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Bringing up the Girl-Child

Dolly, My Doll

Today, how often have we read or heard about girl children being abandoned? Even in the 21st century, female foetuses are being aborted. Babies have been thrown in the dust bin, just because they were girls. Shockingly, many girls missing from Indian homes are often found buried in some graveyard! Incidents, where the girl-child has been tortured within the four walls of their parents’ homes, have also been observed. Differentiation between daughters and sons are still being seen in many homes, today. However, many Bollywood celebrities have girls and they have brought them up splendidly, while others, who have sons too, have not discriminated between their children.

These celebrities did not have words to describe the feeling when they held their daughters in their arms for the first time. Moushumi Chatterjee reflects the general thought, “Anything I say would be less. The ecstatic feeling, the joy and the happiness, the minute you hold your own child, is out of the world. I mean you cannot explain with words. You have to be a mother and hold your baby in your arms to experience it.”

All of them insist that girls are more responsible and caring than boys. They say that the girls are more homely and concerned about their parents. But legendary actor Murad’s son, Raza Murad, who is also an actor in his own right, is famous for his rich baritone voice. He claims that girls need more protection due to the prevalent situation in the streets, what with eve-teasers and bullies around. In that way he thinks that girls are not physically strong enough to handle such situations. At the same time, he feels that they should be pampered and does that show his natural fatherly protective affection towards his daughter Ayesha, who is younger to his son Ali? During their childhood fights, he would often take Ayesha’s side.

Moushumi Chatterjee with her husband 2 daughters and a friend
Moushumi Chatterjee with her husband 2 daughters and a friend

Moushumi Chatterjee, the daughter-in-law of the legendary Hemant Kumar, was ecstatic when she had her first daughter, Payal. When she had her second daughter Meghaa, there was nothing like it. After all these years of marriage, she doesn’t know if her husband wanted a son! She insisted that she know the gender of her baby before their birth so that she would be able to decorate their rooms. Says the doting mother, “When my elder daughter Payal was born I made her room in lavender and white and I made my younger daughter Meghaa’s room pink and white. I decorated the two rooms differently because they were two different children.”

She feels blessed having two daughters. The celebrity mother says, “Well, they added colour to my life. I feel really proud that I have 2 daughters.”

Raghunathan brought up Madhoo of Roja fame, singlehandedly after he lost his wife very early in life. He did not take any outside support while bringing up Madhoo and her brother and both are still very affectionate and ideal children according to him. Also, Hema Malini is Madhoo’s cousin. Married for 14 years now, Madhoo has 2 daughters.

Madhoo’s husband, Anand Shah, was nervous when she got pregnant for the first time. She recalls, “When I was expecting my first daughter, my husband was very nervous and unsure. He thought we were very young to have a child at that point. He wanted to wait. But since I wanted to start a family, he consented. I want to make it clear that my husband being a man wanted only daughters. So when I was expecting our first child, he would pray for a daughter and she was born. When I was expecting my second daughter, he was again hoping that it would be a daughter. My husband and his family wanted girls. Luckily my second child was also a girl. I enjoyed being a mother, so when I discussed with my husband about a third child, he declined since it could be a boy. We wanted girls and God blessed us with girls. I don’t think that having a boy completes a family. I refute the very concept that a boy completes your family. My family is complete because we are 2 and we have 2. If I was younger and I had my way I would have had 4 children and that would have been my complete family. It is not because I want 2 girls and 2 boys or anything like that but because I want those many people around me,” she asserts. “We have 2 children and we are trying to give both the children good education and everything else which is our duty to give them to become responsible, loving children in the world. As a mother if you have daughters it is wonderful, since as women they understand you better. So I feel that every lady desires to have a daughter. It is an old Indian concept that a boy completes the family and a boy will be carrying on the family tradition, etc. I don’t agree and in a modern society it is high time we change.”

Raza Murad is from a progressive Muslim family and brought about a revolution of sorts when he had taken his wife Shahrukh to his conservative home town, Rampur for the first time without a burqa. He gives credit for this quality of his to his up-bringing in the cosmopolitan film industry of Mumbai. On the one hand he insisted that his wife and daughter did not wear burqa. On the other hand he says that he would not have objected to their wearing a veil if they wanted to. It would have been their choice. Ayesha has gone for a love marriage at the early age of 22 despite her father’s advice to wait for at least 3 years before taking the plunge. She has settled in Bhopal and has a 2 ½ year old son.

