Thursday, January 15, 2009

A new name for an age-old job

I think we’ve found Baby A’s new nanny. Her name is Carol. Guess what our old nanny’s name was? Carol. Neat huh? And we didn’t even deign or design it that way.

Years and years ago when my sister and I were little kids and we lived in Vizag, my dad worked for a British company—I gather the pay wasn’t as much as it ought to have been (vide my parents), but because it was a socially prominent position the job came with a huge house on five acres, and a household of servants, including a butler and a cook. At some point the offices of the butler and the cook conflated into the same person—albeit still with differently accessorized personae. When we moved in, an aproned and hatted Raju would cook in the kitchen and wear a poly-silk vest to wait on us at the table as a butler.

But Raju had another persona too—a secret one that kept him absent while he got drunk off company liquor. Consequently he was fired. His family who’d lived in one of the outhouses on the property had to leave too. And I remember being sad about that because I used to play with his kids a fair bit when my mom was too busy to catch me.

I’ll say this here: My mother is mellower now. Kinder, more generous, more charitable, very humanitarian. Back then she was a fresh twenty-something who suddenly had to learn to socialize with the extremely wealthy and big name royalty and foreign visitors. In old-fashioned middle-class families like that of both my grandmothers’ the domestic help were addressed with relationship tags like “bai,” or “akka,” or “amma.” But details like that must have been difficult to remember in a new milieu where no one lived with their in laws and everyone seemed impossibly sophisticated. So my sister and I were taught to call the domestic help by name. “Baldly” as some of the older ones would complain to us when we were older.

But that week, I was still five, my sister still two, and my parents were interviewing other candidates for Raju’s job—it was openly just one slash job by now. And they liked this man whose name happened to be something rather long. Something like Panduranga or Pentalayya. And their final question to him was this: Would he be willing to have us call him Raju? Because, you understand, the kids are used to calling for Raju and your name is so long?

The new "Raju" took the job. But he was quite bitter. Whether because of the mandated name change or for more secret reasons, I don’t know. He taught me a couple of snide things to say to my parents when I was six (I remember telling them that money comes and goes at God’s will—a lesson we sure learned later if not right then) and tutored me to pretend that I was having a past-life memory (I had to pretend that my doll was a baby I had lost in a previous life—the scenario came from a Telugu movie). My parents breezed by both of those incidents without paying them any attention. I was relieved about the snide thing but quite crushed about the possession thing--I was kind of looking forward to seeing them shocked and scared. But I guess my line delivery and acting skills have always been consistent: abysmal.

Anyway… hopefully, we won’t have to deal with all of that with the new Carol. For one, her parents already had named her Carol. And for another, she's way more propertied than we are :).



Da Baby Daddy said...

After a string of 4 nannies who didnt make the cut, we finally found a keeper. She is with us full time now and I think she truly enjoys spending time out children. And I'm pretty sure she doesnt steal. Always a plus. Good luck with the new one. Hope the breaking in period doesnt go on to long and that she doesnt steal

Anonymous said...

i just broke ranks with the kiddo's nanny and the hunt for a new one has been painful and guilt-ridden! For now, he's at a drop off service which always makes me feel like i'm dropping off dry cleaning! :)
I bet the 2nd Raju WAS agitated at the name change..whenever i visit the in-laws in the homeland, they always make up servant names (since it would be unheard of for them to use a servant's name if they have a family member/acquaintance with the same name..) Seems to me that always ticks them off more! :)

maya said...

Baby Daddy--wow you guys sound so experienced at this. I'm pretty sure she won't steal from us--unless she's crazy about elephant figurines.

Sara--i really disliked that aspect of daycare--the dropping off--too.