Office Life

The NGO where I am working, NMP+, supports people with HIV with a variety of services. They offer counselling and try to reduce the stigma and social intolerance of HIV that exists in India.  The people in the office are all very nice, and have been welcoming. Some speak better English than others. Luckily  the boss, Manoj, speaks very well and has been to France and the US. He is quite a character, headstrong, full of life and very authoritative with the staff, although extremely nice to me.  I kept wondering who this person Manoshsir they talked about was. It turns out it is Manoj, but said with Sir after his name and pronounced in fast Marathi. The up side for me is that I’m called Madam or Ma’am as a sign of respect (age really I think). I could get quite used to it. Although I think Manoj goes a little far – he has a bell on his desk which he pings when he wants something and someone runs to his office. Driiiing! Good sitcom material I think you might agree. The rest of us are crammed into quite small hot offices – 2 rooms with 9 of us and Manoj has a separate office. It is like being back in the 1960s. The fact that India has remained so bureaucratic and hierarchical is a revelation. I think there are so many people that jobs have to be found for them. So if all you do all day is open a door for people or like Shankar here, be general dogsbody with not much going on, so be it. It’s a salary and something to do.

Tiffin is ordered by Monali, the receptionist. Tiiffin generally arrives about 1.30 or 2pm by which time I am very ready for lunch. The round tiered silver boxes have 4 levels – rice, roti, beans or dal and a vegetable. As I was the only one eating on a plate, I have learned  how to eat with my right hand and not make too much of a mess. Manners are quite different. Someone will grab your rice and take some and usually not give it back to you. At first it takes you aback, your school lunch instincts come out and you want to say “That’s mine! Give it back!” It is tricky is pulling off a right-sized  piece of roti to use as a spoon, then not dropping the filling. If you are hungry, you get the hang of it quite fast. Tiffin is 30 Rupees or about 40p for a balanced meal. The amounts are not large just a good  amount when it is 40C outside.

I have lost some weight, in fact one day my Petit Bateau trousers nearly came off as I was getting off a motorbike during my flat hunting. My friend Steve, in West Bengal since January,  has lost a massive amount and is happy about it.  He’s from New York, was overweight and used to be a compulsive snacker apparently. I’ve told him he should write a diet  book for the US – I went to India and lost 40lbs in 4 months!!! Sure to be a bestseller….

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One Response to “Office Life”

  1. liz cashman Says:

    Alison – your blog makes compelling reading. At book club last night we spent more time discussing the blog than the book we had chosen. Keep writing it, and keep enjoying your life in India. Liz

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