Esha Deol On Idlis, Motherly Instinct And Beyond
In her debut book Amma Mia, Bollywood actress Esha Deol delves deep into different aspects of motherhood. She shares with ParentCircle what she has learnt so far. Read on to know what they are!
By Monali Bordoloi
“Having a child is one of the most beautiful experiences. Right now, my daughters and I are inseparable, and I want it this way for the longest time.” - Esha Deol
These lines make it evident that Bollywood actor Esha Deol is enjoying playing her ‘role’ as a mother to the hilt.
From an actor to a mother
Esha made her entry into the film industry with a bang. As the daughter of film legends Dharmendra and Hema Malini, Esha is known for movies such as Koi Mere Dil Se Poochhe, Tell Me O Khudaa, No Entry, Yuva (Mani Ratnam directed Aaytha Ezhuthu in Tamil) and Kaal. Esha is also an accomplished Odissi dancer and has performed on stage on numerous occasions. Several films and shows later, she is now a doting mom to her little munchkins, Radhya and Miraya.
Published by Penguin Random House India, Esha’s debut book Amma Mia deals with topics close to every mom’s heart. The book imparts valuable advice on handling toddlers, useful parenting tips, stories, and simple, delicious recipes for children.
As she savours every moment of raising her two daughters with her husband Bharat Thakhtani, we asked Esha about three biggest takeaways from her journey as a mother that she would like to share with new moms.
This is what she says, “First, let your child develop their own personality. Do not force them to learn or do something that they are not inclined to.
Secondly, introduce a lot of variety in the food that you give your child. This way they will look forward to eating happily rather than being forced to eat the same thing repeatedly.
The third takeaway is to go by your motherly instinct when it comes to your kid. I don’t think there is anything more accurate than a mother’s instinct,” says Esha.
With ParentCircle she candidly talks about feeding picky eaters, getting back to shape post delivery, passing on the tradition of dance to her daughters and parenting in general.
Excerpts from the interview:
1. How did the idea of the book Amma Mia take shape? Do you have a favourite chapter?
The book Amma Mia is close to my heart. Every chapter in the book is based on my personal experiences or something that I would like other fellow mothers to know.
But, if you insist, it would be the chapter where I describe my experience of giving birth to my daughter and the first-time experiences that I have gone through after that.
This book has two fun chapters - Little Miss Deol and the Missing Idlis. These are incidents from my childhood and about the food I had as a kid. In fact, each chapter in the book has information that moms can use. This book is a labour of love and the entire book was written keeping in mind needs of new moms.
First-time mothers undergo a whole range of emotions during the first year. This could prove overwhelming for many. I was one of them but I was able to overcome these emotions beautifully. Of course, there are lot of hurdles on the way! Like me, there are so many other women out there who feel helpless coping with those emotions.
So, this book aims to act as a guide, a helping hand, a best friend to a new mother who needs guidance during the initial first few months.
The book Amma Mia has some interesting recipes as well, that were created and made at home for my daughter when she was making the transition from liquids to mashed foods and solid. It has a fantastic compilation of such home-made recipes. These days, there are so many sources of information for new moms, the net being one of them, but I feel the best way to gather information for a mom would be through a book. There was no other way I could have expressed all these in one go. It took me one and a half years to finish the book, but it was worth the effort and I thoroughly enjoyed the process of writing.
2. The name of the book Amma Mia sounds interesting. What is the story behind it?
My elder daughter Radhya calls me Amma. Miraya is slowly developing her speech and reacts to me when we say the word Amma. I grew up with a huge south Indian influence on me as a person and, of course, it is trickling down from me to my daughters now. So, Amma comes from there. I have a dear friend, Ram Kamal, who directed me in his film Cakewalk. He is also an author. He suggested that we should name the book as Amma Mia and I immediately loved it and I just said that I couldn’t think of anything better than the title Amma Mia. I am happy that it has been appreciated everywhere.
3. Your thoughts on postpartum blues...
I do not think we should look at postpartum blues as something to hide. Every second or third woman faces it after pregnancy. More people should be aware of the condition and it should be openly addressed and spoken about.
4. Did you find it difficult to embrace your post-pregnancy self?
I do not get affected by negative comments nor am I a big follower of fashion trends. I am comfortable in my own skin and I go by what I feel good and comfortable in.
After my first delivery, I bounced back within a couple of months. In fact, I had a dance performance lined up just five months after my delivery. I challenged myself that I had to get into my Odissi dance costume and I didn’t want to alter it. So, I worked hard towards it. It was comparatively easy to achieve.
However, the second time around, I am still working on it. It is not so easy to bounce back like I did after my first pregnancy. But I am not giving up and working towards it.
By the grace of God, I have good genes. Also, since I have been working out for many years, that muscle memory has stayed in my body. If you are active physically, it is easier to bounce back after pregnancy.
5. What does Radhya and Miraya mean? Any story behind choosing these beautiful names?
Radhya means ‘to be worshipped’. When Lord Krishna is worshipped as a partner of Radha, he is also known as Radhya. Radhya is another variant of Radha. And Miraya, I think, is a modern take on Meera. It also means, devotee of Lord Krishna.
I am a proud Indian and loves Indian culture, so I was keen on having authentic Indian names for my children. I don’t prefer new age baby names; I am not from that school of thought. So, this is the best I could think of. And they both go beautifully well, Radhya and Miraya.
