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.