When you lose a servant the word goes out on the servants' grapevine, and people start turning up at the gate. You go through a more or less painful process of mutual selection, which may involve the coming together and separating of several pairings, before you find the person whom you hope will be right for your household.

We hired Nataraj to be our watchman. He was neat and quiet, tall and thin. Mary and Lakshmi told me approvingly that he was a village man, and so would be strong and willing to work. He already had a uniform with a matching beret, because he had worked as a watchman before. We felt good the first evening, seeing him going around the house with a heavy stick, which he tapped on the ground to let burglars know that he was alert. Then in the night, Ramesh found him sleeping deeply on the bench in the gatehouse. He had to shake him awake. We thought, okay, he needs to adjust to the night shift.

The next morning Nataraj asked for an advance on his salary to buy rice, and kerosene for the little stove we provide. I gave it to him. Then he decided that he couldn't cook after all, so he asked that Mary cook for him, taking the cost out of his salary. We refused. That night he was asleep by 2:00 a.m.

The next day he said that he would live away from the house so that he could sleep better during the day: he said that there were too many mosquitoes in our house (though they didn't bother him during duty hours!). He said that he had fallen asleep because he was having 'weakness' (a common explanation for a number of things). He asked for another advance on his salary.

When this sort of thing happens, you know the relationship has soured. Last night, his fourth, he slept again. This morning I paid him off. The grapevine was re-activated. Just now Mary came grinning, to tell me that a man had come to the gate asking about the job. She said he was ninety years old and toothless. I said that if any burglars came they would laugh too hard to be able to steal anything. So we wait.

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