Hardship Allowance for Living in Mumbai? Really?

Sometime back, I met someone from the UK, who had been sent to India by his company, to start a local branch. He was living in a 2500 square feet apartment on Altamount Road, while his office was in Nariman Point. He had an E-class Mercedes, with an English-speaking chauffeur, along with a cook, a cleaning maid and a manservant. He enjoyed a 5-days week and was also eligible for two paid holidays to the UK along with family, all flying business-class. His children had secured admissions to an excellent nearby school. There was a separate chauffeur-driven car for his wife and kids and he also had temporary memberships to two major, upscale clubs in South Mumbai.
And apart from all this, to enable him to make this really troublesome move from London to Mumbai, he received a handsome hardship allowance.
My first reaction was, “Hardship? What hardship!” In London, he had no chauffeur and used to travel to Canary Wharf by tube. He had no cook or manservant and he and his wife used to share dishwashing duties every alternate night. A part-time cleaning lady used to come by just twice a week. His children went to regular schools and used public transport.
Wasn’t his life far better in Mumbai? Where was the hardship!
I can here you sniggering!
And yet!
Twice, I’ve lived in the Western world, for extended periods. On each occasion, we’ve managed very well, without any help, doing our own laundry, washing our own dishes, cleaning the house over the weekends and driving our own cars or using public transport. At no time did we ever feel that we were wasting quality time or that we were deprived. In fact, there would still be time left over for doing a lot of other things, not only on the weekends, but also on weekdays.
Here, even after having cooks, maids, chauffeurs and an entire battalion to support our lives, we still land up struggling on a day-to-day basis. Any time that we might save because of the retinue that works for us, is lost in battling the inefficiencies in our systems and our lack of basic infrastructure. But that’s not the only reason for the hardship!
It’s still not easy handling beggars on the road, so imagine the shock an expat feels when someone comes up every day and taps on his car window, asking for money. It’s still difficult to get over the fact that more than half of our city is made up of slums, so think how hard it must be for someone who has just started to live here. On top of that, we shit on the roads, we spit all over, we break traffic rules as if they never existed, we insist on walking on the roads, we are rude, “in-your-face”, we don’t respect other people’s privacy and individuality, we are loud, noisy and most importantly, we are callous and we lack a basis civic sense and respect for other humans.
And as Jehangir has to add, “I don’t think doing without cooks, drivers and maids is a hardship. But having to live in the most overcrowded city with endless noise, pollution, monster traffic jams, and ongoing malaria, dengue and leptospirosis certainly is.”
Are we still sniggering about the hardship allowance?

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