By Zofeen Maqsood
Shveta Salve, the fiery actress who once made her debut in the hit 1999 TV show Hip, Hip, Hurray, has come a long way since playing a sweet schoolgirl. Today, she is upbeat about her soon-to-be three-year-old starting pre-school instead! The highlight of her day, she tells us, is taking her daughter Arya every morning to school in Goa, as they cross beaches and farms, spotting cows, goats and chickens together.
Salve, married to entrepreneur Hermit Sethi, who has been shuttling between Mumbai and Goa ever since she had her baby, believes it has been the best choice ever. She says, “My parents live in Goa, so while pregnant, it was natural for me to spend long periods here. And once the baby came along, I realised that giving my child a healthier, cleaner environment was just as important. Today, I live and work both in Goa and Mumbai and while my daughter is still young I am trying to give her the best of both worlds.”
Never one to slow down, Shveta despite being a hands-on mom also recently opened her dream restaurant called The Burger Factory in Goa. But after a hectic day looking after the operations and management of her eatery, she finds time to be a beach bum with her baby and spend some time soaking up nature.
On shutting the trolls
And while one would expect people to admire Shveta for successfully managing being a model, mom and an entrepreneur, while also finding time to let her hair down; the world of social media brings out the ugly side too. Recently, Shveta was trolled when she posted pictures of herself, holding a glass of wine and smoking on what she called her off-day. Never the one to shy from calling a spade a spade, Shveta powerfully got back to her trolls and posted a thought-provoking reply on how quickly some people can label women as bad moms. On why she thought it was important to shut the trolls, Shveta says, “I understand that as someone in public eye, we are often subjected to scrutiny. But I thought it was important to address this issue not only because it was getting deeply personal as random people were deciding that I was a bad mom but also because it was reflective of how the society expects moms to be.” She questions, “Isn’t a mom a normal human being who likes to drink or smoke? Why should one try to portray an alternate image?” But does she think that her honest social media posts open her to a barrage of conjecture? She answers, “Whatever I put on social media is the real me. There is no pretence and I don’t think anything should change once you are a mom. As a woman, why should I be questioned on what I do as a mother?”
She adds, “While I do not recommend that all women must answer back all of the time but sometimes it becomes important to speak and let the world know that we are best aware of our responsibilities and no one has the right to question us. Just as the me-too movement, moms should also speak up when they feel it is necessary to do so.”
On the constant scrutiny
Any new mom would find it flattering to get compliments on her fit body. But ask Salve and she admits that while she gets a lot of attention for her toned body, it perturbs her to think that women are forever scrutinised and questioned. She says, “If a woman does not shed her post-baby fat, she is body-shamed. If she looks fit and sexy people are again curious about how she does it. My problem is, why can’t women be left to do their own thing? Why should they be expected to explain everything?”
She adds, “The stream of questions just seems to be changing with every phase. When I was pregnant, I led a very active lifestyle. I scuba-dived, I snorkelled and I proudly posed in my baby bump. Back then, I was asked why I was not taking it slow. Why was I showing off my bump?”
Salve adds, “I was doing what my body told me to do and no one should assume or expect me to lead my life a certain way.”
The root of the problem, Salve believes, is the fact that people think it is okay to question women. She says, “As a woman, you are constantly asked to explain everything from your career choices to your ambition to your dressing and when you become a mom, the questions just multiply. From why you chose a C-section to why you are not large enough during pregnancy, the mindless scrutiny never stops.”
Salve admits that as a new mom she is learning many things and while patience and letting go are important lessons she has learnt along the way, she also feels that “sometimes it is just as important to speak to drop the curtain!”