“Fautgee ho gayee hai. Ghar jaana hai,” our driver told us barely a month after we’d arrived in Islamabad. I wasn’t familiar with the word. So I asked, “Matlab?”
The driver’s cousin sister had passed away and he had to rush home. We let him take a week off and also gave him some advance.
A few days later, I spotted our gardener who hadn’t shown up for over a week pulling out weeds in the lawn. “What happened?” I asked him.
“…fautgee ho gayee thee,” he explained. I shut up.
Our domestic help, too, decided to rush home during her children’s winter break because of a sudden “fautgee” in the family.
The driver no longer works for us, and we’re on to our fourth gardener since. We’ve had to sack three because there were too many “fautgees” in their families, sometimes the same people dying all over again.
“Didn’t your nani die some time ago?” I asked one of our gardeners once. “No that was my nani’s sister. This time it is my nani,” he informed rubbing one of his eyes.
The word “fautgee” has been thrown at me so many times that for me, the one and only thing it can mean is that the help is disappearing for an indefinite period.
Earlier this month, our brand new maid Delphin walked into my room all tears. “Mere behnoi ki death ho gayee hai. Das din ki chutti chahiye….”
The word “death” hit me and my husband. “Please go,” I said trying to console her. My husband even offered to loan her money to facilitate her trip to Karachi.
“I wanted to leave for Karachi right now but my husband Adnan says you should take the train tomorrow,” she wailed.
Few minutes later I stepped out into the lawn and heard peals of laughter from her quarters. Delphin was getting set for her 10-day break in Karachi….
When she returned, the family was in celebration mode. “There’s too much noise from your quarters….” I told her two days later.
Sensing that I was perhaps surprised by the mirth and joy in the wake of a death in her family, Delphin said: “Well, my sister wasn’t too distressed by the death of my brother-in-law. My sister was fed up. Uski taang bhi nahin thi; aankh bhi nahin thi…..”