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Am I Doing This Right? Insights from Priyanka Chopra’s Mom in ‘The Parents I Met’

Ever wondered, “Am I getting this parenting gig right?” In Mansi Zaveri’s The Parents I Met, take a stroll through chats with successful parents, picking up timeless tips for navigating the tricky path of raising kids. This book is like a friendly guide, saying, “Hey, in the middle of life’s chaos, what matters most is your love and commitment to your kids.” It’s an easy read, full of stories and advice that any parent can relate to, giving you a bit of comfort and a lot of insights along the way.

 

The Parents I Met
The Parents I Met || Mansi Zaveri

 

***

Initially, I had arranged to speak with Dr Madhu Chopra via Zoom, but after our conversation, I knew I had to meet her in person. She never made her career, marriage or the proper upbringing of her children a lower priority simply because she became a mother.  

 

Despite her initial doubts about whether her parenting practices from nearly three decades ago would still be relevant, she welcomed me with open arms and was happy to talk. Friendly as always, she paused to ask her assistant Zarin for a green tea in Gujarati, all the while considering which chai flavour would best prepare her for this exchange. She then took a sip and said,

 

‘Mansi, what was important is that I didn’t back down—that gave me immense confidence. That confidence emanates power and brings me respect from my kids even to this day. If they respect you, it becomes easy.’  

 

She has fond memories of working night shifts at the army hospital, which were always a family affair because she had to bring her two children along, Priyanka and her brother Siddharth. ‘I turned it into a game by telling Priyanka, “Mom’s on night duty, baby’s on night duty,” as she carried her toy backpack and squealed with excitement. I didn’t fall into the trap of feeling guilty because my work gave me immense joy. The guilt crept in only once when she talked back to my father and that made me wonder, “Is it because I am working?” Even the fancy well-planned tiffins of other kids who had stay-at-home moms couldn’t make me feel guilty as I sent the same tiffins every day, like a paratha roll or jam sandwich. I taught her to not compare these tiffins or feel deprived. Parenting is not a day’s job. It starts the day your baby is conceived and continues forever.’ 

 

I asked her if Priyanka had ever asked, ‘Why can’t you sit at home or why do you need to work?’ and she said, ‘No. She didn’t know any other way and took this as normal.’ Family was a huge support, with both sets of parents and relatives chipping in at every stage.  

 

Dr Chopra continued, ‘Both kids used to tag along. If mom had night duty, baby had night duty. She would pack her little bag to carry to the hospital because she knew she had to keep herself busy while I was away on duty. You see, we didn’t give them choices that didn’t exist.’ 

 

Dr Chopra then unapologetically admitted, ‘I am a great parent.’ To see a parent be so self-assured was refreshing. Especially when parents today second guess most of their decisions.  

 

When Priyanka was preparing for Miss India, her entire family pooled their resources to buy her new footwear, wardrobe and cosmetics. No one ever questioned who she was or why she would want to compete in a Miss India pageant. Some parents hope their children will follow in their footsteps and go into business with them or pursue a similar line of work, but Priyanka knew at the tender age of three that she did not want to become a doctor because she did not like the smell of hospitals and did not want to leave her child at home.’  

 

She added, ‘When your path is different from your kids, there is no tantrum and shouting but there is a conversation. You convince me or I convince you.’ The one time that we did push our wishes on a child who was a topper in her academics and extracurriculars, was when we asked her to sing and dance both. When her grades dipped, I backed off, but being a committed, competitive learner, she persevered. Her habit of seeking perfection in everything that she did was most evident when she helped her younger brother Siddharth learn his speech on Chacha Nehru. She corrected his work and sat all night rehearsing with him till he didn’t even miss a single word. 

 

She continued, ‘I think this is the temperament that has got her here and is keeping her here. Ours was a democratic house, and questions and curiosity were rewarded promptly. When Priyanka was in kindergarten and questioned why her name was missing from the name plate outside her house, her father, Dr Ashok Chopra, got it changed the next day and added “Priyanka Chopra-UKG”.’ 

