Mother’s Day 2019: Meet Falguni Shah aka Falu Shah, a Grammy nominated Indian singer. She has performed for former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama apart from collaborating with popular musicians like Ricky Martin and A R Rahman. Her latest album Falu’s Bazaar is for children and draws inspiration from her seven-year-old son Nishaad, who she is raising in the US after having moved there in the year 2000. Falu spoke to Express Parenting about her life as a mother in the West.
How was Falu’s Bazaar conceptualised?
I created this album when my five-year-old son came home from school with questions like, “Why is our food yellow?”, or “Why do we speak a different language at school?”, to “Why do we count our numbers differently?” I turned to music as the best way to answer all his questions and also help him have an identity as an Indian American child. This is how Falu’s Bazaar was born.
In what way does the album draw inspiration from your son?
His curiosity to know about himself and his struggle with assimilating into American society as an Indian child inspired me to write this album.
What is it like raising an Indian origin boy in the West?
Raising an Indian origin boy in the West comes with its own struggle. As a mother, I’m always asking myself, “Am I doing the right thing? Should I be teaching him our Indian values and give him his identity or should I just raise him straight up as an American kid?” As a mom, I am always torn between all of these questions but most often, my heart says to raise him as an Indian American child–so I simply follow my heart.
What kind of parenting challenges do you face in the West or otherwise?
I feel parenting is just hard universally. Raising a child is such a huge responsibility. One wrong move and you feel like you’re sending him or her in the wrong direction. In the West, there is every opportunity and so much to choose from, it’s hard not to get overwhelmed and wonder which direction to send your child in.
How do you ensure your son stays connected to his Indian identity?
By exposing him more and more to Indian culture. For instance, every Saturday we take him to Bal Vihaar, a children’s school associated by Chinmaya Mission to learn about Hinduism and Gita. We go to satsangs and the temple regularly, and my mom does pooja every day in our house so he can learn about the beautiful rituals that are part of our culture. As a prayer every night, he recites Sanskrit shlokas before sleeping. We are trying to connect him with his Indian identity.
Have you had to explain racism to your son?
He is beginning to learn about it in school as part of Social Studies. They just learned about American segregation in their history class and as a seven-year-old, sometimes I think it’s hard to understand why humans are treated so differently because of their skin colour. But it’s so important, and I know these are the conversations we need to have with our children to prepare them for the future and instill openness and tolerance.
How do you ensure your son grows up to be sensitive to gender rights? How do you teach him?
He is just beginning to understand the difference between a girl and a boy and how their bodies are different. We are just starting to discuss how both genders are equal and that they need to be respected equally.
What activities do you enjoy together?
We enjoy playing in the park and we indulge in lots of sports together. We play ping pong, badminton, swim together, go for nature walks and long car drives where we listen to music together. We read to him and take him to museums a lot. He loves dinosaurs so we are always finding ourselves in bookstores and museums.
As a working mother, how difficult is it to balance parenting and professional life?
I’m still looking for a balance every day. It’s an ongoing struggle that comes to me with massive guilt. Being a mom is hard enough, let alone being a musician who tours and is in and out of studios while being a wife, daughter, and daughter-in-law. It all seems so hard, but somehow I try to manage it and everyday I try to think of ways to do it better.
Your message for other parents.
Parenting is a beautiful blessing–let’s make the best of it.
What other projects are you working on?
I’m making another album which draws from Indian and American sounds and musically brings both cultures together.