May 21, 2009

Mimi and her Magic Globe

Anna Sussman on migrant workers in Lebanon...

Although it is, perhaps, an urban myth, a friend once told me how the wife of an Asian ambassador had been asked to leave the swimming pool of an upscale beach club when other patrons complained to the management that "the help" was swimming in the pool. The fact that her social class and diplomatic status overrode the colour of her skin, causing embarrassment and profuse apologies, only makes it worse.

That friend, an Indian who recently completed her doctoral thesis and whose husband is an architect for the United Nations, said the story struck something deep in her. Until she heard it, she thought the funny looks she and her Indian husband got when they walked into restaurants and bars (and the fact that every time she answered her door, whoever had rung – the electrician, the postman – would look over her shoulder and ask "Where is the Madame?") stemmed from harmless curiosity or, at worst, ignorance. Now, she senses a definite hostility behind the stares.