6. Are they similar or different from each other?
My youngest one, Miraya is just nine months. She is a bubbly kid who can’t sit on my lap for more than a minute – a trait, I feel, she has inherited from my husband Bharat. Both are full of energy.
Even at this age, Miraya is very particular about her feeding time. She doesn’t know how to read the clock, but she knows the exact time for her feed. If it is not given at that time, she will throw a fuss.
Radhya is a very strong personality. She is extremely particular about her things. She loves to clean up after she plays, she is very particular about cleanliness, that comes from me I would say!
7. Which quality of your own sibling relationship with Ahana would you like Radhya and Miraya to have?
You know, Ahana and I are both very similar and strong-headed personalities. We have had our fair share of clashes while growing up. Since both of us have strong opinions, it was often a case of my way or the highway. At the same time, we both are extremely protective about each other. During school, I used to take care of her as she is my younger sister. If someone tried to bully her or said something, later, they had to face me. She is also extremely protective about me.
I think it is so beautiful to have a sister while growing up. Though we had a lot of friends of our own, we had each other at home, to fight with, to play with, to do mischief with. You know, we were partners in crime for a very long time and I think sisters always bond that way. It is not just about me and Ahana. I think all those who have sisters know this, you are lucky because you have a best friend at home.
Now, we make it a point to meet each other at least once a week along with our kids and I hope Radhya and Miraya grow up to be the same way.
8. Do you have to handle fights or tantrums of your kids in public?
Of course, my kids love to throw tantrums, especially on flights. That is the time when you are restless, you can’t go elsewhere, you can’t do anything.
9. Do you feel judged as a mom or do you feel judged more as Esha Deol being mom? Does the celebrity status make a difference?
I don’t let it affect me. I mean, there is a section of people who probably look at me that way, but I don’t look at anything that way. I am a regular mother to my two kids and when you become a mother, you are just a mother, you need to forget about everything else. When you are with your kids, taking care of them should be your only focus.
10. Feeding a child is a huge issue for mothers. Would you like to share any stories around eating habits and how you handle that?
Feeding a child is a lovely experience that every parent goes through with their child. To get your child to eat is a big task and my book talks about getting your kid to love food. It has been a journey with food, my elder one and me. Thankfully, my younger one is still into mashed food!
The older they grow, the more tough it gets to introduce variety of food I feel. I am someone who has introduced varieties of food to them, even different cuisines. I believe, they should try out everything, because if they eat the same food every day, it becomes monotonous and they get bored of it.
In our childhood, we used to have idlis every day for breakfast. I was so bored of idlis that I couldn't stand the sight of it. I do not want the same to happen to my kids and I want them to enjoy a variety of food. Hence, I have introduced a variety, and I feel they are able to eat better.
11. Tell us about life after kids, your thoughts on that...
I think life after kids is beautiful, a new start for any woman. It’s a new life given to you as you have a little someone to look after and you are responsible for them. There is so much to look forward to after having children of your own.
Of course, when you are unmarried or do not have kids, you have different priorities. However, raising kids should not mean sacrificing your career. There is something called prioritising your time.
I started working in the industry, from the age of 18. When you are carefree, you can become a workaholic, working almost 24 hours around the clock for a very long time. Today, I can’t do that. I have two babies to look after, I have a husband, and they are my responsibility and I chose to have it that way.
But of course, I don’t let my career take a backseat either. I choose projects that I can devote time to. So, one must prioritise and choose things that are suitable to your lifestyle.
12. How important is ‘me time’ for you and what do you do during this time?
Well, these days, me time for me is me and my mini-me, Radhya. I don’t get exclusive ‘me time’ anymore. Only when she is taking her afternoon nap, I get my me time, but that’s when I do my work meetings. So, there is not much me time at present and I like it that way because I don’t like to be by all by myself. I like to be around people all the time. I like it that I am with my kids all the time. When I am not with my kids, I am doing my work meetings and doing something creative about my day.
13. You are as passionate about dance like your mother. So how do you get time to practise with two little daughters?
When I had Radhya, I had a couple of shows back to back, which I had already committed to. Luckily for me, we have our dance rehearsal hall at home, so for me it’s pretty easy. Usually, we rehearse from 4 p.m. to 9 in the night, so whenever I have my portion to rehearse, I give it at least 2-3 hours of my time. My eldest daughter loves to sit and watch me doing rehearsals. She is friendly with all my dance troupe members; they adore her too. I really enjoy going for rehearsals. It is something that keeps my mind, body and soul aligned.
14. Do you want your daughters to take on dance?
Well, I think they might automatically take it up because I grew up seeing my mother doing rehearsals so often at home and I automatically took to dancing. I think the same might happen here.
But I am definitely not going to force them to learn anything or join film industry. It’s their choice. So, I am just going to let them observe and see, and will guide them accordingly.
15. How do you all spend time as a family together? Any special family ritual you would like to share with us?
Most of our family times are over meals, you know. It’s always on the dining table we gather and enjoy food together. A lot of conversations happen over the dining table, so I think it is so important to share at least one meal a day with the entire family. That’s when everyone opens up, everyone talks about their day and share experiences.
16. How are Hema Malini and Dharmendra as grandparents?
They are amazing as parents and now, great as grandparents. They are enjoying having grandchildren as they are re-living the moments when we were kids. They are crazy about their grandchildren.
While we were young, they were strict parents and I am happy about it because there is a certain amount of discipline that a child needs while growing up. We were grounded from the beginning. We were never air-headed and the credit goes to my parents for that.
About the author:
Written by Monali Bordoloi on 20 May 2020.
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