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Monday, June 27, 2022

Against all odds: The mom who fought cancer and fell in love with the mountains

"My kids are my best friends. I have done a lot of trips with them, solo with each child and collectively with the three of them. It has been fabulous, and it is amazing even now."

Written by Prerna Mittra | New Delhi |
Updated: May 12, 2021 3:53:22 pm
Radhika Iyer Talati, mountaineering, mountaineer, motherhood, beating cancer, Radhika Iyer Talati mountaineer, Radhika Iyer Talati on her cancer journey, parenting, mother's day, indian express news"I tried my best to cope with situations I would want my kids to deal with later. There were times when I probably could not control situations my way, but I would say I consciously did try to be the role model." (Photo: PR handout)

She is an entrepreneur, a yogini, a mountaineer, philanthropist, and a parent. And while all of these roles can potentially overwhelm a person, Radhika Iyer Talati — the founder of Beauty by Anahata — says she has absolutely no problem juggling responsibilities. The mother-of-three told Express Parenting on the occasion of Mother’s Day: “One of the most profound things that I have learnt all these years, is to take each moment as it comes. So while I do keep an eye on my long-term goals, I try my best to take it as it comes. That way, I feel I have done a lot more.”

In an email interaction, Talati opened up more about her life, sharing details about her trips to the mountains, her love for mountaineering, the relationship she shares with her children, and how she fought cancer twice, among other things.


You are an entrepreneur, a yogini, a mountaineer and a philanthropist — how do you balance so many roles and juggle so many responsibilities?

There really is no pressure on accommodating too many things at the same time, when you practise living in the present. I feel you become more available and more aware of all that happens around you. In every way, this is the state of calm that the wise talk about.

How old are your children?

Gourami is my oldest, and she is 25 now. Lavanya is 21, and Vedant is 18 years old.

Would you call yourself a strict parent, or a friendly one? Or a balance between the two?

I am a reasonably-balanced parent, I guess. While I am liberal and open-minded most of the time, I do enforce discipline when I need to. I pride myself on the fact that I have been able to find the right balance between being a permissive parent and an authoritative one over so many years. The key, I feel, is to be able to think like the kids, and spend quality time with them to understand them and their choices better. Then, there is no need to be either kind of parent; relationships with the children will naturally grow in a positive way.

Tell us about your love for mountaineering — when did it start? What drew you towards the mountains?

Ironically, it was [my] illnesses that elevated me and took me on a journey of self-realisation. My tryst with bad health bought me face-to-face with the magical Himalayas that I have frequented every single year post 2009, where I was sent to recuperate. I say this all the time, if it were not for cancer, there would not have been any mountaineering, I would not have become a yogini and my mind would never have opened up to higher possibilities.

How old were your kids when you fought cancer?

I had been battling bad health consistently: from chronic throat infections to being detected with hypo-thyroid, an unresolving eczema that tortured me, and several miscarriages that broke me. As a young mother — all of 31 — with three beautiful children aged six, four and one, it was an ordeal for me to consistently put up with these illnesses. It was also at this time that my menstruation cycle started giving me severe anxiety and my doctors told me that I suffered from severe adenomyosis, a condition that was later diagnosed as uterine cancer in its very primary stage; thank God for that.

Early diagnosis changed my game and expert gynecologists made it a lot easier. Later, when I was 36, my right breast was diagnosed with stage I cancer. My kids were 12, 10 and 7 at that time.

Like every other mother, my strength also really came from the will to be there for my kids no matter what.

You have taken many trips with your children. Tell us about the experiences.

My kids are my best friends, even though we make sure the mother in me and the children in them stay alive. I have done a lot of trips with them, solo with each child and collectively with the three of them. It has been fabulous, and it is amazing even now. We bond on a different level every time we are amid nature, whether we are trekking or walking through a forest, or simply spending time together on a beach or riverfront. Nature has a calming effect on our brains and in a world flooded by screens and social media content, taking the time to unplug and leave everything behind can do wonders for kids and your own development.

You have many passions; are your kids also following suit?

I think children, by and large, are passionate, a lot more than their parents. Their age, their exposure is a lot more. So yes, I feel they are very passionate about a lot more things. Even though I don’t think I can compare my passion to theirs, it’s definitely a fact that the next generation is a lot  more fickle-minded and distracted in all that they do.

What I feel as per my experience as a mother, is that they need to be pinned down and asked to finish one thing at a time. Passion, that way, can be encouraged to bring about a definite result. Once you can find what they like, you can take a stand and gently divert their activities around that one thing. One thing at a time will surely work both ways.

Do your kids also love the mountains?

They absolutely love the mountains, and thank God for that. We look forward to a Himalayan trip every year. Our bucket list includes summiting Mount Aconcagua, the Annapurna Range, Everest and the Alps. We have summited several Himalayan peaks and Mount Kilimanjaro so far.

As a parent, have you consciously tried to be a role model?

Vedic wisdom says, ‘Yatha raja tatha praja‘, meaning the clan will be what the king is.

I have just kept that value in line as I became a young mother. I tried my best to cope with situations I would want my kids to deal with later. There were times when I probably could not control situations my way, but I would say I consciously did try to be the role model.

What does fitness mean to you, and as a family, what are you doing to stay fit and healthy in the pandemic?

Fitness is being in a state of good health and well-being, according to me. More specifically, fitness allows me the ability to perform my day-to-day activities flawlessly. It means my physical body is in good shape, my mental abilities are sharp, I have enough cardio respiratory endurance, my body composition and metabolism is on point, and I am flexible in terms of body, mind and spirit.

I have been closely associated with fitness for over two decades now. The fact that I am a yoga practitioner for so many years, is enough to show what being fit means to me. More than ever before, we require to be fit physically, mentally and emotionally now. This pandemic has taught us the need to be stronger, kinder and even more tougher in every way. I have been practising yoga with my students and other members of my foundation diligently, conducting loads of free asana and meditation sessions regularly. I am trying to reach out to people so they may start to live a simpler, conscious and active life.

Any other skill you would want to learn next?

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I make it a point to learn one new skill every year. That’s how I learnt so much. Last year, I dedicated my time at home because of the lockdown, in upgrading my oratory skills and writing skills. The year before that, I learnt an advanced level of meditation. And before that, I learnt rock climbing in the Himalayas. This year, I wish to learn Spanish and increase my acumen in Sanskrit. You stagnate if you stop learning.

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