“You are at home the whole day. Do we really need a babysitter?” my working wife asked.
“Yes, we do,” I shot back. “Don’t expect me to struggle with nappies and nipples till the evening and then go to office for the semi-graveyard shift.”
“Babysitters don’t come cheap,” she
warned. “And a good one is as rare as a clean politician.”
“No problem,” I said overconfidently. “Good, bad or ugly, I’ll foot the bill.”
With the payment part settled, she readily gave her nod. After an extensive survey in the neighbourhood, we called a middle-aged mother-of-three for an “interview”.
The moment she entered our house, the burly woman picked up my infant daughter as if she was her fourth child. My wife told her straightaway that I, “the man of the house”, would be around every day during her working hours.
“That means the sahib is just like my husband,” she said mockingly. “He also doesn’t have a job.”
Her wild guess left me speechless with rage, but my spouse quickly cleared the air about my employment status. The woman, in turn, made it clear that she had no objection to my daylong presence in my own house.
Soon, my wife left, but not before whispering instructions: “Keep an eye on her. See how she performs.” I picked up the newspaper and pretended to read it, apparently giving the nanny a free hand. She prepared a bowl of Cerelac and eased herself into our ancestral armchair to feed my little one in her lap. It looked like a promising start, until I saw that Himalayan spoonful.
“Isn’t that too much for an infant to have in one go?” I dared to ask. “Not at all. Babies have a far greater appetite than we think,” she replied in an I-know-best tone.
From the corner of the eye, I saw most of the semi-solid stuff trickling down the baby’s chin onto the bib, but I kept mum. The bowl was empty in no time, and the woman smartly wiped the child’s mouth and changed the bib to remove all evidence of her shoddy work.
Now that she seemed unoccupied, I asked her to make me a cup of tea. “Mittha ghatt rakhiyo (less sugar, please),” she requested.
My bruised male ego clarified curtly, “You heard me wrong. I asked you to make tea for me, not the other way round.”
“Well, that’s not strictly part of babysitting,” she said. “But I’ll oblige you, for once.”
Her low-sugar, super-strong tea was awful, but I gulped it down like the heroic Socrates drinking hemlock. “You can rest if you want to. I’ll put her to sleep,” she said.
I retired to my room, but curiosity got the better of me and I returned after a while to check out. The scene left me dumbstruck: my bundle of joy and anxiety was wide awake in the cot, while the babysitter was fast asleep.
She did wake up by the time my wife returned, but I had already made up my mind — I would rather do it all myself than risk my sanity. With feigned regret, we informed the woman about our decision.
Pat came her parting shot: “Doesn’t matter. If you won’t hire me, somebody else will.” Relieved, I prayed for the well-being of her next employer.
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