 

Dr Chopra went on to say, ‘Dinner table conversations were animated ones, where you could pour your heart out and no one would be judged. No one raised their voices or banged plates—it was not allowed in my household. Our kids never saw us yell, fight or be violent—it started and ended in the bedroom, but even that was a discussion.’  

 

‘I was heartbroken when I sent her to boarding school at seven years old after she had talked back to my dad,’ she confessed, ‘but the end result of that decision was a polished, responsible pre-teen who could even parent me. She became so disciplined, much better than I could have ever done. Each leap of faith was made with my family as a safety net.’  

 

When I asked her if she had had any indication that Priyanka was exceptional before she turned eighteen, she said, ‘I knew my child was focused and never frivolous. She would make the most of every opportunity that was presented to her. You cannot be a great parent if you don’t have a receptive child.’ 

 

When I asked her how she managed to instil such a sense of hunger and determination in her children despite their privileged upbringing, she told me that teaching them to say ‘no’ was crucial, as was making them work for what they want.  

 

She said, ‘Don’t be afraid to be that “bad parent”. The word “no” carried great weight in the Chopra household. One parent’s “no” would never be followed by a “yes” from the other. Their “whys”, however, were never shunned but addressed with discussions and explanations of the consequences early on. My children knew from day one that their every action had a consequence and that would be theirs alone.’  

***

Intrigued to know more?

Get your copy of The Parents I Met by Mansi Zaveri wherever books are sold.

Sudha Murty Shows Us What’s Inside Nalini’s lunchbox!

In the heartwarming world of Common yet Uncommon by Sudha Murty, we encounter the extraordinary story of Nalini Kulkarni, affectionately known as ‘Lunchbox Nalini.’ Meet the lady whose love for food and friendship created extraordinary connections through her cherished lunchbox. Get ready for a heartwarming journey where the ordinary becomes extraordinary!

 

Common yet Uncommon
Common Yet Uncommon | Sudha Murty

 

I am Nalini Kulkarni. As a child, elders called me Nali – a typical shortening of the name in North Karnataka, where Anand becomes Andya. And Mandakini becomes Mandi. No wonder Nalini to Nali was so easy. 

 

Until now, I have peeped in at everyone’s life and written about their characters. Now let me talk about myself–the best way to joke is not on someone else’s expense but on your own.  

 

As I go about observing everyone’s habits and characteristics, I don’t get time to cook. That doesn’t mean I don’t like to eat. I am very fond of eating. If someone calls me for lunch, I not only attend but also carry my lunch box to carry some food back for my dinner. Whenever I go to any function, all my relatives, without greeting me, say, ‘Nalini, fill up  your lunchbox first. Then you will be at peace and we can talk at  leisure.’ That’s why I am known as Lunchbox Nalini. 

 

A few days ago, my cousin, Venkat, had his child’s naming ceremony. Venkat’s wife Veena formally invited me, saying, ‘We will be very happy if you come for the naming ceremony. If you don’t have time for lunch, at least visit us for  half an hour.’ 

 

I laughed and said, ‘Don’t you remember what they call me? I always come for the meal more than the event. I’ll be honest with you. If you tell me to come for the event without a lunch, then I’m sure that only three people will be there for the naming ceremony – you, your husband, and your little bundle of joy.’ 

 

Everyone laughed at my comment. Bundle Bindu, who was sitting there commented about hospitality about different regions. 

 

“I know.. Some people’s hospitality is bare minimum unlike north Karnatka. Because, historically…’ 

 

I told Bindu, stop it.  

 

He ignored me and continued. 

 

“Recently I had been to someone’s house. He said, “Wait a minute. I wWill have tea and come..I said I will also come and join you for tea.” 

 

“Bindu, you are shameless”, I said. 

