Exclusive: Kalki Koechlin to write debut book on motherhood struggles, says ‘People just don’t talk about how difficult it is’
She’s known for her acting prowess on the screen as well as the stage. But now, the avid reader Kalki Koechlin is all set to turn author, and release her debut book, which is a graphic memoir on motherhood, illustrated by Valeriya Polyanychko. In an exclusive chat, she tells us, “I don’t see this as a sort of memoir of my life or kind of a culmination in any way. I see it as a tiny beginning of a very new territory. And the reason I wrote it, is because I was amazed that so few people talk about the difficulties of pregnancy and motherhood. We only hear about how wonderful this experience is, which of course it is, but there’s a whole plethora of physical and mental changes that take a lot out of a person. People think that if you say bad things about your experiences of being a mother, it’s going to take away from your love for your child!”
She has been a playwright in the past, but it was in the first trimester of her pregnancy that the idea of writing a book took birth in her consciousness. “That was when I started drawing cartoons of how horrible I was feeling because I was vomiting, had suddenly lost my sense of energy of self, couldn’t think straight or work properly. I was very frustrated with my body for betraying me because it was so tired all the time and I wasn’t able to function to my full capacity,” she says talking about how “humour helped” her sail through.
But having faced the difficulties of being alone post delivering her baby, in a Covid-stricken world, it became imperative for her to talk about the many challenges that mothers often face, but rarely talk about. Feeling strongly for the women experiencing pregnancy in the present times, Koechlin confesses, “I suffered from postpartum depression. And it’s something that shouldn’t be labelled as extreme exhaustion. If any human being is woken up every two hours, every night and all day long, they are going to be depressed! Sleep deprivation is a form of torture; that’s why it’s used in torture chambers... People just don’t talk about how difficult it is. It’s a period of your life that you are supposed to just get through or you are supposed to get medical help and you are labelled as depressed. But it’s like doing an extreme sport. You’ve to go though such an intense, gruelling training and most of us are not warned or told how to prepare for it... we are just thrown into it and then we have to deal with it. I felt that many times, so alone, and also we were in a lockdown and we couldn’t go out or meet people. So I didn’t know if this was normal and if this was what every woman went through. And if this is what every woman went through, then why are we not talking about it? I had a terrible iron deficiency, so had extreme exhaustion due to that. I spoke to my therapist and gynaecologist, who helped me with certain coping mechanisms and medication... all those things are there to help you, but just the mental load of going through this and not knowing if you are alone in it, is huge. And it’s really important that people know that this happens a lot and happens lot more than it’s admitted.”
Furthermore, the urge to address to the challenges of being a working mother in the modern times made Koechlin, 37, pen down her thoughts. “It’s very hard to balance the two, and not suffer from ‘mom guilt’ no matter which way you go. If you spend too much time at home, you feel bad about your work, and if you spend too much time at work, you feel bad about your child. If you are constantly feeling guilty about being a mother, then you’re not able to fully appreciate the good moments. So it’s really important to talk about that guilt, why it’s there and why our society makes us feel like it’s our responsibility as women to raise our children. And my way of dealing with it was by journaling it down, and eventually turning it into a book.”
Author tweets @HennaRakheja