Hello Arpita, Thank you so much for sharing your incredible journey with us. We are really proud to have you on our INCREDIBLE MOTHERS OF INDIA segment.
First of all tell us something about yourself, Who are you? What are you like? What are your dreams, aspirations? What defines you?
I am a mother…more precisely, a ‘non-working’ mother. My dreams are galore, my aspirations, unending. However, all these revolve around my children. I became a mother, twice, without resorting to any medical assistance, while racing against the biological clock. The least I can do is, treasure my hard-earned trophies.
I dream of seeing my children secured and well-established in their lives, and me and my husband as the ‘rocking grandparents’ to their children. My aspirations include providing them with loads of confidence and strength (physical and mental), to be able to face the various inevitable and unavoidable difficulties in life, head-on, without falling prey to psycho-somatic attacks!
My children define my present and would define my future and beyond…when my smiling face would adorn their walls. If I am able to rear them as honest, hard-working, ethical, and loving individuals, they would cherish my memories while raising a toast to their successful lives. They would inherit and continue this legacy of attaching maximum importance to ‘first- parenting’ of their off-springs. If I fail, do I need to say anymore?
I define ‘first-parenting’ as being the first guardian in my child’s life…nowadays, grandparents, neighbours, near-relations, nannies, housekeepers, and baby-sitters have usurped that place. I do not imply that only the mother can be the ‘first-parent’. A father can also be one. In our case, I assumed the role as my husband was the higher income-generator!
Tell us something about your childhood and growing up years.
I am the only child of my middle-class parents, both of whom have siblings, but both of whom opted to keep me ‘single’ to be able to provide me with the maximum security…of love and finance. I guess, their childhood shaped their perceptions. I am not complaining…till date, I command their undivided attention!
I had a happy and secured childhood, but missed company terribly. Those were the times, unlike nowadays, when most families had at least two kids. I would watch miserably how siblings would have fun in their own house on rainy days…on very hot days …on very cold days…on festival days…on all days when playing outside was not possible or essential.
I turned to ‘Phantom’, ‘Mandrake’, and ‘Flash Gordon’, for company…courtesy my father. Mind you, he has no deeper inclination or interests than these where reading is concerned! My mother has the more eclectic choice.
Like many, my interest in writing began after reading, ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’. I was in the third standard. Thus began my habit of diary-writing, and it continued for the next 18 years, till I got married when husband became my diary…absorbing all my confessions and rantings with equal ease!
Please share something about your school and college days.
My school days were much more interesting, impactful, and character-building than my college.
I am an alumnus of Loreto. My Irish principal, Sister M Cyril, is the 2007 recipient of the Padma Shri Award, for her contribution to the education of urban-pavement and rural children. From fifth to twelfth standard, the entire school, under her initiatives, had first-hand experience of dealing with, and getting to know the plight of pavement dwellers and children of women in the flesh-trade. Parents would rage outside the school, but to no avail. ‘Take away your kids if you want them caged away from the harsh realities of life.’
Such was her influence upon our lives during the twelve years of schooling, that I bet, all of my school mates, hardly remember, or recall any other teaching or non-teaching staff so distinctly!
‘Do it or damn it’ was an oft repeated phrase by our principal. Till date, I steer clear of cribbing people and gravitate towards resolute, decisive, and self-reliant folks.
‘Why do you need to ‘make-up’? You all are so pretty!’ Such was her genuine praise for us that for this lifetime at least, nobody can put me down from my pedestal of superior- beauty-complex! I am, thus, no mascot for any ‘make-up’ brand.
‘Those guys should be studying at this hour to get good jobs if they love you or intend to give you a good life. What are they doing on the pavement outside, loitering about, waiting for you to finish school and sneak off to spend their parents’ money on movie and snacks?’ Her take on the blossoming ‘first-love’ of eight standard students. This ensured that I avoided all romance en-route to adulthood, and fell in love well after completing my education, and only after being re-assured that so had my fiancé!
College had been three years of learning to survive against odds and honing people-skills, more than actual classroom teachings. Away from the taken-for-granted comforts of home, I learnt the value of home and the real meaning and worth of the term called ‘parents’. College and hostel had also given me a set of life-time friends, who erased my complaints of being the ‘only-child’.
What was your first years of working like?
I started as a trainee with the corporate division of Citibank…a brand more glamorous than any fashion magazine in those days! My first tryst with the corporate big-wigs happened at a lunch in Kolkata’s Taj Bengal. Unaware of my boss’s intention to tow a simple trainee along, I had turned up in my typical mid-week-fatigues: well-oiled hair and just about presentable clothes. To top these, I was in ‘chappals’ owing to a bandaged left foot (sprained earlier). That day I learnt that branded clothes and ‘make-up’ matters but to a limited degree…confidence, sincerity, and humility gets the firm handshake from the top boss, the car-door gets opened by your own boss, and a salute gets extended by the doorman of the five-star!
