No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

The Maya saga continues:

Sadly, Maya is becoming a slight nuisance.    I see her at least once, sometimes two-three times a day and she expects me to give her something each time.  She even shoves flowers inside the car and refuses to take them back.  Then she chases the car for money as we drive away.  I continue to give food and clothes and shoes and yes, even money at times.  But the other day, her chasing our car got me into a bit of trouble.

After we crossed through the intersection where she works, a black Mercedes sedan with Russian diplomatic plates cut-off my car and stopped in front of me across two lanes of traffic.  The driver, a large gray-haired, moustached man came to my side of the car and started yelling at me in Russian, pointing his finger menacingly in my face.  Then he pointed at the flowers.   I was speechless but when he retreated to his car, my anger surfaced and I got out and followed him.  I barraged him with my own choice words.  I. Was. Furious.  For several reasons:

1.  Because he bullied me;

2.  Because he totally misunderstood what he saw.  He had no idea of my history of giving on that corner and of my commitment to do what I can for Maya and her gang.

3.  Because I couldn’t control my anger and I got out of the car and yelled in front of the kids.  I can still hear Lala pleading “Don’t Mommy”.   Did they see me defend myself or did they see me yelling at a stranger?

There’s something about a man bullying a woman that pushes me beyond my capacity to think clearly.  Instinct takes over.  I promptly called the Russian Embassy and let the press secretary have an earful.  Unfortunately, in my anger, I didn’t think to record the license plate.


On a sweet note, two of the boys at the intersection were wearing Lala’s school T-shirts from Beijing last week – bright yellow with bold black Chinese characters emblazoned on the back:  Jing Xi Xue Xiao.  Our two worlds colliding…

And today, another little angel in the gang, asked me for medicine to make her hair grow long.  The only medicine she needs is a healthy diet – which got me thinking about making them boiled eggs every day.


I want to remark on the differences I have noticed between China and India when it comes to “servant” culture.   When we lived in China, we could afford help because we earned a western salary in a developing economy.  But the average, middle class Chinese family could not afford to hire a nanny or a cook or someone to clean their house.  Like in U.S., this is a privilege of wealth.

However, in India, it seems that everyone has home help – and lots of it.  Your average middle class family hires people to watch the kids, clean the house, sweep the sidewalk, empty the trash, garden.   It’s an embedded servant culture that slices people into layers of the served and the serving.

Santosh Desai, a columnist in the Times of India wrote a good piece titled “Used to Being Served?”  Here’s a taste:

“…in India, if born in the right class, we consider it our right to be served, not merely with efficiency but with unquestioning obsequiousness. As consumers of service, we do not merely consume the service provided, we consume the air of servility with which it is provided. The nature of our dependence on being served goes well beyond the physical; it gets translated in an implicit belief in possessing an intrinsic superiority, an assumed right to lord it over someone lesser. It also gives rise to a lifestyle that is based on wasteful physical effort, since the person expending the labour is someone else.”

You can read the rest here:



My favorite quote of the week, from a local friend.  This is his response to whether India would/could advise a nascent democracy in Egypt:

“India’s not going anywhere.  It’s on its own trip.”


Some things aren’t so cheap in China.  This week a friend asked me to buy chemotherapy drugs for someone in Beijing.  It costs 36-USD for one pill in China and $6.50 here.  One of the reasons for this is that the raw materials for many drugs world-wide are sourced in India.


When the electricity goes out at my home this green monstrosity kicks-on and generates power until the city supply returns.  We fill it with diesel and it literally huffs and puffs and spews smoke.  It reminds me of the Nu-Nu on Teletubbies:


Lala is teaching me how to z-board…


From Jaipur in January  – dinner in an old Villa.  The entire dining room looked like this, almost dizzying in its detail:

Eddie with his soccer trophy:

And George getting his uniform inspected in Cub Scouts:

7 thoughts on “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”

  1. Great post, Theo. What was the Russian guy’s deal? Was he upset that you didn’t pay for the flowers or that you were interacting at all with Maya? I wish Vlad had been there to help you curse him out. I’m sure the kids saw you as defending yourself (again). They know by now that folks shouldn’t mess with Mom.
    You didn’t mention, as you had pointed out to me, how the treatment of women in India and China is vastly different.

    1. i think he was upset that i didn’t pay for the flowers. that, or maybe he thought i shouldn’t buy flowers… i don’t know. really, it’s none of his business.

      miss seeing you around the house…

  2. Thanks so much for keeping me posted, Theo. My Dad was just talking about meeting you the other night. He was so impressed. I’m going to get him to sign up! xx to you, the vanishing Jim, and those gorgeous kids. Are you coming this summer?

  3. Hey, good for you !!!!

    You stood up to the Russian-Bully, and you can be very proud of yourself for that !!!

    Just be careful. Some of these weirdos carry guns. And, Delhi is also the Crime Capital of India.

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