An entire day (week, month, or even a year) dedicated to mothers doesn’t seem enough for the importance they hold in all of our lives. They’re the constant, indomitable, and unconditionally-loving presence that we can’t do without. They’ve spent much of their lives raising and caring for us. But have you ever wondered what it would be like to interview your mother? To go back to yesteryear and unravel your mother’s journey through the highest of highs and lowest of lows? It seems frightening, and fascinating all at once. This Mother’s Day, I took it upon myself to delve deep into a conversation with maa (Deepa Mirza), as she speaks about motherhood and its various nuances. Here’s an insight into her priorities, insecurities, anxieties, strengths, and more.
Dia Mirza Rekhi: Where were you when you found out when you were having me and what were yours and papa’s reactions like? I remember you telling me that you wanted a child for a very long time.
Deepa Mirza: I had just come out of the pathological lab and I had got my results. I just couldn’t believe it—at first, I was in a state of shock but then my happiness knew no bounds. I was too numb, too happy. I can still feel that emotion that I did all those years ago, because it was a long-awaited pregnancy and that’s it.
DMR: How did you cope with the bodily changes that you went through (given the perception of how a woman is supposed to look)? I remember, when I was pregnant you were telling me about how I should eat like a French—in small portions and many times.
DM: So, what happened was, your father was very, very particular during my pregnancy because I was petite. But to tell you honestly, I didn’t care whether I became fat, I was concentrating on my pregnancy. I just was so happy carrying you that I would eat everything and it didn’t matter to me much. Of course, I used to walk a lot, I did a lot of housework and I did office work. I tried to be fit but I ate to my heart’s content and I ate everything.
DMR: Were you conscious of your body?
DM: No not at all, I was very happy. In fact, I wasn’t showing till I was five months pregnant. There was only a little bulge. I thought my baby must be so small, you know? In those days, you never did sonography, so I was worried about that.
DMR: Did your goals as a woman change after becoming a mother?
DM: See, when you have a baby, you shouldn’t allow any kind of unhappiness or insecurities to bother you. When you were born, I became more responsible. I thought I should make a little bit more money so that I could give you more things.
DMR: You were a working woman and after I was born I remember you telling me that you didn’t step out of the house for the entire year because I was prematurely born. You had very heightened insecurities and anxieties about my safety. I even remember you telling me that you didn’t allow anybody to enter the house, papa was not allowed to hold me until he had a bath. What were your fears and anxieties?
DM: Of course, I had my anxieties. I was told by my doctors and nurses out there that I have to be very careful with a premature baby and now I recall that I was very, very careful. Nobody was allowed to enter your room without having a bath. There was nothing like sanitising in those days, but washing hands was as good as that. The doctors had said that, as a premature baby your immune system is very low, so I was very particular about that and in fact, some of my friends thought that I was going crazy to be behaving that way, but honestly I didn’t care. I went on being the way I was.
DMR: How would you describe yourself as a mother—extremely protective?
DM: No, I wouldn’t say I was extremely protective but I was extremely careful.
DMR: You didn’t step out of the house for an entire year. Was there a shift in your priorities?
DM: So, I worked from home. Luckily, the few clients I had, would come home and talk to me. I had a very good supervisor who used to manage my sites. But you took precedence over everything. That goes without saying even now. Your life, your happiness, is my priority. If you look back, my world revolves around you—yes. But not obsessively.
DMR: What gave you peace?
DM: Peace and comfort was again you. Because I thought I was the luckiest woman. I still remember those moments when I would just hold you in my arms and just thank god because I never thought I’d get pregnant, I never thought I’d have a child. So, when you came into this world, obviously my whole world revolved around you.
DMR: What were you most scared of while raising me?
DM: To tell you honestly, I had no fears. Concerns, yes. There was a little bit of anxiety about your health but that was it. I was very particular about, you being a very beautiful baby I wanted to make sure that you grew up as a good, beautiful, solid, strong person.
DMR: I also remember you telling me, your beauty is only as good as what you do so who you are as a human being matters more. How much of yourself do you see in me and how does that make you feel?
DM: Very little of me actually. You are a lot like your father. Temperamentally you are like me, but you have some very strong characters which are not mine. It’s funny, I never saw much of me in you, because you are so meticulous and thorough and I am not. You are so precise and I am not. You’re so good looking and I am not…
DMR: What rubbish?!
DMR: Have there been moments where I surprised you while growing up?
DM: Every day you would surprise me. You had so much to offer as a baby—I was so fascinated by you and everything you did was a surprise. Another concern was that for two years you didn’t speak much. You would only say a few words ma, papa. The doctors told me not to worry. So, you really surprised me when you spoke a full sentence, absolutely clearly the first time you spoke. I couldn’t believe my ears. It was a long sentence, something along the lines of, “Kalpana went to America by plane…”
DMR: Where do you get your strength from on days that seem not so perfect? Now don’t say, ‘From you’ (laughs).
DM: Oh my god, really now? You’re pretty vain, aren’t you?!
DMR: But you’re my biggest strength.
DM: You’re my biggest strength too. I was pulling your leg.
DMR: Do you remember our biggest fight till date? Remember how we resolved it?
DM: No, I don’t remember. I don’t think we’ve really had a big fight in our life. When you were a teenager around 14-15 years old, you bothered me a lot. But that’s a part of growing up that I took into my stride and it was all fine.
DMR: Who was the first person you confided in when I told you I’d signed my first film and what did you feel when you saw me on the big screen?
DM: Oh, your stepfather (Ahmed Mirza), (fondly called Abba) was the first person who I told. When I saw you on the big screen, I just couldn’t believe it. I said, “My god, is that my daughter?” But I don’t know if you recall, I was pretty critical of the performance.
DMR: Yes, you were. And I was like “Okay, calm down.” You’ve always been critical, but it has always been constructive criticism. Never done it without a reason.
DMR: Do you think you will ever reach that point in your life where you'll stop mothering me?
DM: No. And I don’t want to.
DMR: Are you proud of my journey, where I am right now?
DM: What a question. Yes, I’m very extremely proud.
DMR: Who is an actor or a film from your time that I should act in or a book/story you feel I can really pull off?
DM: You’ll be surprised if I told you that every time I saw Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam (1962), I wish you could get a role like Meena Kumari’s.
DMR: Ya. My god, I’d give an arm and a leg for that.
DMR: How do you think I am as a mother?
DM: You’ve done me so proud. I can’t tell you how brilliantly you’ve done. You’ve been a mother all your life. You used to mother your little friends. I don’t know if you remember Shama, who you used to play with. You’ve always mothered her, always wanted to give them something to eat and take care of the babies and children around you. Some were elder than you, but you still wanted to mother them. Inherently, you are a mother. This is why I am not at all surprised to see you with Avyaan. And the way you are with Samaira (Dia’s stepdaughter), it’s sometimes so overwhelming to see the beautiful relationship that you two share.
DMR: What’s the most prized possession that I have given you?
DM: I wouldn’t call my children possessions (laughs out loud). I would say that everything that I have and you’ve given me is precious.
DMR: If we had to take a trip together, just the two of us, where should we go?
DM: There are so many places in my bucket list. I would like to go everywhere with you. To tell you honestly, I want to go to the south of France. Maybe Greece.