In Onir’s film I Am, Nandita Das plays Afia, who after her husband walks away from her, decides to have a baby of her own and goes in search of a sperm donor. The actor admits that when she first heard Afia’s story, she was somewhat sceptical because while artificial insemination is a common practice abroad, it’s yet to catch on in India.
“But to my surprise, when I looked it up, I found that there was a lot of information on sperm donors leading one to presume that a lot of people even back home must be using them,” she reasons. “But because of the stigma still attached to it, they are wary of coming forward and talking openly about it. As a result, one believes that the numbers are far smaller than they really are. For Afia, it was a personal choice and she chose this route knowing that being young and attractive, she could always find a man to have a baby with or even adopt one.”
Nandita, who became a mother at the age of 40, admits that after the breakdown of her seven-year marriage with Saumya Sen, the thought of adopting a baby had sometimes crossed her mind. Then she fell in love with industrialist Subodh Maskara and even though he too was wary of tying the knot again, they found themselves married and planning a baby within three months of meeting each other. “It was a conscious decision because I wasn’t getting any younger and it was taken without giving myself too much time to think,” she reminisces.
The apprehensions came after she conceived. Nandita was five months pregnant when she was shooting for I Am and she says she’d often wonder if she’d been too impulsive, not giving Subodh, herself and their relationship a chance to grow. “At that stage, Afia wanted to be a mother more than Nandita,” she admits. “Having lived a free-spirited life, I was feeling really conflicted.”
The doubts disappeared when Vihaan entered her life on August 11, last year. “Vihaan means journey, and I’m certainly enjoying this one,” she smiles, adding, “I’ve become more responsible, philosophical and honest. Suddenly, all kinds of new thoughts are flittering through my head. The other day, I’d taken Vihaan to Ahmedabad and left him to play on a grassy patch. I was amazed to see that my eight-month-old son, who’s comfortable with concrete, was scared of grass because he’s never seen it in the city.”
Nandita, who took three years off to nurture her first baby, her directorial debut Firaaq, is now enjoying bringing up her second baby. “I love being with Vihaan,” she says, chuckling at her gurgling son. “But I wouldn’t make generalised statements like no woman is complete without becoming a mother. I have friends who have consciously decided not to have babies and I respect their decision. I also respect Afia’s decision of having a baby without marriage.”