Updated: January 31, 2019 10:48:18 am
By Shilpi Madan
Amrita Arora is a hands-on mom. Spiffy, smashing, svelte. “I hardly remember what life was like before I became a mother,” she laughs as we settle into an informal chat. She recounts having started work at the age of 16, with modelling assignments, commercials, VJ-ing, and then starring in blockbusters like Kambakkht Ishq and Golmaal Returns. “Now I have my own time to do what I want and my own space to be able to take things easy,” she says with a smile. Excerpts from the conversation:
So Azaan is nine, and Rayaan, six. Have you got a breather now?
They still need a great deal of attention. It is a different kind of attention at every age. It is the same Indian saga everywhere (laughs), as your child grows into a teenager and beyond. You worry about their food intake, where they are…
But things are much more peaceful now that they are older?
Absolutely. Their day is more structured, with school and classes as they pursue other interests as well in football, dance, etc.
Are there any issues of sibling rivalry?
Sibling revelry is more like it. We are busy celebrating milestones, with both vying for attention as their emotional quotient gets set while they grow up.
You always wanted to have two kids…
Absolutely. I think siblings are great. My elder sister Malaika (Arora) and I are each other’s heartbeat even today.
So are the cousins close?
Oh yes. Malaika’s son Arhaan is a gem. Azaan idolises him, and is in full awe of him (laughs). So they are constantly swapping stories, playing on PS4 when they meet, which is very often. Arhaan is very protective about Azaan and Rayaan.
And what about their relationship with the grandparents?
The children love spending time with both sets of grandparents. They enjoy sleepovers at their place, are so comfortable with them. It is a warm bond; they have been born into it as both Shakeel and I come from close-knit families.
Be honest. Did you ever wish for a baby girl?
Well! See, when Arhaan was born, all of us were fussing over him as he was the first baby in the family. So I learnt how to take care of a boy. When I was pregnant for the first time, then I only wanted a healthy baby. Azaan was born. The second time around, yes, I did secretly hope for a girl who would have a little bit of me and Malaika. A little bit of me somewhere did yearn for a baby girl.
So is baby number three under production?
Noooo! Honestly, three years back, Shakeel and I went through that phase, when Azaan and Rayaan began to get busy with their school routines and started making friends, got a little busier with attending birthday parties and play dates. But that fleeting moment passed. I am out of the baby zone now.
Are you calmer now, with Rayaan, than you were when you had only Azaan?
Honestly, yes! Though my husband Shakeel often chides me saying that I am not the only mother in the world, but that is how I am, a bit overprotective, a little bit of a tiger mom. I need to know where my kids are all the time and what they are doing.
So what is your main concern right now?
Many. To expose my children to books, creative arts, travel…and help them identify their own areas of interest. The younger one loves reading and art, the older one leans often towards the iPad and regulating that makes me the bad guy often!
What is that one important aspect you want your kids to grow up with?
I want them to be humble, have a sense of normalcy in their lives, like everyone else. No haughtiness. They need to be polite with everyone, from the house help to the driver.
Motherhood for you?
It has been a learning experience so far—an emotionally charged, beautiful, exciting experience that is consuming me, and I am enjoying it. I have learnt to be patient and follow my own instincts. I strongly believe that no book, workshop, video, person can teach you anything about motherhood. You need to make your own mistakes and learn from them, while enjoying and living out the experience.
Is Shakeel a hands-on dad?
Absolutely. He is fabulous with the kids. We are pretty much on the same page as far as bringing them up is concerned. Though honestly, I think he tends to melt more easily when Azaan and Rayaan cajole and wheedle.
You have emerged into this lean, lithe yummy mommy. You used to be so tomboyish earlier. What powered this shift?
Well, at home, the three boys outnumber me. Call it an honest admission, but even I need to revel in my femininity. That makes me want to dress up and create my own look before I step out. I enjoy this. I feel I have to re-establish and assert my feminine glow, as at home I am busy wrestling, pummelling as I am “one of the boys”.
And you are looking like a million bucks. Any specific fitness routine?
Nothing extraordinary. Just good, clean, healthy eating with plenty of cardio, strength and functional training at the gymnasium, without cutting back on my life. I eat what I want, when I want and then pay the price by burning it off (laughs). That is pretty much the breakdown.
So what is the best parenting tip that your mom Joyce has given you?
Never try to change yourself. Be true to yourself and the rest will take care of itself. Do what comes naturally to you.
What is that one thing you always tell your kids?
That whatever happens, good, bad or ugly, they must never hide things from me and Shakeel. We will deal with it together as a family.
What do both of you enjoy as parents?
We love watching the boys interact, reading the menu, figuring out their food preferences when we take them out, which we do very often now as they are older. We travel aplenty and the boys are conditioned to zip around as our idea of a vacation is not to lounge around in the hotel room but to go out and explore. Also, their innocence and curiosity is an eye-opener for us, too. Kids teach you so many things as well.
What do the boys look forward to?
Friday nights, as they get an extension on their bedtime. Else it is 8 pm on weekdays.
How have you changed intrinsically?
You know, motherhood has taught me to love unconditionally. That is the biggest change that has claimed me. Now I know what it means to love unconditionally.
You celebrate every festival at home. That is brilliant.
Yes, from Diwali to Eid to Christmas to Onam to Ganapati pooja…My father is a Hindu, my mother is a South Indian Christian, Shakeel is a Muslim. I feel it is very important for the children of a mixed marriage to understand the elements of all cultures and develop respect for them. As a result, we celebrate every festival with equal fervour. With sparkling lights and firecrackers on Diwali to grand feasts on Eid to frequent visits to the revered Mount Mary Church (in Bandra where we stay) and lighting up a fabulous Christmas tree and celebrating all festivals with cousins and friends.
Azaan and Rayaan love wearing their pathan suits, their kurta pyjamas, their tuxedos….they love dressing up on festive occasions and look forward to it. Now with the family movie Love Yatri out, the dandiya celebrations get a special twist.
So what is the best part about being a mom?
That I am the first woman in their lives! (laughs) And yes, I am happy I chose to have my kids when I did. Not that there was big planning involved, but I am glad that I had them in good time, not when I was younger. I am more anchored now, love spending time with them and creating indelible memories.
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