 

But by and large, when you invite people, you should do it whole heartedly. The person should feel welcomed. 

 

I turned to Venkat and said, ‘I will come for the function in the morning as I have recently joined as a college lecturer. I will leave my lunchbox there and pick it up on the way back after my classes are over. I won’t be able to make it for lunch but I can eat it at home, at least.’ 

 

‘There can be no one like you,’ said Jayant. 

 

I take my lunchbox along with me to a function if I know the family hosting the event very well. I have many varieties of lunch boxes—unbreakable, Tupperware, hot cases, transparent ones. Because they are useful for various dishes—and depending on the circumstance, I change the boxes. For gravies. Tupperware is better. For roti and poli, hot case is better. For pickles, unbreakable is better and transparent because it is easier to identify what is inside. 

 

I am very fond of lunchboxes. In fact, I am an expert. My refrigerator is filled with different kinds of boxes with food given to me from different homes. I can recognize different boxes from different places even when am asleep. Mulla’s wife Peerambi’s box is yellow in color, though it is green inside. Virurupaksha’s Gowda’s wife Basavaa’s dabba is made of german steel. It is round and is currently sitting in my fridge with some brinjal. Bhagirati’s plastic green box has yellow laddoos inside. Jayant’s transparent box has golgappas.  

 

The other day, I was eating dinner. I told my daughter, ‘There is a gulab jamoon from Janaki’s home. Though her tongue is bitter, her gulab jamuns are excellent.’ 

 

My daughter was confused. ‘How do I know which is her box of gulab jamun? There are so many lunch boxes in the refrigerator.’ 

 

‘Oh, bring the one with the dome-like structure,’ I responded easily. ‘I didn’t have a box with me that day, so she had given in hers.’ 

 

While having the gulab jamun, , I remembered the dry vegetable. ‘Will you open the fridge and get the plastic box with flat red cover? That is from Ganga’s home. Some marriage proposal had come and the boy had visited Ganga’s home so she had specially made a vegetable for the boy that she also sent to me.’ 

 

The other day, Bundle Bindu came with a huge box. His wife saraswati was out of station. I opened it and to my surprise, there was a steamed sweet dish inside. It is complicated to make, though grandmother was particularly good at it. I asked, ‘Bindu, when Saraswati is not there, how could you cook this special dish?’ 

 

Bindu laughed and said, ‘Who said that I have made this? There is a famous saying – When two people are fighting, it is the third one that enjoys.’ 

 

‘What do you mean?’ 

 

Bindu said, ‘Suman has sent rice kheer and her mother-in-law has sent bottle guard kheer. They felt that you are the best judge to decide who is the better cook because you are known for tasting dishes They called me separately and gave me these two boxes. You eat and enjoy. Both want you to take their side.’ 

 

‘Bindu, in that case, I will taste neither of them’ I said immediately. 

 

‘Nali, please be diplomatic. You can say both are very good, but separately. Then you will have an advantage,’ said Jayant who always thinks of profit and loss. 

 

‘No, Jayant. I don’t want to do that. Profit and loss are okay in business but not in human interaction. All these people are dear to me. Whenever they make something special, they send some to my home even if I don’t visit their house. I carry my lunchbox only to places where I have liberty and affection If I really want to eat, there are many restaurants in this townFor me, a lunch box is not a mere lunchbox. It is a bridge between two people. I go to their home, or they send me some food. I go to return the box.  Thus, we share feelings and give company to each other. In case any of us are in difficulty, we reduce our tensions. The lunchboxes are nothing but a sign of affection, and it is through them that I have been able to meet people and form a close bond with them over the years. It has been my educational journey into the nature of humanity. 

 

 I don’t want to get into the competition between a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law or create more distance between them. If somebody wants to start a fight, I don’t want to be a party to that.’ 

 

Bindu laughed and said, ‘And I know how you love food too! 

 

I smiled back. 