He feels that his family is an ideal complete one for any couple. He says, “We are really lucky to have 1 son and 1 daughter. First and foremost I am a father and then I am whatever you call an actor or a celebrity. For me being a father and having kids is more important than being a celebrity.”

He likes girl children and wanted one for his first child. But destiny always has her own plans. His first born was his son Ali. “Since I have 3 elder sisters, I always wanted a daughter first and then by the grace of God if I have a son afterwards then it would be good. But we got our son Ali first and then we got Ayesha.”

Song-writer Sameer of Dil fame has two daughters – Sanchita and Suchita and a younger son, Sidhdhesh. The son of late lyricist Anjaan, Sameer finds that the celebrity status does not affect the status of being a father.

Rahul Seth, the music director of the 2011 hit film, Yamla, Pagla, Deewana, finds that bringing up his 7 year old, ‘sweet little angel’ Kiara is a piece of cake. He says, “In fact, by the grace of God, Kiara is having a very smooth up-bringing, with us having provided her with the best of everything that she’s ever wanted, to the best of our abilities. In spite of my overtly busy schedules at times, I do concentrate on her upbringing as much as I can. In fact, at the slightest opportunity I take my daughter out on a holiday. We also discuss her activities at school, at home and with friends. In fact, we both are the best of friends and together, we bring the house down, sometimes to the annoyance of her Mom.”

Sameer Pandey
Sameer Pandey

He, Sameer and Raza Murad credit their wives, Anu, Anita and Shahrukh for the best care of their homes and children in their absence.

Madhoo has faced the routine hardships like junk food and homework with her daughters like any other mother faces. Moushumi Chatterjee was lucky to have got a good nurse and an equally good maid. She recollects, “But, I have always been much disciplined about my life. I never worked in double shifts or on Sundays. Fortunately I had a good nurse. She looked after Payal and after 8 years when I had Meghaa, she looked after her also. I have been ever grateful to her. Every year I would also take nearly 2 months holiday so that I could spend quality time with them. All the 4 of us (her husband Jayanta Mukherjee, their 2 daughters and she) would often vacation out of India. Parent-child-bonding was always there.”

Raza Murad has faced hardships in bringing up his children like any other normal father. He reminisces, “I did not get a formal education. Whatever little I learnt was at my home. Therefore, I wanted my children to get the best of education. Like any other common man I found it difficult to get my children admitted to Manekji Cooper School, one of the prestigious schools of Mumbai. I have stood in line for the interviews to get them admitted there. I would take a break from my shooting schedule for this. But I did not pull any strings and they finally got admission there. But for me it was a very thrilling experience to take them to their school. I would also wait outside the school to pick them up, feeling awkward since I was the only male and only mothers would be standing there. I used to love all this. But they were just average students. I never would compel them to come first in the class. I would tell them to do their best in whatever they do irrespective of the result. Since I was also not a good student I did not expect my kids to be scholars.”

The hardships faced by Sameer were of a different kind. He recalls, “My first daughter was born and was growing up when I was struggling to get my foothold in the industry. At that time given my professional commitments I could not give her as much time as I wanted to and missed important moments in her life. One night, she caught me and did not allow me to go out. This was because she used to be asleep when I would go out early in the morning and would be asleep when I would return late at night. I realized that I had everything a career, a home and a family but this was the only thing I was missing in my life. By the time my second daughter was born I was freer. I enjoyed her childhood.”

Madhoo with husband and children
Madhoo with husband and children

Even Moushumi has a couple of interesting incidents to share. She recalls, “Being celebrity children they also went through some unpleasant things, in their school or the society. It was tough. But it helps you to grow as a human being. There was a lot of time I missed out. I couldn’t be there when they wanted me. But I did what I could that time. Yes, I went with them to their Parent’s Day. I stood in queue for their books with my make-up on. Then I covered the books, myself. I used to everyday make their plaits, apply oil to their hair and help them with their homework. My daughter Payal, would be able to say this better. One of her teachers, I think she is no more, caught my daughter once and said how can you be good in Hindi, teri maa to abhi tak barabar Hindi bol nahin payee. Famous people’s children and relatives suffer a lot. Payal must have been hardly 7 or 8 years old. It was because of her marks. I was furious first. Two days later the whole night I studied Hindi. Then she passed with flying colours and the teacher asked which coaching class she had joined. Payal told her that her mother taught her. I would like to share another incident. When Meghaa went to school, she was worried about French and Marathi. We sat down together a couple of days before the exams. Marathi is easy for me since the alphabet is in same as Hindi. And then we did French, I told her to work on certain ‘important’ questions. She called me from a public phone after the exams and told me that out of 5 questions 3 were the ones I had taught her! I couldn’t believe it myself. See my audacity I am just 10th pass and I was teaching them such complicated subjects.”

