Not being able to tell if the smell came from outside, or originated in the room itself, I started looking around, trying to root out the source of the odor. That was when I came across a letter, written by my dad in July of 1980 (July 27, 1980) to one of my aunt & uncles in India that has totally shocked, and stunned me. It has been like a bombshell in my life ever since I came across it. Even though I have not told anyone offline, about it, this startling and staggering, previously unknown news has just overwhelmed me. It truly feels like nothing is as it really is, and so many things that I thought, felt, or believed to be true, all these years of my life, were in fact probably, if not totally wrong.
What it is all about is this. For about a year and a half, from the time I was 6 months old, my parents had hired a live-in nanny, from India (whose name I'll abbreviate here to "Mrs. D" for privacy and security reasons) to take care of me while they were at work.
Because of the hours spent away from home at their demanding jobs, as well as their opinions, based on their own judgement, and the emphasis on families and children in Indian families, my parents did not believe in going off by themselves in the evenings, or going out with friends, and leaving their kids with babysitters.
Ever since I can remember, with a couple of RARE exceptions related to work, while we were young, my parents NEVER left me and my brother behind, to go off by themselves out with friends or to parties. Whenever they went out, they took us with them, and all the parties they/we went to were "multi-generational" parties, given by friends with kids of their own, or the temple or "Indian" association clubs. Because of that the only time my brother or I stayed with babysitters were when they were at work.
Anyway, when I was 6 months old, my parents hired this woman, "Mrs. D" to come from India to take care of me, and though they'd asked for a young, healthy, well-trained person, she instead was an aging and sick woman. Until I found the letter last night, I had NO idea about all the problems there were with her. Though Mrs. D had been hired for a minimum stay of 2 years, she left after a little over a year and a half. I never understood why she left, or the reasons behind her sudden and abrupt departure, and all these years, maybe not directly, or deliberately, but I think that perhaps, indirectly or subconsciously, I've been blaming my parents for her leaving, when they only did the ABSOLUTE RIGHT thing, their only mistake in not having done it MUCH, MUCH sooner!
All my life I had sort of "idolized" Mrs. D in my mind. I had put this woman on a pedestal, thinking and remembering her as a loving and caring grandma, when, obviously from the contents of this letter, she was ANYTHING BUT!! After reading this letter, I realize that everything I thought the last 26 years, that I knew or remembered about Mrs. D was all wrong. She was NOT a loving, caring, nurturing, grandma figure, but an obviously selfish, and dishonest lazy bum, who was not only self-centered, inconsiderate and neglectful, but even violent, negligent and abusive!
Not to bore anyone, but to show what I'm saying I'm going to post excerpts (in blue text) from the July 1980 letter that my dad had wrote to my aunt and uncle in India (with any applicable names altered for privacy & security). To minimize the number of quotes, everything between the dotted lines are passages from the letter.
My dear S & K,
It's ages since I wrote a letter to you all. For one reason or another, I seem to postpone such chores and then finally the delay becomes inexcusable. I hope you will forgive me.
Yes, we are receipt of your 2 cables and now the detailed letter about Mrs. D, and the harassment you have been meeting at the hands of her relatives on our account. We are extremely sorry and wish it had not happened. But now that it has happened, and Mrs. D will be leaving for India on the 6th of August, I want to give you both a narrative account of her activities ever since she came.
Normally if we had found a good, well-trained, experienced babysitter locally, we would have settled Mrs. D's employment status right away, and thrown her out on the streets. But we made a big blunder in hiring this woman and I hope you will excuse me for the detailed account I am giving below, which at times may sound boring, but the sequence of events will show the reasons for her and our current plight.
On her arrival in the U.S. on December 17, 1978, within minutes of her arrival, in the middle of the night, while I was driving her home from the airport, and C stayed home to take care of the baby, Mrs. D started talking about her sons, and she started begging me to assist in sponsoring them to come to the U.S. even for some odd jobs in the garden, or cleaning. I really did not encourage her, nor pursue the matter at the time, but she brought it up several times with C. Then she asked me to assist her in locating her ex-son-in-law, who walked out on his wife (Mrs. D's daughter) in India, and was now teaching somewhere in America.
Despite the late hour, C and I received her very warmly, and gave her all the comforts of respected family member. We took her with us wherever we went. Even in the midst of a HEAVY snowstorm, C, against my advice, drove Mrs. D to church to take her for Mass, and Christmas eve services. We also gave her several gifts for the occasion.
Then, Mrs. D said she had some relatives (who turned out to only be just friends) Mr. & Mrs. P., in Toronto, and that she wanted to invite them to visit. We readily agreed and let them stay with us during the first week of January 1979 - just 2 weeks after Mrs. D's arrival. We treated them like royal guests, and C took great effort to cook 4 meals for them for a family of 4, and make Mr. & Mrs. P's stay as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. At this time, we found Mrs. D talking with Mrs. P and then Mr. P upstairs, furtively, not letting C or I join them. At the time, we did not suspect anything but felt concerned about all the secrecy.
Within 1 week of Mrs. D's arrival, we sat down with her, and explained, the compensation, health insurance, method of payment and other conditions of the contract. As per C's letter to you, we had made clear our terms of a minimum stay of 18 months to 2 years, and the appropriate and fair compensation, assuming that the nanny was a young and healthy experienced, well-trained nurse, but we were willing to offer the same terms and payment to Mrs. D, even though she did not meet the original qualifications.
At the time of this, she lied to us, saying that you both had promised her "something else". She said that she was was told it would only be a 1 year stay and that we would pay much more than previously agreed to. We stated that we had not promised any such things, and that's why we had to get the clarifying letter from you, which she read and finally admitted that she had lied.
