She has an aura about her, a flair that most of us would put down to a very strong personality that can charm and dominate peoples hearts instantly. No wonder she was such a successful television actress with India’s top show, from the Balaji Telefilms stable, the Ekta Kapoor created Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, some time ago. And now, in her current real-life role as a politician, the marvellous Mrs Smriti Zubin Irani, never fails to impress.
It was a room packed with people who wanted to hear her talk about her views on motherhood and how it never held her back from her success. Unlike most important people, Smriti did not make anybody wait, she was bang on time and walked in without any fanfare-like any other ordinary guest there. Looking radiant in a simple printed saree, as is her trademark with the loosely tied hair and a face that was free of makeup and yet a personality so strong and charismatic that nobody could take their eyes off her, Smriti Zubin Irani, India’s Women and Child Development minister walked in. The purpose was the release of veteran journalist Kaveree Bamzai’s book titled No Regrets that was launched by Harper Collins, very recently.
What she talked about is as relevant to our parenting techniques as mothers who are very often, praised for raising perfect children or condemned when their children go wrong. It was refreshing to hear her talk of her own childhood, of her own mother, a working woman who wanted her three daughters to grow up fearless and independent and never thinking of themselves less than men.
If you see Smriti’s life, up close and personal, it makes sense. Not every successful woman has a role model to emulate in her mother, given that we often hear of a lot of love-hate relationships between the duo. But the ones who are lucky enough, it makes them bigger winners in every field. Smriti herself has been a model, a server at McDonald’s, a telly actress and now a politician. Her rise has been steady and swift and she has immense confidence in herself. That, of course, being a side effect of the various backgrounds she has been exposed here and her upbringing and of course, always being financially independent.
Not only was she very articulate and intelligent and outspoken, like she always is, she also stuck to her image of being no-nonsense and a firebrand leader. She talked about how she never quit her job even in the face of enormous pressure, all the while remembering that she had loans to pay off. She dwelt on her camaraderie with her children despite her high-pressure job and on being asked how she managed to turn her husband into one that suited her purpose, she said she never tried since he was already well brought up by his mother. The wit was overflowing, too!
She says we learn every day and when children grow, we grow with them too. Even something like the ’empty nest syndrome’ doesn’t bother her because she believes that her children have always had an independent life, unlike many who spend their childhood being tied to their mother’s aprons. She cautions against the mother and father exhibiting different opinions to a child because then the child can manipulate one parent against the other. “Always show a united front because then children know that what mom has said no to, is never going to be given approval by the father. Also, jobs may come and go and so many other things may change, but relationships last so they should be invested in.”
Some more valuable nuggets of wisdom she imparted, were, that if your child calls to talk to you when you are at work or too busy, make sure you take that call because as they grow bigger, the calls will stop coming at all and the communication will stop completely. Teach them the value of money, to be kind and responsible and independent and the rest will fall in place. She says there’s no such thing as a perfect mom as we all have our own journey with our children and each is different.
She came across as a simple mother with her middle-class values intact and somebody who never missed a single PTM at her child’s school. Not many of us can say that! And to a question, as to what she would do if one of her children wanted to join the opposition Congress party, she laughingly retorted that her values were so strong that they would never do such a thing.
Atta girl, Smriti!