Between 1999 and 2012, I worked with 6 organisations and innumerable colleagues…hob-nobbed with all the rungs of the organisational ladder…never did this lesson fail me.
Could you share some of your special achievements? Any memorable moments or incidents?
Over the last couple of years, I have undergone an immense change within, which I consider an achievement.
Earlier, I would always strive to attain the benchmarks set by those who mattered to me. It was taking a toll on my individuality and beliefs. Unfortunately, it took many years for me to realise that affections and deep ties were not subject to conditions of any kind. You did not have to agree over the same things to prove your attachment or your allegiance.
That was when this internal make-over occurred. I have stopped being unsure about my beliefs and stopped waiting for validations from others. I make my own decisions, weather the flak, and accept the bouquets…blame no one…offer no excuses.
The rebooting also coincided with Readomania and Dipankar (my R&D) convincing me to join in Crossed & Knotted and focus on editing as a career option. R&D has literally turned me over a new leaf!
Can you share some of your life events which made you stronger as a person?
I had undergone an appendicitis surgery during my second month of expecting my first-born.
The surgeon had not guaranteed the life of the foetus but assured to take ‘maximum-precaution’. Thus, I underwent the surgery with minimal anaesthesia…that is to say…they bound my hands and feet and put an oxygen mask…I was conscious of the incision, the severing of the infected organ from my body and the stitching up of the incision. I had understood what ‘my brain was screaming in pain’ meant.
During the next few months, various naysayers counselled my family to terminate the pregnancy, saying with all conviction that the surgery was bound to impact the baby negatively. It was one gynac uncle and an ultra-sonographist who hammered sense into my numb head…In fact…they mentored me to be a mother…’You are a mother…no one can take your baby from you…because you have the ability to save your child from all threats…think like a mother…act like a mother .’ I guess, that was the time my entity as a daughter and wife…my identity as Arpita Banerjee…my definition as a ‘Working Woman’ …all dissolved and re-incarnated as simply a ‘Mother’.
The entire ordeal was worth it when my baby was delivered safe and healthy seven months later.
Any personal ups and downs you would like to share.
My second child was about 15 months when she was wrong diagnosed during a severe bout of pneumonia at a well-known hospital in Bangalore. On the verge of losing her, we had flown her down to Kolkata and put her under the care of a known paediatrician who had been God-sent for a small interval from UK at that time.
Some well-meaning acquaintances had sneered at my ‘working woman’ status, attributing the heightened life-risk to my lack of care. It had taken immense self control to zip up my mouth and hurl abuses.
We are living in a society at a time when daughters are equally encouraged towards building strong careers; prospective daughters-in-law are sought not only based upon their looks and breeding, but also, upon their capability of doing a job; working wives are expected to handover their salaries for the annual investment plans and chip in the housing or car loans and fund exotic vacations. The society jeers at all those who do not toe this socially ‘in’ format.
Over and above all this, we are expected to conceive ‘within 30’, attend office till the ‘EDD’, deliver safely, nurture, feed and wean at the right times, and bounce back to home and office duty ‘ASAP’, after ensuring proper baby care at the safest crèche or the most reliable baby-sitter! We are supposed to rush at the first SOS call from the baby-care, pat and cuddle the temperamental baby to comatose compliance and fly back to the office desk. We are supposed to exhaust all our paid leaves, sick leaves and forego PF and gratuity benefits by taking unpaid leaves, just because we ‘choose’ to be the ‘working mothers’!
So what happens, if I ‘choose’ to not be a working-mother? Husband and children are ultra happy. No doubts about that.
But…well meaning acquaintances give me unsolicited suggestions of how to find work again…it takes me a while to understand that they are assuming that I have lost my job! Who in their right mind would leave their well-paying job!?! When I tell them that I intend to give quality time to my husband and children, I lose an entire set of friends…it takes me some more time to realise that I had hurt their sensibilities…after all they too are working mothers…so my staying at home implied that they were imperfect moms and wives!
What are you doing now and How does your life look like presently?
Leading a dream-like life. Playing ‘home-home’, drawing, reading, editing, and spending every waking hour being around my children and husband and ensuring that they look forward to returning to a peaceful home daily at the end of their gruelling day.
How do you see yourself in the future?
A rocking granny ;-D… a ‘celebrity’ granny would be an icing!
Would you like to give a message for the readers of our blogazine.
I quote from a story of mine…
“Do not involve another person in your life if you cannot prioritise your relationship over all other things.”
Parents, spouse, and children are all those relations in our lives who matter. Nobody can claim happiness and peace in the absence of these relationships, if they have spent even a day enjoying their company. Unless someone is a psychotic-criminal, nothing else justifies a straining or severance of ties…not even a well-paying job.
Some INCREDIBLE art, by Arpita.
Interview co-ordinated for IWI: Rhiti Bose