 

 ‘O Nali, you are a typical north Karnataka girl’ said Bindu. 

 

‘What do you mean by that?’ I was surprised by his comment. 

 

‘Straightforward, transparent, loving, sharing, impractical, talkative, – that is the essence that the land blesses us with.’ 

 

 ***

Intrigued to know more about Nali and her lunchbox?
Get your copy of Common Yet Uncommon by Sudha Murty wherever books are sold.

7 Quotes by Famous Authors That Will Make You Reminisce Your Childhood

As life brings with it moments of laughter and hardships in equal measures, the memory of childhood slowly begins to fade away. Or does it? Well, some of our favourite writers and personalities from history would beg to differ.
This Children’s Day, get inspired to grow ‘down’, because where’s the novelty in growing up?







The golden days of childhood were glorious, weren’t they?

The Story of Mahatma Gandhi And Where It All Began: ‘Junior Lives: Mahatma Gandhi’ — An Excerpt

Mahatma Gandhi, lovingly called Gandhiji and the Father of the Nation, has been remembered by the entire world for his honest, non-violent methods of leading a nation to independence.
In Sonia Mehta’s ‘Junior Lives: Mahatma Gandhi’, the author explores the life of Gandhiji from his childhood and shows us how he became the leader that he is today.
Here’s a short excerpt from the book.
The thirteen-year-old lad was impatient.  He wanted to get back to his friends, who were having a great time playing outdoors. But here he was—stuck indoors, made to dress up in clothes that were icky and uncomfortable.
‘Can I go now?’ he asked his mother, trying to shrug off the elaborate outfit she was trying to get him to wear.
‘No, Mohan,’ she replied. ‘You can’t go play with your friends today. It’s your wedding day.’
That young boy was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. At thirteen years of age, he was about to get married to a girl who was just a little older than he was. His family would never have believed it then, but this boy was to grow up to become one of the world’s greatest leaders, who would lead India to freedom. He showed people a nonviolent way of life. Millions of people adored him and gave him titles like Father of the Nation, Bapu (meaning father) and Mahatma (meaning great soul). What an incredible achievement for such an ordinary boy, born to such ordinary parents!
A Happy Family
Young Mohan (for that was what his family called him) was born to Karamchand and Putlibai on 2 October 1869. Theirs was a large, happy family. Mohan had a sister and two brothers—all older than him, so you can imagine how much he was loved and petted. The family was quite wealthy and lived in a big, three-storeyed house in the Indian port-city of Porbandar, in what is now Gujarat. Karamchand was an educated man. The ruler of Rajkot admired him and made him the diwan of Porbandar. As diwan, he managed the business of the state. People respected Karamchand a lot and came to him for advice.
When Mohan was a young boy, he was very shy. He would spend all his time with his books.  This made him very thoughtful. However, he didn’t love studies; in fact, he found maths rather hard. But he was a good student overall, and his teachers thought well of him. One day, Mohan got his father’s permission to see a play about a king named Raja Harishchandra. The special thing about this king was that he never lied, no matter what happened to him. Mohan was so impressed by this play that he swore to never tell a lie in his life.
Always, Always Truthful
One morning, Mohan’s class was given a spelling test. Mohan knew all the spellings, except that of ‘kettle’. The English teacher, keen to prove that he was a good teacher, wanted all his students to know every spelling so that he could impress his superiors. When he saw that Mohan was unsure, he prodded him to peep at his neighbour’s slate and see the spelling.
‘But that would be cheating,’ an aghast Mohan thought. He refused to look at his neighbour’s slate, and eventually was the only boy in class who did not get all his spellings right. But that didn’t bother him. He was more bothered that his teacher had told him to cheat.
One of the only times Mohan lied was when he was in his early teens. He stole some gold from his brother and sold it. But it wasn’t for himself. He gave the money to his other brother to help him get out of debt. He couldn’t sleep that night. He tossed and turned, feeling awful. Finally, he confessed to his father. He was ready for any punishment. But instead of getting upset, Mohan’s father wept. He was hurt that his son had lied,  but happy he had confessed.
Mahatma Gandhi’s fascinating life goes way beyond the years documented in the pages of history. Get to know Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi before he became GandhiJi with Sonia Mehta’s ‘Junior Lives: Mahatma Gandhi’!

