“We’re Growing Up Together Each Day.”
I am 19 now. Back home in Kolhapur, after I lost my parents when I was 2, I was adopted by my aunt, but I don’t remember having as good a childhood as my cousin. My aunt would make me do all the work, while her own daughter, my cousin, would get to sit and watch TV or play. There were days I’d go hungry or ask a neighbor for some leftover rice because that aunty was very nice and would often let me go and play with her children.
Seeing these adversities, I was forced to mature before everyone else my age.
Though I attended school, I couldn’t be regular because there was so much work at home and at my aunt’s farm that either I’d be tired or she wouldn’t let me go.
“I’d lost my parents so I knew the kind of love I craved and hoped to give exactly that kind to this girl.”
Soon, my uncle realized that I wasn’t being treated right and asked me to accompany him to Mumbai, where he was working. I did and while living with another set of cousins employed as nannies, I asked if I could do the same kind of work. At 15, I began taking care of a 2-year-old. I’d lost my parents so I knew the kind of love I craved and hoped to give exactly that kind to this girl. And I know I did because she couldn’t stay without me.
We grew so used to each other that I didn’t get to visit my village once for six months. I always celebrate Diwali in the house I was born in, because I feel like my parents are around. But in those six months, when Diwali fell, I celebrated with a new set of parents and someone who felt like my own daughter.
Four years, I am still with the same family and same girl. We’re growing up together each day. I missed going to school, but when she studies, I feel like I’m studying, too, and I don’t mind relearning everything from the start.
Our day starts at 6 am, when I get the girl ready for school, pack her tiffin and drop her at the bus stop. Then, it’s mostly household chores and helping my employers — whom I call my parents — get ready for work by ironing their clothes, packing their tiffins, and seeing them off. Then, with another household helper, I clean the house until it’s noon, at which time my charge returns. Then I eat with the little girl and we both take naps. Afterward, I take the girl to visit her grandmother. Sometimes her nani gives her chocolates, sweets. And I’ve been asked not to give her more than one a day, so I don’t know what to tell her nani, and it’s always such a conflict.
Then it’s time to play outdoors until the parents return. When they all reunite at the end of the day, they have dinner and call it an early night on weekdays. On weekends, there’s less of a routine.
I love weekends, we all go out at least once, try and watch a movie or shop. It’s a lot of fun.
Has there ever been a day when she’s irritated, or regretted coming to the city?
I found a family here, how can I ever be sad. If they leave me, or I have to leave, it’ll be like losing my parents again.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. As told to Anubhuti Matta.
The Home Makers is a series that explores the untold stories of the home, the experiences of the people who complete and care for it. These accounts are often anonymous in order to protect the privacy and livelihoods of individuals who share intimate details of their work and lives.