all important store’s number), she came back upstairs and burst into tears.

Ok, now for the homeboy version. This lady descends down the stairs like an avenging she-devil and tells him that he’s always ‘dying’ in the basement (again, translation issues apply here). The gist of it is that she demeaned him in front of his peer group so he told her that he won’t give her the phone number.

Cut to an hour later. The four of us in our home – the wife, the maid, the driver and me. The woman starts off the proceedings with high drama with how she will call her husband and the cops and a few other unrelated elements to fix our driver for his hurtful and shaming words. Our driver claims he never said a thing other than refusing to give the number purely going on attitude issues. But he says that she shouted at him for whiling away time in the basement while she toiled in the house. By now, the maid was inconsolable, swearing on numerous gods, saying how the lord above was watching; He knows the truth, the truth will prevail and set me free!

At this point, an independent witness was brought in by the driver. This lady, a cleaner by profession, was of no use as she said the heated debates all happened in Tamil and despite her keen observations, she couldn’t follow the chain of discussions. The maid was quick to dismiss the witness as hostile to her cause and concluded a deep conspiracy in the basement ranks.

My wife (aka Solomon The Wise) now swiftly got into the act. She summarized the events saying that she yelled and he yelled so both were wrong. The content of the yelling was moot, the wise one proclaimed. However, the maid sensed a bias towards the driver and again got worked up, bringing back the topic of the 4 men who were supposed to be dragged in to sleep with her. My driver was unperturbed and he informed us in no uncertain terms that he has sisters and other women in his life and he has never spoken that way to anyone.

Judge Solomon, looking for rapid resolution then gave this verdict (an impressive speech actually with the verdict embedded in it). ‘Neither of you admit to what you actually said. We all know that yelling happened to some degree from both sides. It was wrong of you to go down and shout at him and you should not have shouted back at her. We need both of you equally and while I don’t expect you to gain each other’s respect in the next few days or months but we want you both to maintain professional decorum within these four wall. Now say sorry to each other and let’s all move on’. The chief justice now paused for breath and waited for the response to the judgment.

The driver, being from Karnataka, readily agreed to the terms and conditions and gave his due apologies. The maid banged her head with her hand and wailed that she would rather die than say sorry. She returned to her favorite theme of the 4 men and asked rhetorically if I would be okay with it if someone had said that to my sister (if I had one). As part of the justice panel, I was forced to comment and told her that we have no proof of what he said or what she said and what was of importance right now is that they still talk to each other for home related matters and they can’t expect to involve us in all that.

An uneasy truce now prevails in the household but at least things are going on as usual. We’ll see how long it lasts.

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