With these parents working in Bollywood, would it be surprising that their children would want to take the tradition forward? Though Payal has got married, Meghaa is an actress in her own right. Since Sameer is a famous lyricist in Bollywood and his daughters being good singers, they could have very easily made it big in Bollywood. To this he says, “That’s right. But that decision they have to take. No one can interfere in creativity. If you want to become something you have to take the decision. I cannot pressurize you. That’s why I have kept the door open. But at the same time, it was only a hobby for them; they were not very keen to make it their profession. My name and my celebrity status would definitely have helped them. But Sanchita opted for marriage and got settled in New Jersey, USA and Suchita is studying medicine in Pune. My son is just 11 years old. It is too early to decide what he will become. But if he takes the family tradition forward, then I will be the happiest father.”

While Ali Murad is showing interest in joining the film industry, Kiara Seth has already taken the first steps in that direction. She recently sung some songs, written, produced and composed by her father as part of the campaign against female foeticide.

As far has Madhoo is concerned she does not have any objections if her daughters would want to join the film industry which has given her so much. She has left the decision to them. However, she has not discussed about it with her husband, so she does not know what he thinks about it.

All these celebrities are in some way or the others concerned with campaigns against atrocities against the female gender. Rahul Seth has recently been felicitated for his songs against female foeticide by the Maharashtra Government. Sameer will be gifting his song on Save the Girl Child to an NGO (he did not remember the name of the NGO offhand.) There he has written that there is no difference between a daughter and a son. Madhoo is associated with an NGO called Ladli, which is trying to protect girl children. Everybody, in his own way, is trying to return to the film industry and the society what they have been given.

Rahul Seth
Rahul Seth

Messages from them to the readers: Rahul Seth: Well, more than an advice, it’s a sincere appeal from us to all those blessed with a Girl Child, that please do not discriminate between a girl and a boy, as both are precious gifts of Mother Nature. In fact, a girl child’s love, warmth, attachment and selfless affection are unparalleled in the entire universe.

Sameer: Daughters take more care of their parents. Also they are more possessive of their parents. They are more careful too. So please do not differentiate between a daughter and a son. This is my experience and it is also my message to the people who will be reading this article or listening to my song. This is because even my wife was a little disappointed when we had a first daughter. I told her that it is our good fortune that we got a daughter. But now after all these years, she has realized that I was right.

Madhoo: I have a loud voice as far as children are concerned and passionately feel about educating the girl children in all economic backgrounds. One would think that the discrimination would be prevalent in the lower economic strata of the society. But I am disappointed that this attitude is often seen more in people from the urban educated society and they are vying for boys. I want to emphasize this fact that I am a mother of 2 girls and I am proud and I don’t want to make them less than a boy. In fact I don’t want to keep a boy as a bench-mark for perhaps the education or anything else is concerned. People might say that I am raising my daughters like boys. No. My daughters could be better if I raise them well with self-esteem and good education. Be proud if you are the mother of even one girl child because they are lovely and they are in no way less than boys. All we need to give each other is love and affection. It doesn’t matter if you have a boy child or a girl child. It is all the same. You are a parent to a child. And what you give one you give the other. No boy will look after you better than a girl can.

Raza Murad: Don’t impose anything upon them. Let them follow the vocation they want to. You should just make sure and advice them that they should not do anything illegal, which is against the law of the country. And tell them not to do anything immoral. They should not to do any such wrong that they cannot look into the eyes of others. Teach them not to break the hearts of their near and dear people. Tell them to do whatever they want within the limits. They should be good citizens of the country. Never think what the country has done for you. Always think what you can do for the country.

Bringing up the Girl-Child
Bringing up the Girl-Child

This article was initially published in Eve’s times an is reproduced here with the permission of the editor, Swati Amar.

About Gayatri T Rao

A double post-graduate (MSc. - Botany and MA - English Literature) Gayatri T Rao is a Senior Multimedia Journalist with vast experience in writing on varied topics.

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