Meet Bilal — An Excerpt

Mr Unwin, meet Bilal.
He is the taller of the two who stand under the arch of bougainvillea, the wooden gate open behind them. I am the shorter one, the one who is squinting. That is a temporary squint, and I squinted at the time of being photographed not because of the sun, I was just trying to hide my discomfort at being looked at through a viewfinder. The picture was taken on the first Small Eid after we came to live in Bougainvillea, and I invited him for the feast because I owed him a treat. That is another story, but let me narrate it now because it may not fit anywhere else in this book.
A week after I joined the town school, of which Vappa, Uncle Yazin and Aunt Yasmin were the alumni of, I ran into Bilal on the cliff path. At school we sat on the same bench because we were of the same height, almost, and I willed him to quickly grow a head taller so I would not have to sit next to him any more: he smelled like cashew orchards in springtime and I always associated the smell of cashew flowers with death. But the chance encounter on the cliff path triggered off a chain of events that finally made us friends and partners in petty villainies.
It was one of those days when Vappa momentarily regained his old self and craved outdoors, and we were strolling down the path that frilled the north cliff, lined with shacks that sold curios and curiously-named food. Outside a cafe, I spotted Bilal, but for a long moment I could not reconcile what I saw. He was standing on his toes, leaning over the railing the café had put up around the dining area. He had one hand cupped in front of a white couple who sported identical pairs of sunglasses, the other repeatedly tapped his stomach to mime hunger. The couple, their skin tanned to the colour of sandpaper, were watching him the way people watch street stuntmen, with a mild scowl that betrayed neither indulgence nor disapproval.
My face stung at the sight of Bilal begging. I had never seen anybody outside television serials beg with such flourish. Nor had I imagined that anyone who attended school on weekdays would beg at weekends. I passed him with my eyes averted to the sea, my ears tuned to its roar. We were walking past a fish stall – catch of the day sat with sleepy eyes on a bed of crushed ice, traded by a man who knew the English name of every fish and spoke with the civility of a trained salesman because his clients were foreign tourists and hence his wares were unimaginably dear – when I heard my name being called. It took me an effort to not hear him, and I walked faster as his voice grew louder.
‘Are you deaf?’ Vappa snapped. ‘Someone is shouting your name.’
I turned around and saw Bilal, his face flushed from running, his breathing uneven.
‘Hello,’ he panted.
I wanted to say hello and goodbye in the same breath and move on, but Vappa was already holding Bilal’s hand and asking him his name and the location of his residence.
‘Behind the town mosque,’ he said, gasping for breath.
‘Behind the town mosque?’ Vappa pulled a face. ‘Behind the mosque there are railway lines.’
‘In the same premises as the mosque,’ Bilal said and, as Vappa was beginning to knit his eyebrows, he added almost inaudibly, ‘I live in the orphanage.’
Vappa forced a smile and, as if to hide his embarrassment, asked tenderly, ‘What brings you to the cliff?’
I expected Bilal to lie, but he smiled sheepishly and said nothing. The white couple Bilal had begged to walked past us, hand in hand, wind in the hair. The man puffed up his cheeks at the sight of Bilal, the lady removed her sunglasses and rolled her eyes comically at him.
‘You got lots of friends around here,’ Vappa said.
The sun had nearly set, and the lights were coming on in the shacks. Vappa reminded Bilal to start his journey back to the town as it would soon be dark. As if the mere thought of darkness frightened him, Bilal rushed off, blending into little groups of people that drifted down the cliff path. All night I wondered if smiles were all that Bilal could coax out of the white couple with his charade of hunger. But the moment I stepped through the school gates the next morning the riddle solved itself.
‘I have a dollar,’ said Bilal. He was standing by the bird cage, feeding love birds. ‘We will spend it at lunch break.’
This is an excerpt from Anees Salim’s The Small-Town Sea.
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7 Quotes by Perumal Murugan that Describe a Difficult Childhood

