Peripheral Vision: a 19‑Year‑Old Nanny from Sangli
Our series, Peripheral Vision, explores the untold stories of people we encounter on a daily basis.
“I was 16 when I lost my parents in my village, Sangli, in Maharashtra. With no siblings or grandparents for support, I went to the only relatives I knew, my aunt and uncle. They helped me continue school by paying my fees and buying books for the new year but asked me to help them on the farm, which I wasn’t ready to do. Even though both my parents were farmers, I’d never wanted to work on the fields because I wanted to study and do a 9 to 5 job in an air-conditioned office. I always got good grades so I thought I was capable of becoming a doctor. But, I knew it was a lot of hard work and a lot of money, so, I dropped the idea early on, though I wanted to pursue what I was really interested in — and that could be anything but Math.
To avoid helping on the farm, I suggested if I could accompany my uncle to Mumbai once just because I wanted to see what a city looked like. They agreed immediately and two days later, I was in the middle of a crowd I’d never seen, a 24/7 supply of electricity and water, and so many cars run by. I knew I wanted to live here, even if it meant working in people’s homes as their help.
My uncle made me meet a few of his relatives, and I stayed with them a couple of days while he had work in the city. In the meantime, I started accompanying one of them to her babysitting job. She’d been doing this for six years and loved the 3-year-old girl she was supposed to babysit. Sometimes, I felt like the child was closer to this girl than her own mother. Seeing how they both enjoyed and loved each other, I told her I wanted to do this, too. She knew of many families in need of a babysitter, so introduced me to one. The baby was just 8 months old, but I thought, ‘Babies are fun, so let me do it.’ Her parents had resumed work, and although her grandmother was around to guide me, I had to do a lot of work.
“Every time I see Taimur Ali Khan’s nanny with him, I want to be in her place. And who knows, if I work hard enough, I may reach there and babysit some other celebrity’s baby.”
It was a different world. I realized I didn’t know anything about babies. How they eat, how they sleep, why they are crying — everything was new to me. For a couple of days, it felt like I had to get used to the baby, rather than the other way round. Every time she’d cry, I thought it was because of me. I didn’t think they’d cry so much, all the time. It took me a couple of days to learn how to make her burp, make her lie down, make her sleep, even feed her. I had to think about what to talk to her about, whether she can watch TV, or would understand anything. I was scared to take her for a stroll in a pram because what if someone picked her up and ran away? On some days, I used to think, studying Math is easier than babysitting, and there is nothing in the world I’m more scared of than Math.
But in a few months, I got used to her. She liked seeing my face in the morning and soon understood that evenings were time for me to leave. That made me happy. I started behaving like a hands-on mom and that put everyone at home at ease. It’s been three years since I’ve been with her and this family. On some days, yes, Math seems easier, but on other days, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every time I see Taimur Ali Khan’s nanny with him, I want to be in her place. And who knows, if I work hard enough, I may reach there and babysit some other celebrity’s baby.”
As told to Anubhuti Matta. This interview has been condensed for clarity.