Ch­havi Mit­tal

talks about her act­ing ca­reer and the ar­rival of Areeza, 18 months

Mother & Baby - - FRONT PAGE -

Mum­bai, 2006: It was two years af­ter their mar­riage. Ch­havi Mit­tal and Mo­hit Hus­sein were try­ing to get preg­nant be­cause ev­ery­one said it was the right time. But, her doc­tor di­ag­nosed a der­moid cyst in her ovary, which she was ad­vised to get re­moved. It wasn’t ma­lig­nant but it could cre­ate prob­lems if she wanted to con­ceive later, the doc­tor said. She ex­plains how that surgery af­fected them as a cou­ple: “I had wo­ken up dur­ing the surgery de­spite anaes­the­sia. Mo­hit saw me in a lot of pain and was nearly in tears. I woke up very trau­ma­tised and he said he didn’t want me to go through any pain again. ‘You and I are happy to­gether’ he de­clared. In the ICU that day, we de­cided that we didn’t want ba­bies. We re­alised that we had tried for a baby not be­cause we were ready but be­cause of parental pres­sure.” So that was that, they thought.


How­ever, there comes a phase in ev­ery re­la­tion­ship when you ques­tion yourself ‘what next’, and so it was with the Hus­seins. This time around, they were ready to re­ceive a lit­tle an­gel, but didn’t con­sult a doc­tor and went the con­ven­tional way and it all worked out. Areeza was born on De­cem­ber 20, 2012. So, how did they de­cide to give this new disha (di­rec­tion) to their life and re­la­tion­ship? Ch­havi finds it hard to nail one rea­son. “I guess when you’re ready, you just know it. Mo­hit was ready for a year and was wait­ing for me to say yes. We had been mar­ried for seven years and thought it was time...” Of course, there were other trig­gers as well. She ad­mits, “There are hid­den signs... we knew our close friends Shweta Kawaa­tra and Manav Go­hil for so many years and sud­denly they were preg­nant, and we saw them sooo happy. My other friends were also telling me that we should have a baby, that life would never be the same again, it would be so much more beau­ti­ful... And then there was the thought that we’ve shared a great life with each other as a cou­ple, we are pro­fes­sion­ally very sound, so what next? Mo­hit and I have a very com­plete re­la­tion­ship, we share ev­ery­thing with each other and so shar­ing a baby was the next best thing.” In­ter­est­ingly, Ch­havi was host­ing a kiddy show, Chhote Miyan, for COL­ORS chan­nel, just be­fore she con­ceived! “Ev­ery­body thought that I was re­ally good with the kid and were amazed that I didn’t have one of my own and that I should have one. Na­ture has strange ways of point­ing to­wards one di­rec­tion and then it hap­pens. There were kids of all age-groups on that show from eight-14 years. It was a kids’ com­edy show, where they were do­ing stand up com­edy. It was great to watch them do weird and funny acts. Even dur­ing the breaks, I would be sit­ting with them, they used to re­ally love play­ing all over me,” she laughs. That she is good with kids was ev­i­dent dur­ing our shoot with Ch­havi and Areeza as well. April 28, 2012, was the eve of Ch­havi and Mo­hit’s sev­enth wed­ding an­niver­sary. But, the cou­ple had fought and had not been on talk­ing terms for the last few days. Ch­havi had also missed her ‘dates’. “Since we were try­ing for a baby any­way, I could be preg­nant any time. I had al­ready bought a preg­nancy test kit. So when I missed my dates, I did a preg­nancy test at home and found it was pos­i­tive. Just to dou­ble check, I went to a doc­tor and the news was in­deed pos­i­tive. I pan­icked. Though we knew it was time we had a baby, I didn’t think it would hap­pen so quickly, the way it hap­pens in the movies.” And here they were, not even on talk­ing terms! “Though we never sleep over our dif­fer­ences this time our scrap had lasted longer. I was won­der­ing what his re­ac­tion would be, what if he said he didn’t want the baby!” she con­fesses her vul­ner­a­bil­ity. Mo­hit, re­turn­ing late af­ter his shoot, en­tered with a big stuffed teddy

bear and flow­ers for Ch­havi. “He had never ever bought me a stuffed toy in those seven years. So I asked him how come he got one that day. He said, ‘I don’t know, I went to buy flow­ers and the teddy was next to it, so I bought it’ and I started cry­ing and I told him ‘I also have a gift for you’. I had gift-wrapped my preg­nancy test, and when he opened it, he was stunned and he started cry­ing, and I started cry­ing and then we both hugged and patched up. I told him about my ap­pre­hen­sions about his re­ac­tion and he said, ‘Are you mad, why should you be get­ting wor­ried? This is the best thing that could hap­pen to us!’. I had bought a cake for our an­niver­sary and had had them ice ‘Happy An­niver­sary, Papa’ on it. It’s amaz­ing how we both bought each other baby-re­lated gifts!” she gig­gles. This was also the time when Ch­havi had signed a new show and was sched­uled to leave for Delhi to shoot the pi­lot. She was in a real dilemma. She first broke the news of her preg­nancy to her pro­ducer Tony. “He was very sup­port­ive and con­grat­u­lated me. He told me not worry and to en­joy the best pe­riod of my life. ‘Let me han­dle it,’ he said. Af­ter break­ing the news to the chan­nel, he asked me if I would be able to shoot the pi­lot. I told him I could shoot till I start show­ing or till he didn’t want me to shoot. Putting the pro­ducer in a soup was not an op­tion be­cause I know how re­plac­ing a main lead is detri­men­tal to a show. So I shot the pi­lot of the show, which was de­layed by a year be­cause they were hunt­ing for a re­place­ment,” she ex­plains. When they fi­nally started shoot­ing for the show (with an­other ac­tor), Areeza was born and was al­ready two months old.