Perumal Murugan’s works provide a poignant commentary on the religious and caste practices prevalent in the society. His stories vividly capture the pain a person from the lower strata of society goes through every day.
His novel Seasons of the Palm, which was shortlisted for the Kiriyama Award, is merciless in its portrayal of the daily humiliations of untouchablility. It also evokes the grace with which the oppressed come to terms with their dark fate. Shorty, the central character of Murugan’s novel is one such young untouchable who is in bondage to a powerful landlord.
Here are a few quotes from the book that will give you a glimpse of Shorty’s hardships:
Being Awakened by a Stinging Whiplash
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When You Can’t Wash Off Your Stink
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Untouchable and Barred from Touching
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When the Bare Necessities Turn into Luxury
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A Paid Slave
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Not-so-Good-Morning
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When Your Days Are Like Empty Bowls
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Aren’t they painful yet powerful? Tell us what do you think.
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A Trip Down Memory Lane: 6 Classics to Relive Your Childhood

Some of our most unforgettable books were the ones we read in our childhood.  Perhaps it was our unfettered imaginations, or the ease with which we learned things, or perhaps that pure, creative mind that absorbed all stories and made those books memorable throughout our lives.
And now, more than ever, in our chaotic lives, is a good time to return to our glorious reading memories
Here are six classics that will take you on a trip down memory lane!
The Wizard of Oz
When a terrifying tornado crashes through Kansas, Dorothy, a little girl from a neighbourhood, is whisked away with her dog to the magical land of Oz. She thinks she’s lost forever and that’s when she embarks on an enchanting adventure.
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Malgudi Days
The fun that Swami and his friends have in the sleepy little town of Malgudi made Malgudi not just a place but an emotion. It meant hopping on a joyride and getting off at the Malgudi Railway Station, to enjoy a fascinating world.
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Sherlock Holmes
How can we forget our beloved detective who possesses unique powers of deduction and sets about inspecting complex cases, wearing his famous hat and smoking his pipe? We can’t help but tag along, as Sherlock Holmes conducts thrilling investigations, be it the foggy streets of Victorian London or the beautiful English countryside.
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The Jungle Book
A heart-warming story of a friendship between a boy man and the jungle, The Jungle Book tells a story of a ‘man-cub’ being saved from the jaws of an evil tiger and adopted by a pack of wolves. As Mowgli grows, our excitement grows with him and his escapades in the Seeonee jungle.
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Around the World in Eighty Days
The candidate: A daring traveller. The challenge: To travel across the world in just eighty days!
As the race against the clock begins, we are taken on a thrilling trip through exotic lands and dangerous places. Sometimes aboard a train, sometimes riding an elephant, it’s an exciting hustle to win the bet.
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Heidi
A charming story of the love for a place and for one’s grandparents, in this classic we are mesmerised by the joys experienced by Heidi, living in the Alps with her grandfather. When her strict aunt sends her away to the city, Heidi yearns to return to the happiness of life with her grandfather.
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Is there a memory of a book you would like to share? Do you have a beloved classic that you would want to talk about? Tell us – we would LOVE to know!

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Divya Dutta

In a career spanning more than two decades, Divya Dutta has appeared in multiple Hindi, Punjabi, Malayalam and English films. She is noted for playing a wide variety of roles in various film genres, and has established herself as one of the leading actresses of parallel cinema.
Here are a few things you may not have known about the IIFA Award winner.
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Find out more about Divya Dutta in her memoir Me and Ma.
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