I had managed without the help you usually get in India. Of the mother-in-law. Or of a night nurse. Or of a Japa, these very traditional nannies, often from Kolkata, who assist mother and newborn during the first 30-45 days after birth. Day and night, they take care of everything, bath, massage, food etc. Without any support (as I didn’t feel any was required), I thought the three of us had done pretty well these first months! But I had to start thinking about succession for when I would resume work...
So came the time to hire an ayah, which is in India a maid cum nanny, if possible with some cooking skills... Although Indian women prefer to be employed by foreigners (they work less to earn more while being treated more humanely, as they themselves say), we didn't get many options. ‘Working less’ implies that they do not work on Sunday nor Saturday (they don’t necessarily get days off with local employers); and that they work from 9 to 5 – which doesn’t help when you have yourself to be in office from 9 to 6 (the few times where you leave before 8 p.m.). And in case they themselves have young children (i.e. most of them) or they live very far (i.e. almost all of them), you know you can say goodbye to extra time which is bound to happen... And if you want her to speak at least some English, you might as well ask for the moon...
I was therefore about to say yes to a nanny who didn’t know a word of English, had a little girl and lived in the far east (of Mumbai) when we gave a last interview. A Christian (therefore English-spoken – don’t ask, Indian Christians usually speak better English than Hindi), with a 27-year-old daughter, who lives close by, who is used to work 12 hours a day and on Saturdays, who has already worked with foreigners (and “they do not stand any dirt at all” she added!) and who asks for less money than others. Too good to be true it seemed! According to her, her old age is a handicap to find job today: being in her fifties, mothers fear that she cannot run after their kids!
In 24 hours, she had made friends with the cat. The cat that terrorizes everybody as he is kind of gigantic; even the Pest Control guys did not dare enter the guest bedroom he was sleeping in. The cat that slaps your feet to get your attention and spits when pissed off. So, this cat, from the first day, she started conversing with him as he was growling in his cupboard hideout!
In 24 hours she had reorganized the cupboards (food and clothes). Ironed pillow cases, a first for them. Dusted off the vacuum cleaner and then below the sofa, then the fans.
Within 24 hours she had taken over my food diet and timing! If mummy digests well, so will the baby. I thus learned (but let me doubt that) that the impressive farts of my son are due to my love for potatoes... Well, I don’t know if potatoes make you fart but I can tell you about the peas she cooked for us the first night... If her goal was to clean my intestines in fanfare, she definitely scored! No chilly in the food, plenty of fibers, garlic and ginger (condiments that she loves to prevent gases) and I even have to fight to eat my ‘regular’ yoghurt (“but low-fat is better, it doesn’t make you fat”)!
And then above all, above all, in less than 24 hours Baby Samourai ended up on a mattress on the floor with an Indian cloth diaper! I almost got a disapproving comment when I put a Pampers on him to feed him: apparently Indian mothers come to know the pattern of their offspring’s pooping and put modern (absorbing) diapers only at that time. I am not sure the intestinal clock of my baby is properly set! And I don’t particularly enjoyed being peed on... I also had to fight with her for him to not spend the full day naked: where doctors say the baby needs one more layer of cloth compared to me, she said one less!
And as for her age is concerned, it shouldn't be too much of a problem since, as she repeats frequently to the baby: "no carrying business, no carrying business". In other words, he can forget spending his time in the arms – in fact he already doesn’t spend much time in the arms but he likes to fall asleep on our lap, especially if we sing 'Ooooom' bouncing on the exercise ball (surprisingly she did not look overjoyed at the idea of working her muscle on the ball!). I also got an admonition on the subject. She is not cold in the eyes that one! At the same time she is not wrong, he does need to learn to fall asleep alone...
In 24 hours, Mary Poppins took charge of us, me my house and my son. As for me, while I thought I had been managing rather well, I was left with the impression of being a college girl who is doing all wrong things with her doll in her pigsty!
Let’s hope it lasts ;)