Peripheral Vision: An 18‑Year‑Old Nanny from Ratnagiri


Aug 19, 2018


Our series, Peripheral Vision, explores the untold stories of people we encounter on a daily basis.

I was born in Mumbai, but my family took me to my village in Ratnagiri soon after. I stayed and studied there till Grade 6. When I was 12, I wanted to see the city again, so I called my aunt who lived there, and she invited me. Now I am 18 and have never wanted to go back since.

In Ratnagiri, my mother, brother and father stay with my grandmother and work as house-help. But work is very erratic — some months they have it, in other months they don’t. That is why I don’t want to go back.

Becoming a nanny happened by chance. I used to take care of my aunt’s children, and she liked the way I would feed them, play and keep them distracted while she was away for work. She suggested I could do the same outside and earn some money. When I was 13, she connected me with a family with two children, and I’ve been taking care of them for about five years now.

I leave for work at 6 am because I have to bathe, dress the children for school. I pack their tiffins and bags and drop them off at the bus stop by 7.15 am. Once they’ve left, I help their parents with lunchboxes for their work and then, once they’re off, I clean the whole house and get ready to receive children from school.

By 3 pm, they are back and then I have to change them, feed them and put them to sleep. In the evenings, I take them to play and, after either of the parent, is back I am ready to go to another family.

“I don’t know if I will be able to afford children, but for now, these children are my family.”

At my second workplace, I join the children in the evening while they’re playing. Then it’s time for their dinner, bathing and changing them for sleep, ironing their school uniforms, packing their bags and keeping everything in order for school.

I don’t have to carry my own food, the clients feed me with lunch, evening tea and snacks and dinner. There is no discrimination, like, ‘Don’t use this plate,’ or ‘Don’t sit on the sofa.’ They are trusting me with their most precious person, letting me take care of them, touch them, then how can they ask me to use different utensils for myself? I have been very lucky.

I make Rs 15,000 every month. I send Rs 5,000 to my family back home, invest another Rs 5,000 in a kitty party that my madam is a part of, and keep the remaining for my monthly expenses.

I don’t take a holiday or spend unless absolutely necessary. If I ever want to take a holiday, it is to spend time with my grandmother, maternal, who lives in Mumbai, and a cousin. I go shopping once a month for essentials — soap, talcum power — and every six months to buy clothes — but not without my cousin. I can’t bargain, but she can, because she is studying in the second year of college and knows English.

I feel like studying, but I think there are no chances anymore. And no time.

I don’t like going back to the village because I don’t have friends there. I don’t like attending family functions because I get bored. They call me a lot, but I’ll go if someone close is getting married or if there is a puja (prayers)

I like this work. I don’t know if I will be able to afford children, but for now, these children are my family. They make me happy.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. As told to Anubhuti Matta.


Written By Anubhuti Matta

Anubhuti Matta is an associate editor with The Swaddle. When not at work, she’s busy pursuing kathak, reading books on and by women in the Middle East or making dresses out of Indian prints.


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