How has your second pregnancy been different from the first?
The times are completely different; you can’t compare the two pregnancies. Now, I can’t go out and meet my friends, nor can I see my family in London; my mum can’t fly down here to be with me, and you know, every girl wants their mother around when they are pregnant. It is a very difficult time for everyone, but especially for pregnant women because we are already dealing with so many changes internally. We can’t even take vaccines, so we need to be extra careful. Additionally, there’s so much negativity around; I honestly don’t even watch the news. Of course, one cannot blind themselves to reality but it is important to keep your mind off things. Luckily, I have a daughter who is all the entertainment I need.
It is very important to have a good support system at home. There is not enough emphasis on the role of a husband in a wife’s pregnancy. They don’t understand what a woman is going through and don’t know how to deal with it, so they argue and retaliate. As a man, your job is to buckle up, be quiet, and deal with it. It is an issue that should be addressed because when a woman doesn’t get that kind of support from her own family, it gets harder for her. A lot of my friends go through this.
How supportive has Harbhajan been now that he can be around more during the lockdown?
I have not left the house for a year-and-a-half now. Harbhajan is here now and he’s looking after Hinaya, he shares that load. This being my last month of pregnancy, I need extra help because my energy levels are very, very low.
Was there any paranoia when you found out about the pregnancy amidst the Covid outbreak?
When I found out that I was pregnant, the first wave was receding and the fear caused due to the virus was fading too. There was no paranoia associated with the news. We were all very happy; it was only around March this year that the second wave began. But it was good to spend this time at home, rest and relax, and look after my daughter.
What was Hinaya’s reaction to the good news?
She’s at an age where she understands a lot. She’s excited and is looking forward to the baby. For the kids, it is more like a toy. I think she will be a very good and caring elder sister. Girls are maternal ever since they are born and it is also evident in the way she is with her dolls–feeding and clothing them.
Is she hoping for a brother or sister?
For her, the fact that she will be getting a baby to play with is enough (laughs).
You recently shared videos informing fans about pregnancy dos and don’ts…
A lot of pregnant women kept messaging me, asking for tips to stay fit during the lockdown as no one could step out. I realised not many have access to online trainers who could show them some easy steps that would help them stay active without any harm to the baby. So, I decided to put out some videos to tell them what they can do. I am not a certified yoga practitioner, so, I didn’t make any claims, but this is just my way of connecting with women who are going through the same things I am. All the asanas and pranayama I showed in the video are beginners’ level.
How has motherhood changed you?
Being a mother changes everyone but unless you go through it, you won’t understand. You learn patience, living for someone else–your things and times aren’t yours anymore–your needs and wants become secondary and theirs come first. The best part is you do all of this with a smile and wouldn’t have it any other way. I remember how, after Hinaya’s birth, I didn’t want to go back to work because I didn’t want to miss a single milestone. It’s the only relationship so pure that you laugh when they laugh, cry when they cry, and hurt when they hurt. Motherhood has given me so much perspective in life. My life is for her; I love being her mother. It’s the best role I have ever played. I don’t remember the last time I had a late night. Motherhood also teaches you a lot of patience; if you start getting annoyed the way you used to, how will you teach your children to be any better?
Has your style of parenting changed too over the years?
Yes, the first time around, there was a lot of anxiety. As an expectant mother, you want to provide everything for your child which leads to constant doubts. So you read up, ask your friends, ask your mother–all to figure out what to expect. But the moment you have your first child, you realise you have got this. The second time around, the worries are different. Now you know how to bring up a child but you want to ensure that your focus doesn’t shift away from your firstborn. The baby doesn’t want anything else than food and a nappy change; but your other child understands everything.
Are you worried that she, like most kids her age now, isn’t getting to be as social as they should be?
It’s such a sad time for kids. We have travelled, celebrated festivals with family, gone on vacations, stepped out to play, so, for us, the pandemic meant a stop to that. But their lives are just starting and they have been denied all of it. Humans are social creatures and need to interact with other kids and humans. Now, the kids are not learning that. They are playing, studying, and eating all by themselves. They actually don’t know what they are missing out on, so they go about their lives as usual. For them, schools are online; they will find it weird when they will have to go to school. The one thing she does miss, however, is going swimming; she is such a water baby!
Do you and Harbhajan discuss your children’s futures and what you would want them to do?
We can’t force our dreams and ambitions on our children; all we can do is give them a good education. For my mother, to let me come down to Mumbai from the UK, when I was all of 19, must have been difficult. But she let me fly. I’ll be the same to my children.
