Q.1) Why did you decide to write a book on parenting? How much of it is your own experiences and how much of it is what you observe around?
As a writer you often seek inspiration and material from around you and since at this point in my life, my children and my dogs are constantly around me and occupy maximum mind space in my cranium, I ended up writing about them. If I was a botanist instead of being a mother I might have written about acacia trees and tulips, who knows?!
Q.2) In the last few years there have been guide books and ‘how to do it’ books on parenting. How is this one different?
While I too went through my fair share of reading books on parenting, some lucid, some bizarre, I found them a bit tedious and self-righteous after a little while. I think self help books often lead to self loathing. wo chapters later I would close the book because I was left feeling inadequate.
What I set out to write was my own experience as a girl who has always only had to think about her career, the firmness of her abs (or not) and what dress she would wear to the next soiree. When motherhood happened, having to think about a baby was a perplexing task because one had not conditioned ones mind to be responsible for another life form. I know you have nine months to prepare for motherhood but I think I was hoping for some fairy godmother to show up at the end of my third trimester and move into my house till the kid left for college.
So well, this book is my journey as a mother, warts and all, with the highs and the lows, the agonies and the ecstasies of it all. I think this might be a ‘what not to’ rather than a ‘what to do’ book.
Q.3) How do you address the challenges of modern parenting in the book?
After spending 12 years as a hands-on mother, and at the risk of sounding clichéd, I can finally say that to be a good parent ‘Love and a little authority is all you need.’ The problem with most of us today is that we are confused about what we want. The typical dilemmas that confront women today are how much of ourselves do we to give to our work, our kids, our spouses and our fitness. It isn’t easy to do it all, in fact it is impossible. Body of Jlo, heart of Florence Nightingale, career of Indira Nooyi, a marriage like Brangelina. It is so overwhelming. Since we are trying to be aces at everything, our inner instinct is lying suppressed somewhere within us leaving us feeling inadequate and maybe even stifled.
I don’t think our mothers ever had to read self-help books. They raised us by instinct and even though we got whacked occasionally and lessons in child psychology were not applied to our upbringing the way it is being done today, most of us have turned out fine. I know some of us are in politics and some of us have become Arnab Goswami, but the rest of us are doing alright are we not?
I think our moms did well because they had faith in themselves whereas we are trying to be so many things because of the pressure the media puts on us that we are burning the candle on both ends.
I would call my parents all the time for advise about how to deal with the various challenges that came my way as a mum. Being a mum for the first time was like learning to fly a plane in a thermal suit, almost as complicated if not more.
So yes I have written about my own experience of pregnancy hormones and the greater challenge once the baby arrived and the hormones receded leaving me all blue and dotty. I have written about school admissions and birthday parties, sex education, traveling with loud children, crushes, teaching the value for money and learning to deal with my own guilt as a mother. However none of this is told in a preachy way with morals and lessons. In fact I was surprised to hear that some single 24 year olds who recently read my book actually enjoyed it because it isn’t really a mommy book. It is a ‘let’s-laugh-at-ourselves’ kind of a book. I am just telling you the truth in a quick and direct way and maybe that is what people like.
Q.4) Is your writing inspired by any of your readings?
I believe it is. We develop a style of expressing ourselves basis what we grow up reading. I grew up reading a variety of literary authors but I enjoed the wit and humour of PG Wodehouse, Nick Hornby, Sue Townsend, Bill Bryson, Oscar Wilde and Helen Fielding immensely.
Q.5) Is there any message that you want to share through the book?
I did not set out to write a book with a message but yes I have written a quote by Lao Tzu which my father had made the anthem of his life and one that he wanted his kids to embrace as their life’s philosophy.
Be the last. Move in this world as if you are not. Remain unknown. Don’t be competitive, don’t try to prove your worth. There is no need. Remain useless and enjoy.I know this sounds facile, but if you look at the deeper meaning, you will realize that this is the only way to be content.
So I think the one thing that I am trying to say through the book is that let us do our best without feeling disappointed with our imperfections. And that there is more than one kind of a good mother so let us not keep comparing ourselves with other mums and feel inadequate. To sum it up,
‘Be yourself, trust yourself, trust your kids, trust life, don’t compete, there is no need.’
Q.6) How have your experiences as a mother helped you in recognizing the right issues and addressing them?
Oh I have no issues to address. My issues were with myself. Constantly worrying about my children or fearing that I will not know how to be an efficient mother when I could not keep even my plants alive, but I have addressed these issues after I became a Buddhist.
Q.7) Would you look at it as a series on motherhood?
The book has been received well and I don’t know what the future holds, but let me put it this way, if Hay House asked me to do another book after this, I would not say no.