The characters who make my life in India so easy:
The cook and housekeeper.
Always sweet-tempered and gracious, her food is delicious.
The house manager.
Shaji does the daily shop, cycling to Peter’s Grocery and the local fish market every morning.
He arranges and supervises all house maintenance and building programmes.
Together with Dalila, he keeps the house clean.
Shaji is also responsible for keeping “Sir” free of life’s small stresses. This entails anything from ensuring all household bills are paid on time, liaising with the dhobi, arranging dry cleaning and upholstery work, to finding a team of men who will haul a small fishing-boat onto the roof terrace for me.
Shaji and Dalila are the husband and wife team who have been with me since I moved into my home in December 2008.
They work with me from 8:30 – 5:00, Monday to Saturday and live with their two teenage sons less than half a mile from my home.
I am often humbled by their unwavering kindness, concern and loyalty.
His job is full-time and resident. I am greeted each day by Anu’s:
“Good morning Papa. You sleep OK?”
– and a hot cup of tea.
He has a perpetual smile.
The electrician and plumber.
He has inherited the task of managing our very idiosyncratic power and water systems.
Babu does everything from our electrical re-wiring, re-plumbing the bathrooms and putting up our Christmas lights, to changing our light bulbs.
He also maintains “the thing in the corner“, which I suspect is the bane of his life.
He is Dalila’s cousin.
My carpenter, from the village of Nazareth, Cochin.
Sebastian has made most of our furniture and can hang pictures straight.
The painter and decorator.
Justin repaints the house, inside and out, once a year.
He is Dalila’s brother.
The general helper.
Paul is Justin’s helper during the annual repaint. He is brother to Dalila and Justin.
My previous houseboy.
Sumant came from the Indian state of Orissa and had to return there after tragic family problems.
He is in charge of all my Indian travel arrangements: booking rooms in hotels & guest-houses; and making plane, train and taxi reservations.
Charlie also negotiates my path through confusing bureaucratic officialdom, without resort to bribery or anger.
His greatest achievements for me were finding my present home, then acting as my agent during its purchase;
And, just as importantly, persuading Dalila & Shaji to work for the strange “English gentleman” who wished to settle in Cochin
Ayurvedic Therapist and Friend
Robin, whom I have known since my first months in India, provides solutions to such improbable requests as “Where can I find a fishing boat to put on my roof?”
He often accompanies me on my travels or suggests places to visit.
Remarkably, Robin manages to combine inner stillness with an infectious giggle.