Does Hinaya recognise you both when she sees you on TV?
Yes, she gets so excited seeing her father on screen, and goes, ‘Papa, papa, papa’. She loves cricket and plays with her papa whenever he is home. She also is very happy when she sees me on screen. Then her only question is why isn’t she on TV (laughs). She wants to do everything we do.
As celebrity parents, do you discuss the paparazzi culture and how to keep your kids away from it?
We try to keep Hinaya away from the public eye as much as possible. For the first three months after her birth, I was in London so no one saw her. I returned and was in Punjab for some time. Her first public appearance was when she was a five-month-old and we had gone to the Golden Temple; it was a scary experience for her because people crowded around us. As parents, we don’t want that. Even on social media, I don’t post every day. But whenever I feel like sharing something with everyone, I don’t stop myself.
How has the lockdown been for your family?
Harbhajan and I had never lived like a married couple before the lockdown. He would be home for 10 days, then away at tournaments. This is the first time we have spent so much time together and my daughter absolutely loved having him around. It’s a secure environment for a child to have both parents at home together.
You have been married for five years now. How has life changed?
Earlier, all I had to do was take care of my house. Even when Harbhajan and I were together, we were not sharing the same things, so, everything was different. When you get married, your lives are integrated and it is a different ball game altogether. Marriage is not always easy; there are times when you have to give in. Especially during the lockdown, when you can’t go anywhere (laughs).
Do you feel the pressure to resume work considering your peers return to sets within months of delivering their babies?
Absolutely not, to each their own. It should be on a mother to decide when they want to return to work. I have grown up with a working mother. It’s about how you manage your life. I am lucky that I didn’t have to go to work right away. We are a family where one parent is travelling all the time; I need one parent to be at home with the child. If both parents are away, there’s no stability in a child’s life. I got offers to work but I didn’t feel pressured to take them up.
Do you feel compelled to lose the baby weight within a certain time because social media seems obsessed with recently-turned mothers flaunting a fabulous figure…
When I was pregnant with Hinaya, I didn’t have much guidance on what to eat. So I used to gorge on biscuits, chocolates, pastries, french fries. But with this baby, I never had any cravings. In fact, during the first few months, I didn’t feel like eating anything. But then my dietician gave me a fabulous plan on what to eat to provide good nutrition to the baby. I don’t subscribe to social media’s pressure to look fit within a certain amount of time. Everyone has a certain body type. You can’t see the bodies of celebs and aspire to look like them; they have as many as 20 people working on them to make them look the way they do. You have to give yourself time and let your body tell you when it is ready. Of course, you must have a well-balanced diet and stay active. I will bounce back when the time is right.
Are you happy with the way your career panned out?
I came down to Mumbai to make a career in acting when I was 19. It wasn’t a struggle for me to land projects. My debut film released when I was 22 but as soon as that happened, rumours of my impending wedding with Harbhajan had started doing the rounds. Though we got married eight years later, everyone just assumed that we will be getting married soon. I didn’t have anyone to defend me or take my side. I went through 3-4 different managers because I wasn’t happy with the way they were representing me.
How did the wedding rumours start?
I had met Harbhajan just after the release of ‘The Train’. He was at the peak of his career at the time and because we were seen together and because Harbhajan is not the kind of guy to go around with a girl if he is not serious about her, it was assumed that we were dating and would soon be getting married. It’s funny because back then we were actually just friends. I lost four big films because the makers just assumed that I wasn’t interested in working anymore. I was actually asked why would I want to work anymore. Even before my career could take off, I was written off as a married woman. I did a few films after that but I don’t think I achieved what I felt I could have. I had to constantly defend myself but no one paid heed.
Don’t you think it was unfair?
I wasn’t an established actor back then, nor did I come from a film family, or have a producer dad to take care of me, so I didn’t get a say in keeping my personal and professional lives separate. I was so new to the industry that I was still figuring out how it worked and didn’t know how to handle the sudden media speculations. No actresses back then admitted that they were in relationships; they would just maintain that they were good friends. Harbhajan and I didn’t know what to do because we were actually not together at the time but the media was constantly writing about us and our families were asking us what was happening. At least now the times have changed; actresses who are married and have children are also getting equal opportunities.
So, when do we see you take up an opportunity?
Harbhajan and I were going to shoot for something very exciting in September but now that the Indian Premier League has been scheduled for then, it will be shifted. Shooting requires a lot of time; there are shifts that you need to adhere to. Right now, my kids and family are my priority. Maybe sometime next year, I might resume work.