A New York nanny replies
Keep the faith, self-appointed human rights liberal. Where would we be without you?
Dear Sahr Liberal (Self-Appointed Human Rights Liberal),
Thank you for your open letter in The Indian Express on December 24 ('Letter to an Indian nanny in New York', Jaithirth Rao). I know your letter was meant to be caustic, if not sarcastic. I am not from India. However, your letter was a good reminder of what Indian housekeepers/ babysitters are up against and how miserable they would be but for the leg-up they may get from self-appointed, bleeding heart, sanctimonious, do-gooders like you. I must say you are rather harsh on yourself with your adjectives.
You are right in saying this is not the time to talk about the effect of the local New York laws on American youth. Discussing if a high minimum wage has a particular racial impact on unemployment would be a digression. You are so right — I earn a lot more than what I would earn in my home country, but you should have also pointed out (after all, you are on our side, aren't you?) that I have to spend far more here than I would in my home country.
Surely, as a human rights liberal, you will not join the many Indians who count the cost of rent for being allowed to sleep in my boss's verandah, the cost of the food I get to eat after finishing up and the hand-me-down clothes I get as part of the remuneration. Some Indians even argue with pride that Indian government servants pay our husbands in India for the work we do here for them. I am told this is a violation of Indian exchange control laws, depriving the country of valuable foreign exchange that I could remit home, but more importantly, paying husbands for wives' work is the bane of a nanny's existence. My nanny friends from countries such as India, Cambodia and Thailand tell me that even when they worked back home their husbands would take away their earnings and blow it up on drinking and on other women.