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A roller coaster ride called parenting

Author Shunali Khullar Shroff’s candid revelations about being a full-time mother in the book Battle Hymn of the Bewildered Mother are frank anecdotes that are entertaining as well as enlightening, finds Phorum Dalal

The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by US-based Amy Chua attracted much attention in 2010. In the book, she narrates her experience of raising two daughters by following a Chinese style of parenting bound by military-like rules. When we picked up Battle Hymn of a Bewildered Mother, we thought it would be an Indian version of the book, with a ranting mother laying down rules for to-be moms. However, the book is a fresh whiff of content as it doesn’t make tall promises of leaving you enlightened. It only tells you the story of a mother who jots down her embarrassment, exasperation and emotional ups and downs while raising her kids. Excerpts from the interview:


Author Shunali Khullar

Q. Have you read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua?
A. Yes, I have read the book. I did not write my book as a comeback to Amy Chua’s book at all. My book had a different working title at that time. My intent was to narrate my own experiences along the bumpy path of parenting.
Even though Battle Hymn of a Bewildered Mother is non-fiction, I think of myself as a storyteller and am only sharing my journey so far as a parent, with all its happy and baffling moments.

Q. What is your take on parenting?
A. I think my parenting is more laidback than Chua’s, not necessarily better or worse. I don’t feel the success of a human being lies merely on how well they play the piano or how much they score at math. I do feel that we lay too much emphasis on the achievements of our children whereas we all need to look at a more holistic way of raising them. My kids lead a regimented life - their bedtime, TV viewing quota, meal times are all absolutely fixed. But if my child is disinterested in a particular sport or an extra curricular activity, I do not force them.

Q. Why did you decide to write the book?
A. I wrote this book based on the success of my blog www.mumbaimusings.com where I write about myriad subjects that catch my imagination. People found my posts about my experiences as a parent amusing and relatable at the same time.

Q. Did you tell your kids about the book?
A. My younger one is seven. My older one, who is twelve, has a good sense of humour and found the book amusing.

Q. You have openly written about many awkward, embarrassing things kids do. What feedback did they give you?
A. Z (as she refers to her elder daughter in the book) did say she found a few bits embarrassing, but she took them in the right spirit. She knows as a writer, I look for material from real life.

Q. Is there a message you want to convey?
A. Not really. At best, I want to tell mothers to accept their failings as long as their heart is in the right place. We are all doing our best and yes, we will goof up. I love my kids, they are my priority, they complete me and true as all of this is, there are times when I shout at them or forget their parent teacher meetings or feed them sugar, all things I know to be bad. There are mums who fetch their children from school every day and then there are mums like me who do it only once a week, but that does not make me a bad parent.

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