27 January 2014 National The Secret Diary of

Devyani Khobragade

India is not a bad place. We normally had 7-8 domestic helps though we did not have to pay all of them...
Devyani Khobragade
Illustration by Sorit
Devyani Khobragade

Better be careful. Daddy told me to use invisible ink for the diary. Earlier too, he had told the media that the CIA was behind all this. I can’t comment because, like a good foreign service officer, I read only the New York Times, WSJ etc and, of course, the ‘Maids Available’ columns in the dailies. Now, as a junior diplomat I was never in touch with the CIA. The return trip to Mumbai was rather disappointing. Expected at least a ticker-tape welcome, a guard of honour by elite units of a Dalit brigade, but nothing. Once again, Dad took over. Time for discretion, he advised. He had more  reason to be careful because Uddhav Thackeray blamed him unnecessarily for calling the Marathi media casteist.  

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I have a busy schedule ahead of me. The Mumbai branch of the Indian Foreign Officers association is honouring me with a dinner. But I am more interested in hush-hush, closed-doors meetings with select senior IFS personnel with experience in the US to discuss how I should have handled the situation in New York. Especially on problems like how much to promise the maids and how much to actually pay them, what kind of leftovers be given to them, how many minutes of free time daily they be allowed out and so on. I wish I had been briefed on these issues which are so much more important than N-disarmament, peace with Pak and soon. These F.O. bosses are real dadas and I thanked them for standing by me while they appeared before TV cameras. Very professional,  and I am certain that our national foreign policy is safe in their hands.   

Back in Delhi, the picture was depressing and I would rather blame our government. Retaliatory action was okay but it should not affect us or our friends. What was the need to cut those brilliant facilities—clubs, duty-free liquor shops and great movie screenings—which greatly helped Indian diplomatic efforts. Ask any senior diplomat, he would tell you the same. 

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Considering all this, India is not a bad place. We normally had 7-8 domestic helps though we did not have to pay all of them. When Dad was GM of BEST, we had at least a dozen staff as our domestic helps. And then without proper briefing we are thrown into the New York jungle where the maid-ayah-cook-gardener had to be paid as much as we were. What of the future? Whoever becomes the future prime minister, he should lay down firm rules on this problem. With Aam Aadmi Party leader Kejriwal in the running, the foreign office could take a beating. As PM, he could demand that Indian diplomats and their families do their own domestic chores with the government providing brooms, mops and cleaning liquid.

The Mumbai-based satirist is the creator of ‘Trishanku’; E-mail your secret diarist: vgangadhar70 AT gmail.com

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