Tag Archives: mother

A Childhood Confession

Left on my own

 

An edited version was published by South Asian Parent on 9th May 2011.

I grew up with a nanny. She wasn’t exactly hired help. In reality, she was my father’s mashi (mother’s sister). I called her dida (grandmother). 

It did not start off as dida as my nanny. I was initially left at a crèche, but their callous ways of not having changed my nappy for hours horrified my parents into looking for other suitable caregivers. Many came in succession. There was this one woman who would tie me up to a table so that I wouldn’t crawl away. Let me tell you, that woman lost her job before she could blink and say “What the …?!”

Dida was a good option. She had taken care of my baba as a child. She loved spending time with me, despite my barbaric tantrums (another story for another day). My parents begged her to become my nanny.

So as the story goes, both my parents had demanding jobs. While my ma had an erratic schedule with her air hostess job at Indian Airlines (she would be gone for days, sometimes slipping away at 4 am in the morning for an early morning flight), my baba would toil away at an engineering firm in Calcutta until late in the evening. It was the late 80’s, and they wanted the best for their only child. I was often left alone with my dida and the maid servant.

 For the most part, I was a happy child. I was a popular kid at school, and had friends in our apartment building to distract myself with. I was pampered. Fed the best of everything to maintain my health (I was an underweight child). If I ever threw a tantrum and refused to eat, the maid and dida would get scolded. When baba went away on long tours across the globe, he always brought me the best of chocolates and toys. I remember when even before the hand held video games came to India, I had one at my disposal.

Once my sister was born (I was nearly six), Ma decided to get flexible hours. She gave up flying and became a ground staff, to be able to spend more time at home with her new baby.

I remember being faintly resentful that she spent all her time with my sister, who couldn’t even talk yet. Sometimes, I wondered why she had not done this when I was younger. I was jealously possessive of my mother’s time. But don’t get me wrong. She was an awesome mother. She would make time to sit with me and have inane conversations about my day. She would make me study under her supervision, especially Bengali, which I faltered at. Sometimes, she lost her temper because I couldn’t remember simple spellings. She would feed me herself on her off-days, and sometimes, we would watch a video together. Those are my happiest memories.

A snatched moment

The year I turned nine, baba was transferred to Dubai, and Ma decided to give up her job to come with us. Now, I always had Ma at home. When I woke up, it wasn’t the maid shaking me awake, but my mom. When I came home from school, there was a glass of sherbet waiting for me, made by ma. Life was what I had imagined it to be, having watched my friends and their housewife moms.

I wonder if as kids we ask too much of our parents. At nine, I did not know what a sacrifice it had been for my ma to give up her job. I had no idea how depressed she was in a new country, with no one to talk to. I suppose at some level, her guilt made her leave her job. I wonder if it would have been any different if she had always been a stay-at-home mom. I ask her often, why did you not spend more time with me when we were in Calcutta? Her answer never changes, “We wanted the best for you. Our jobs afforded a good life for you”. But why did you decide to change after my sister was born? She doesn’t answer that one. Instead, she deflects it by saying, “I am here now, naa?” I suppose I can understand that at some level. Yet, there are moments when I feel that I could have been happier with Ma by my side as a child. To have her croon me to sleep, as a baby.

Because isn’t that what parents are supposed to do? Especially mothers? Strangely, I never craved for my father’s time as much as I did hers, even though he was always busy or away as well. But my mother made up for than enough with her presence post age nine. I cannot remember not having my Ma around after moving to Dubai. Even now, she makes it a point to call me every day. I have to gently remind her that I am not a child anymore. But she prefers calling me to my sister. Or, so I would like to believe.

I don’t know if having had a nanny for the formative years of my life changed me for better or for worse. But I do know that if we had not left India when we did, I might have held a grudge all my life.

Photographs: Copyright Sanchari Sur

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Intent and Inspiration: Mallika Chopra’s Mantra to Life

I conducted this interview on June 18th at the ideaCity conference in Toronto. An edited version was published in The Weekender on July 2nd.

Mallika Chopra. Deepak Chopra’s daughter. Their names are almost synonymous. Almost.  But there is more to her than her father’s name.

Mallika Chopra and her daughters, Tara (left) and Leela, 2002

Mallika Chopra and her daughters, Tara (left) and Leela, 2002

Recently at the ideaCity conference held in Toronto (June 16th – June 18th), Mallika Chopra’s presentation talked about her inspiration from her family, her ‘intent’ blog (now, www.intent.com) and her journey from a girl in her twenties to a woman who quit her glamorous job at MTV Asia to find her true intent in life, as well as, the constant inspiration that she draws from her two daughters.

