Good Morning, Sahib

An Indian Maid in Italy – August 2009
Keeping a maid seems to be more prevalent in Italy than it is in the UK. Or possibly it’s that in the UK different types of people don’t intermingle quite so much so we don’t see it.
An English couple across the valley here from us in Italy stay rent-free in a small house attached to a much larger one in exchange for looking after the owner’s dogs. The owner is known locally as the contessa, or countess, and she lives most of the year in Rome, only coming to these parts for a few weeks in the summer. The dogs, though, stay here permanently, hence the need for live-in dog-minders.
For the English couple to go away for more than a day they have to find someone to substitute, and so it was that our friends Pam and Martin spent last week living in the small house as dog-carers. The two dogs are old, both so ill that they can barely stand, and are clearly in pain for much of the time; one of them has had a type of throat-cancer and cannot bark properly – sounding pathetically like a canine version of a rasping throat – and both should out of kindness be put down. Martin was just longing that the end of the week would come without the vet needing to be called, so the dogs didn’t snuff it on his watch.
The contessa’s house is very remote, set among woodland, and the people of the nearest town – which is still a fair drive away – are very proud to have pictures of Prince Charles, as a much younger man than he is now, who visited the contessa’s, possibly to stay or possibly just for tea, no one seems to know for sure, some years ago.
The contessa has a maid, who is young, and Indian. We know she is Indian because when she passed Martin in the garden, balancing a bucket of washing on her head, she said to him very politely in English, and to his great embarrassment, ‘Good Morning, Sahib’.
There's a world out there what we don’t know about.

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