The Story of How My First Job in India Turned into a Nightmare
Nothing this man had promised, was delivered. Something that, at 22 years old, I couldn’t quite understand. I was blonde, solo, and at the whim of some entitled Indian man with daddy’s retirement money and military troops at his beck and call to play with. I guess it pays to be the son of a General in New Delhi…
I had bought a one way ticket to India. I didn’t have a job, a plan or a real goal. I only knew that I had a great love for the country, even though I had only been there for two weeks. I knew I had a lot to learn from such a land of extremes and I was willing to put myself and my career at risk to figure out what it was I was meant to learn from the place. I was open and willing to absorb anything and everything the culture had to offer me and I was more than excited when after scouting around for a place to work for two months, I found a couple of stables interested in hiring me.
I had three conditions for accepting a job, with horses no doubt since that is the only job I cared to apply for: One, they had to provide me a place to stay. Two, the place to stay had to have a Western Toilet and Hot Water Shower. Three, they had to pay me a “stipend” so that I could buy food and whatever I needed to survive each month.
An offer came from New Delhi and since I had met many wonderful locals as friends in the Capitol, I accepted the job offer without much thought. They agreed to provide me a place to stay that met my conditions and they also were willing to give me a meager $200 per month as a stipend. I knew that $200 wasn’t enough to cover my American bills or student loans back home, but I also knew that the salary in India was quite poor compared to what I was used to (I had learned this the hard way in my first job in Egypt) and so I accepted. Besides, I would be riding horses every day, getting to train some of them for jumping competitions in the local shows and giving all of the daily riding lessons to the students while overseeing the grooms caring for the horses. The job sounded right up my alley—on paper at least.
I lasted ONE MONTH before admitting defeat. The job was HORRIBLE. Nothing he had promised had been delivered. I was placed in a terrible living accommodation with no furniture inside the small dingy flat, save for one small cot to sleep on. I couldn’t cook any meals at home because I had no cooking appliances to cook with, not to mention the area I lived in didn’t have access to a place to buy local groceries that I would find clean and safe to eat. I also couldn’t live on eating the local street food alone (as much as I liked my parathas you try eating that for breakfast each morning and then riding 6 horses and giving kids their lessons…) and my salary wasn’t enough to afford the “tourist priced” tuk-tuks and transportation to go anywhere other than the stables. (Any white person traveling in India will soon learn that even if you speak in Hindi—as I did—you cannot haggle the rickshaws down to the same price as the locals as many of them will refuse to take you if you don’t pay the standard “tourist tax” of 200 rupees no matter where you go.)
I also want to add that I was SOLO, BLONDE HAIRED, GREEN EYED and living in a VERY unsafe area thanks to my boss. When I complained it led to more drama and I found myself spending my “free time” (not that there was much of it) locked inside my empty room.
The day I told my boss I was quitting, he sent to my doorstep a team of his father’s military soldiers to “escort me” from the apartment.
I was officially HOMELESS.
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I learned many lessons during my two years living in India and it’s unfortunate this was one of them but because of this, I learned to be a little be more mindful of my safety and how to protect myself.
Here are my tips to avoid something similar happening:
- If it’s possible to see the job (or at least photos) beforehand, that is ideal.
- Establish an agreement and make sure to check that all of the mentioned amenities and promises are met! This job wasn’t the first or the last to try to promise things that it couldn’t deliver but because I was better prepared for it, I ALWAYS had an exit strategy and never found myself in a situation I couldn’t handle.
- Making friends, especially with the locals!—is your biggest ally. It was because of my friendships I was able to take action and find a place to stay that was safe and appropriate without putting myself at further risk.
- Don’t let your fear of bad things keep happening keep you from taking chances. This one time something unpleasant happened, BUT because of it, I learned a valuable lesson and I was never put in this situation again. And its not because I left India and didn’t work in India because this was just my first job in this country! I ended up staying for TWO YEARS and working at over a dozen different riding clubs! Don’t let one bad egg ruin your experience!
- Safety is and always should be your number one priority.
- Never settle for less than you deserve!
- It is possible to find a place to live in less than 24 hours in India.
My biggest take away:
After this I made sure that I ALWAYS had an apartment IN MY NAME which couldn’t be taken away from me. Even when I accepted jobs at other riding clubs which required me to be gone from my apartment for a couple of months at a time, I continued to pay the rent and keep the lease on my flat in New Delhi as a SECURITY BLANKET in case future jobs didn’t pan out. And THANK GOD I did because it wasn’t the last time a job in India (and other countries) didn’t deliver the things they’d promised and because I learned my lesson I always had a place to easily go back to without relying on anyone else.
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