Carefully stipulated

Carefully stipulated

humour

As soon as the excitement over my daughter-in-law Shilpa’s pregnancy died down, the question concerning the hiring of caretaker for both the mother and the newborn stared us in the face.

Faded diaries were dusted out for numbers of friends and relatives who could be of help, old contacts were revived, and I, like a deft fisherman hoping for a good catch, even scattered my search nets far and wide into my native Kerala, the hub of helpful relatives in Mangalore and of course, our very own Bengaluru.

Soon candidates began to pop up, some from professional agencies and others from private contacts. Interviews and negotiations followed and before we realised we, the interviewers, became the interviewed.

The terms, conditions and questions of the candidates and their intermediaries were enough to deter even a Gandhari from attempting another addition to her brood. If one wanted to know the size of our family, another probed our food preferences, even pitching in to sort out our problem thus — “No problem if you are vegetarians. Getting non-vegetarian food from outside a few times a week would be okay with me.”

Having heard tales of such caretakers leaving the family in the lurch, I asked the intermediary, “The person is a reliable one, isn’t she? She should not leave before the stipulated time.” Pat came the reply — “That would depend upon the way you treat her”  — leaving me wondering as to where I can  get a crash course on caretaker etiquette and courtesy!

With sleepless nights and the howling of the first child still haunting her, Shilpa asked the agency,

“Will this lady help me with the crying baby at night?” This question was countered with another question, “Why should the baby cry?” Now, this is a puzzle that even the best paediatrician
cannot answer. Yet, Shilpa tried to clarify it thus, “My first baby used to cry a lot at night. I was asking whether she will help with the crying baby at least for a few hours.” “Ah! May be for an hour or so, but certainly not during the later hours of the night.

Compensating her with two hours of uninterrupted day time rest is necessary in that case.” We thanked our stars that there was no demand for cups of tea to keep her awake. “Services have to be booked well in advance with an advance amount credited to my bank account, the details of which are...,” the agent barked out into the phone, warning us that “short term requirements would mean costlier services.”

Such services existed even in our times. They served more with their hearts than their heads and were a support to others in looking after the mother and the newborn, and a solace to the mother during her recovery. They were far from the omnipotent professionals of today who keep the family on tenterhooks till they walk out of the house with the hefty cheque.

Nevertheless, we have booked a caretaker to take charge at the appropriate time. But only time can tell who is going to take care of whom!

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