Happily married ‘single’ mother
Nandini R. Iyer
Shikha Duggal is the classic example of the happily married, single mother. With husband, Rahul Sharma, an Indian Airlines pilot posted in Chennai and visiting only once a week, Shikha in addition to running her own company Myla, has full time responsibility for daughter Tuhina. “I’m six and three-fourths,” chips in Tuhina and introduces Tantoo, their five-year-old puppy.
Shikha’s day starts at 6.30 a.m. with a ‘cuppa’ and a “book or a newspaper”. That half hour is all hers. At seven she wakes up her daughter, gets her ready for school, and makes her tiffin.
Once Tuhina is off to school, the 34-year-old ‘architect and businesswoman’ in her kicks in. “I have 30 minutes for a walk and another 30 to catch up on the Obama-Hillary race on CNN. Then I need to get to office,” she says.
Afternoons mean being home when Tuhina returns from school and hanging out with her. “Sometimes we stay at home and play or watch cartoons, and sometimes mamma takes me to the factory,” says Tuhina.
Being a power mom to Shikha doesn’t necessarily mean cooking all the time. She has a maid and she’s quite clear that if the maid is not around, “we eat out”. She cooks only on special occasions — “she makes nice sausages and also mushrooms,” says Tuhina.
Thursday nights romance is in the air because husband Rahul flies in around midnight. Fridays mean a movie or a family dinner “and lots of tickling.”
Serving mother’s fare at ‘aunty’ ka van
Sitting on the scorching pavement, speaking rapidly into her mobile while supervising packed orders, Padmavati Narainshah is multi-tasking. The 45-year-old, mother of three who runs a meal van in one of the crusty by-lanes of Delhi’s bustling CP smiles wearily – her beginnings were not easy.
She was 15 when she was married off. Her husband was earning Rs 300 a month. When a son and two daughters came along, it was difficult to manage. Padma took to door-to-door selling. “I wasn’t smart enough to sell the way my peers could.” She put her kids in a government-hostel while single-handedly setting up the meal-van business.
She interrupts the chat to press a samosa into my hand. Her day starts at 9 am and ends at 10 pm. “Everyone has different timings, a family meal is a luxury. We only get to spend quality time together on Sundays.”
Recently her son has started assisting in her venture, while the girls don’t allow her to do any housework. A smile lights up, “We’re lucky to have our own house. My kids are secure – they’ve understood the earlier sacrifices were necessary. They chide me about working at this age especially since I had an operation. But now that I’m used to it, it’s difficult to sit at home!”
‘Lioness in school, mouse at home’
Shyama Chona is a busy woman. The hustle bustle around her school office is probably justified —she runs one of the best-known public schools in Delhi - DPS R.K Puram.
A recent Padma Bhushan recipient, Chona straddles work and home with easy confidence. “My biggest challenge is not my work, but my daughter”, says this school principal, mother of two, and wife of a retired army general.
Son Vikram is married, and is the General Manager of a company in Delhi, while her daughter is whom the special school, Tamana is named after.
“I am a lioness in office, but a mouse at home,” says Chona. As a school principal she needs to crack the whip to get work done, she admits but says the same approach may not work a family too well.
The key to her successful balancing act — she is a good mother and great at her job — is a positive attitude, and time management.
Ask her about values she places at a premium, and pat comes the reply: sensitisation to the needs of others.
Chona feels this quality needs to be instilled in children everywhere — not just in her own, and not just those attending her school.
As a mother, and perhaps more so to her daughter who needs the extra attention, she says raising kids boils down to, “ love, love and more love.”
Her daughter pays her the ultimate compliment. Says Tamana, “My mother has brought me up in a remarkably dignified way. She is my role model, and my best friend”, trailing off in a gratuitous, “I couldn’t have asked for more.”
Super Boss and Supermom
The night before her tenth pre board exam, Akanksha thought she had forgotten everything. That generated an emergency call to mom, Vibha Bajaj, head and director, corporate communications with AmericanExpress who was hard at work. Vibha sat with her daughter through the night. And at 7.30 a.m, she drove back to work. “After the exam, Akanksha called me saying she did well. That wiped away all my exhaustion,” Vibha says.
“When she was younger, my daughter would only eat if I cooked for her and I tried my best to do it for her. That was my way of unwinding after hard day’s work. I enjoyed it,” she says
Vibha started working soon after college. Motherhood did not bog her down. On the contrary “I managed all my professional success after my child was born,” she says. How did she juggle the two? “Starting my day early helped and I would be in touch over phone after she’s back from the school.”
How did her daughter react when she couldn’t be there for her? “She realised that I have a job. She was very understanding.” There are positive fallouts too: “I think children of working mothers are very independent.”
What did the professional success mean to Bajaj? “More than financial reasons, it gives a great sense of achievement.” What if it had affected her daughter’s success? “My success doesn’t mean a lot if I can’t make a success out of my child. It’s a holistic thing that leads to personal fulfillment.”