Comedian Atul Khatri and daughter Mishti on the place of humour in life
Comedian Atul Khatri and daughter Mishti, a fitness trainer, on how humour has helped strengthen the bond between the two Capricornians
On her Instagram page, 24-year-old Mishti Khatri is giving millennials new goals. A pacer with the Nike+ Run Club and a certified trainer from the American College of Sports Medicine, Mishti is working hard at turning herself into a machine. If you watch her functional training videos, you'd know she means business. But trust her dad, stand-up comedian Atul Khatri, to troll her feed. "Once you finish monkeying around can you please come home, fill the bottles with water and keep it in the fridge," he comments on a video of her doing bent knee clap push-ups and the dragon crawl. "Bro no electricity at home," she responds. On another post, where she shows off her beach bod, Atul makes one more request: "Once you finish posing and head home — can you please get a packet of bread and 6 eggs from the market." An embarrassed Mishti replies, "Dad byeeeeee".
Their social media repartee is just the tip of the iceberg. Outside the virtual world, they are a lot crazier. "She's very much like me," admits Atul, when we meet the father-daughter duo at their Juhu bungalow, on an overcast weekday morning. "We are both Capricornians, and I guess, that's why we are so similar. For instance, if we are in an airplane, and if there's a choice of food, we could be sitting in different places, but we'd order the same thing," he says, about how telepathic the two are. "Since we are so alike, my mom and sister dread leaving us together. It's like the same forces running against each other," Mishti adds.
Growing up with a funny dad meant that Mishti did not have to try hard to laugh. Only moments ago, during the photo shoot in their garden, when Mishti asked if she should put her heels on, dad Atul — not one to stress over tiny details — pleaded sarcastically, "No beta. Your chappals look great." When she requests to see her pictures, he sighs, "Now this shoot won't end till she gets that perfect shot." The teasing never ends.
"He is always cracking jokes," she says, sometimes even when the situation might not warrant one. Here, Atul remembers that time when he came home one evening, to find Mishti crying on the couch and his wife, Shaguna, consoling her. On enquiring, he learnt that his daughter and her then boyfriend had had a fight. "Because, I was using his Netflix subscription, that's the first thing that came to my mind. I asked shocked, 'Oh sh**! How will I watch Netflix?'" Mishti recalls being furious. "After that, dad was literally after me to use my break-up as material for his stand-up," she says.
At home and even otherwise, Atul has always used humour to combat the ironies of life. "It's just the kind of person I am," he says. "We all have that one friend, who's pulling everyone's leg all the time. That's me." As a parent too, he ensured that his two daughters weren't overwhelmed by things around them. "When they were in school, I'd often take up their studies. Once, I prepared a model maths paper, where after a few questions, I wrote that they could watch TV for an hour, before solving the remaining set," he says. "Mum got wild, but we told her that we were only following instructions," grins Mishti.
But, like any parent, Atul has a serious side. If and when they go partying, the girls are given strict instructions to keep him informed about the friends they are hanging out with, and the time they'd make it home. "Nowadays, everyone has these useless iPhones; before you know, the battery has drained out and you can't be in touch with them. Whether it's a son or daughter, you would be worried about the safety of your child," he says. Mishti doesn't mind that at all. "They are my friends, but they are also my parents. It cannot always be fun and games. You have to be able to look up to them as your parents too," she says, adding that her dad's also quite a taskmaster.
Atul, who was a businessman and CEO of a company, before he took up stand-up professionally, says that he could have ensured that his daughters had a sheltered upbringing, but chose against that. "After they completed schooling, I got them to take admission at Jai Hind College in Churchgate, and told them that they'd now have to take the train daily. I even took Mishti on a train-initiation programme," says the comedian. "A lot of parents have become very protective [of their kids]. Even my friends said, 'Are you crazy? You could have just sent her to Mithibai, since it's closer to home, and got a driver to pick and drop them. But, I wanted my girls to toughen up."
Mishti is only glad he did that. Now a coach at Kinetic Living and The Heal Institute, where she sometimes clocks in 12 hours daily, Mishti says that it's because her father motivated her to be such an outdoorsy person, and work hard that it became easier for her to imbibe the same discipline, in her life. In fact, she did her first marathon with her dad in 2015. It was also the last one that Atul — he has completed 13 half marathons — ran. Show commitments make it tough.
The duo also loves trolling each other on social media. "I realise that people wait for dad's comments [on my posts]. I don't mind it, because it gets me a lot of engagement," laughs Mishti. But, if there's something she does mind, it's the trolls that attack her dad for no rhyme or reason. "But I don't get affected by that. And I have also told them [my family] not to. Everyone has a smartphone and Reliance gifted us free Jio. If I can have an opinion, let them have theirs too," Atul says, with a word of advice for his daughter, "You shouldn't really care about random people throwing rocks at you."
Also Read: Laughter in the city
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