Mind you, in spite of all this we have still treated her with respect, calling her "aunty", treating her many illnesses, and giving her all the comforts of a treasured family member. But the more we do for her, the more stubborn, and worse she seems to get.
In April 1979, when C went to Los Angeles for 2 weeks to attend a conference, Mrs. D took advantage of her absence to write a letter to Mr. P in Toronto, which caused him to phone us, and talk for 20 minutes with some serious, unfounded, and baseless charges, that "we were making Mrs. D insane, she was like a prisoner in the house, we promised her something before coming and changed the terms after her arrival". When confronted about this, Mrs. D flatly denied having written anything to Mr. P. We immediately started distrusting her and knew she was lying all the time. Right away I dashed a strong letter to Mr. P, telling him to not interfere, mind his own business and not act like a biased prosecutor believing all Mrs. D's lies.
Also, for the first six months we have tried to explain to Mrs. D. our insistence on certain very important things - give only fresh food to the baby, protect the baby under all circumstances, and to not keep the stove and the oven on when not in use, as we had known several cases in which this had led to the complete destruction of the homes due to fire. At least 20 times considering her health and her elder age, we just kept on reminding her in sweet language and kind tone. But with 2 or 3 serious events, we both lost our temper and had to severely reprimand her. I would like to give examples of a few of those serious events, which would have provoked any parent to get mad.
1.) Right at the peak winter time, when it is so cold that we all have to use 2 or 3 blankets to keep ourselves warm, Mrs. D was found using 4 blankets to cover herself, while the baby was made to sleep, with not even a single sheet covering her up. We found our baby lying next to her, shivering, unable to express herself. It was very distressing to see this lady protect herself and not the baby she had come from India to take care of. The first time we excused her, but this happened 4 times, as late as 2 weeks ago, when unexpectedly it got very cold in the middle of the night. We had told her that we she feels cold, the baby also feels cold. Her explanations was that she could not SEE that it was cold. Does one SEE cold, or FEEL cold?
2.) We have told Mrs. D to heat all the food before giving it to the baby, and also to wash any and all fruits and vegetables before serving it to anybody. Literally, we have reminded her about this 100 times and yet to avoid work, she was found giving stale food, and unwashed fruits carrying insecticides, to the baby, causing her to have a stomachache. We had also told her to heat up Ami's food, and check the temperature BEFORE giving it to her. Once I found, after at least 100 repeated reminders, she had heated up milk for the baby, nearly to the boiling point making steam very visible. I asked her if she had checked the temperature by pouring it on her wrist. She said she did, and I was extraordinarily upset, as she was about to give boiling milk to Ami, which made me raise my voice in anger. How does one expect anybody to stay calm and unmoved, if this lady even after reminders after reminders and questioning, is ready to feed boiling milk to ones child, right in front of the child's parents? No parents would stand for this.
Even now, we find this lady to be avoiding work at any cost, even if it means harming our child. Several times we have seen her not changing the baby's diaper, or cleaning her off properly, leading to serious diaper rash. It has nothing to do with her advanced age or her health - just her desire to do the bare minimum and talk big about the many various things she did for us. One day, as late as last week, she was found giving milk to the baby in a glass that was full of soapy water and detergent.
3.) Worst of all, once she dropped the baby from the crib, which could have resulted in some serious brain injury (fortunately it was just a minor swelling on her head) and then Mrs. D tells us that the baby is crying for nothing and that she did not fall. When we confronted her with blood, and injuries on the baby's body, she said she did not see it. Lies after lies!
I was so upset by everything that she has said and done, that I immediately asked Mrs. D to take THE FIRST AVAILABLE PLANE back home. I gave her back her passport, and return ticket and I booked her on a flight back to India on April 15, 1979. We canceled the birthday party that we had been planning for Mrs. D on Easter day, as well Mr. & Mrs. P's invitation to attend.
At this juncture, when she was told to pack up and go back to India, Mrs. D literally fell at our feet and begged us not to send her home, saying she would stay for 2 more years as previously agreed to, without any more problems.
I was very, VERY hesitant to reverse my stand, and change my decision as I saw great danger in keeping this NASTY woman at our home and give the care and custody of our precious little Ami to her.
But seeing her begging, and what we thought was genuine repentance, I agreed to let her stay, and I told her that she had one more month to change her mind and leave for India, as her return ticket would expire on May 16, 1979. She stayed, but the problems have continued, and in retrospect, I think we should have sent her home right away. But now the situation has worsened to the point that we have terminated her employment, and have booked her on a flight back to India on August 6, 1980, and she will reach on the 9th or so.
Anyway, the above account will shed some light on the events and outcomes of this grave mistake I committed in letting Mrs. D stay beyond April 1979.
Thanks for your congratulations on the arrival of our son, who looks cute (believe it or not they say he looks like me - of course that does not translate into my being cute!!) He weighed 7 lbs 7 ozs. Ami is all excited about her baby brother, and contributes her own little effort in putting him to sleep by rocking his chair, and singing and kissing. She has taken it very well.
With love and regards to you both and to the kids.
Ever since I found this letter on Friday night, I have been so shocked I have had to read it SEVERAL times to comprehend it. I just cannot believe that a woman who, though I have NO concrete memories of, and yet have idolized in my mind, nearly all my life, is nothing like what pictured all these years.
It has just been such a startling and staggering discovery. All this time, I have at least subconsciously blaming my parents, for Mrs. D's leaving, and her sudden, abrupt departure, when they just did the absolute right thing in sending her away. Their ONLY fault, and thing they should have been blamed for was not firing that abusive, selfish hag the first time she showed her true colors!
3 days later, and I am still as stunned as I was on Friday night when I first found the letter.