As Deepak Chopra’s daughter, she reminisces on stage about how Dr. Chopra taught her and her brother, Gotham, to set intentions for their lives on a daily basis. He urged them to say, “I am responsible for what I see, I choose the feelings I experience and set the goals I want to achieve. And everything that happens to me, I asked for, and receive as I have asked.”

She further divulges that it was her job at MTV Asia at the age of twenty-three that opened up her vision to the realization that the power of media can change the world. And voila, the germ for the idea of her intent blog was born. Co-founded with Gotham Chopra, Deepak Chopra and Shekhar Kapur, the blog asks people to post their intent for the day, an idea very similar to what her father cultivated in her and her brother at a very young age. When asked about the idea behind the blog, Chopra answers, “Basically we started writing. My whole family [is made up of] writers. We started blogging. It was really a hobby that took off and became something… The power of intention has been such a foundation in my life. It was actually a very slow process. I am a mother with two kids. I stayed at home with my kids. It kind of evolved over time. Overseeing is the power of social media to manifest change and it’s been more inspiring to see other people who have taken it on”. 

Despite being a successful spiritual guru in her own right (as many would agree), she is proud of being her father’s daughter, “I don’t mind being labeled as my father’s daughter. I am proud to be [Deepak Chopra’s daughter]. My brother and I have been blessed to be brought up in an environment that was surrounded by love and compassion versus an environment of hatred. I think we were very lucky. I think my father does great work. And he’s touched so many people which to me is an inspiration. Absolutely; we embrace it completely”. And, do you think your father’s fame has been key in your own fame? She laughs and answers, “Definitely, there’s no question about it”.

Mallika Chopra at ideaCity 2010

Mallika Chopra at ideaCity 2010

When asked about her mother’s almost non-existent mention, she clarifies that her mother has been (and is) “the complete rock and foundation for our family and our extended family”. Her absence from the media is a deliberate move on her part, as she “hates to be in the press and she… shuns it”. Chopra feels that this is “wonderful” as according to her, her “mother is the person in [her] family who has kept [them] all grounded”. Chopra adds that her mother “keeps us down to earth and not to take ourselves too seriously. She is the reason my dad is so successful because she made a lot of sacrifices”. The pride in her voice is perhaps a little more than when she talked about her father. In fact, being a mother herself has further changed Chopra’s life “on every aspect”. Not only did maternal joy make her a writer, but she believes that her “whole life is based on [her] children”.

And ten years down the line? She bursts out laughing and answers, “People keep asking me that question! I have to be honest… I talked a little bit [at my presentation] about how I found my voice when I became a mother. And, that’s been so transformative for me. I have always been interested in children and  children’s issues. So, I hope that in time I can become more of an advocate for children’s issues, because I see it through the lens of being a mother myself”. 

As a youth icon for today’s generation, Chopra has some sound advice for newbies aspiring to find their voice, “Frankly, I meandered and have done so many random and different things. There is a kind of fear of being on a path… It’s ok to take time and figure out who you are [and] what you want… Find something that you truly love to do and with that, you will find success.”

Photograph of Mallika Chopra at ideaCity 2010: Copyright Sanchari Sur

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Stolen Flowers: A Tale of Woe

I have a case of stolen flowers on my hands. Or, a stolen flower pot, as my almost-always-politically-correct father reminded me. They were gifted last Saturday. Not completely flowered yet. Teeny tiny buds of promise.

With love and care, my mother watered them last evening and hung them up out on our front porch.

That was yesterday.

This morning, they were gone. Just as suddenly as she had fallen in love with their innocent splendor; just that suddenly, she had been left broken-hearted.

With a mopey face, she wandered around all day today, mourning her lost children.

And, here I wonder, which evil child of Satan was cruel enough to steal a bunch of flowers?! I agree that we are in the middle of a recession. That we have to face high gas prices. That jobs are not aplenty. But stealing a flower pot in the middle of the night is perhaps a characteristic that can be attributed to one without a conscience. 

I hope, Monsieur/Mademoiselle Thief (Yes, that is exactly what you are. A goddamn thief), that you may never be content for denying my mother a simple joy that had her smiling yesterday. I hope that you can’t sleep at night because you are haunted by the screams of the tiny lives that you have separated from their rightful owner. I hope that you never die a happy person.

 

And, if a person is capable of stealing flowers, what else are they capable of?

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