If ever there’s a ‘dream preg­nancy’ it was Ch­havi’s. “I gained barely 10 ki­los in my preg­nancy. The max­i­mum weight I gained was in the last two months of preg­nancy. Be­fore that, my bump did not show much. I fit­ted into all my clothes, I didn’t have to buy a new wardrobe ei­ther be­fore or af­ter the preg­nancy. I could even wear my shorts through­out my nine months! My skin glowed, my hair be­came long and lus­trous, my nails be­came health­ier... I wanted to be preg­nant for the rest of my life! I loved the at­ten­tion ev­ery­one around show­ered on me. I had been to a Chi­nese restau­rant where they served a buf­fet and asked them if they could give me some­thing that did not con­tain MSG (monosodium glu­ta­mate), and lo and be­hold, they laid a sep­a­rate ta­ble for me with eight dif­fer­ent dishes... that’s the kind of ser­vice I wanted to get for the rest of my life! It was the best pe­riod of my life,” she twin­kles, as she munches on Threptin bis­cuits and sips on her cold cof­fee. No won­der then, that she got some of the best act­ing of­fers, not only in TV but also in Hindi and Pun­jabi films. Yet an­other rea­son why Ch­havi loved her preg­gers phase! Dur­ing preg­nancy, she was high on fruits and amla juice on the rec­om­men­da­tion of her mum. She also had her diet planned for the mid­night hunger pangs. “In the mid­dle of the night, I would eat Threptins, nuts and ba­nanas. Mo­hit would pre­pare a glass of milk and store it in the fridge. At four am, I had to have apri­cots, figs, wal­nuts and al­monds. I ate break­fast twice, which I con­tinue to do. The minute I wake up, I need to eat and by the time my cook comes at 10 am, I’m hun­gry again, so he makes me paran­thas. I never used to eat curds and sal­ads so I in­cluded those in my diet. In the evening, it would be sand­wiches. I’m ad­dicted to cold cof­fee but I had to stop hav­ing it dur­ing preg­nancy. My doc­tor had al­lowed me to have two cups of tea. I could have de­caf­feinated cof­fee. Mum used to feed me with a lot of paya soup and fish.

For some strange rea­son, I started crav­ing cook­ies and chai, and also crab!” she shares. She also tells us how her so­cial life started chang­ing dur­ing preg­nancy. “I didn’t en­joy­ing go­ing out as much be­cause you can nei­ther drink nor smoke and nor can you be around the smok­ers. I used to feel so hun­gry but I would find it awk­ward ask­ing for some­thing to eat ev­ery one hour. I feel people who don’t have ba­bies can’t re­late to a preg­nant per­son. They won­der ‘why has she come, she’s a bur­den!’ I would move out if some­one was smok­ing be­cause I didn’t want to spoil some­body else’s fun. I stopped go­ing out to ran­dom friends’ houses but con­tin­ued to visit only very close friends’ homes,” she ex­plains. It was at this time in her life that Ch­havi met a whole new set of people, though. Her pre-natal classes were an adda for many mums-to-be, who at­tended coun­selling ses­sions on preg­nancy, breast­feed­ing, diet and de­liv­ery. They bonded and be­came friends. As is the norm with the cou­ple, Mo­hit was part of this as­pect of her life as well. Re­calls Ch­havi, “Mo­hit was the only hus­band who came along for many other ses­sions, where he would sit in one cor­ner feel­ing most em­bar­rassed amidst so many preg­nant women. For our ses­sion on child­birth, our hus­bands were also in­vited. In this class, Mo­hit got a lot of flak from all other hus­bands who couldn’t at­tend as many ses­sions and their wives had cribbed about it!” And then there was her fab baby shower, which Ch­havi and her cousin and dear friend Kar­ishma Ran­dewa (who has shared her preg­nancy diary on page 24), had been plan­ning for a month. “We had fun games and ev­ery­one drank ex­cept me,” Ch­havi mock-sulks, adding, “I got a yel­low dress made for the oc­ca­sion, while ev­ery­body else wore white.” When she was five months along, she felt a flut­ter, which felt like gas. Ch­havi tried all kinds of tricks to get Mo­hit to feel the flut­ter but he couldn’t. “So I would lie down and tell him to put his fin­ger in my navel but he still couldn’t feel any­thing. This con­tin­ued for about 15 days. Then one fine day, it hap­pened... a proper kick! I have videos of my stomach go­ing up and down and side­ways. This would hap­pen most af­ter eat­ing and at night. The fun­ni­est sight was my navel, which would sud­denly pop out and then re­cede slowly,” she says. With all these mem­o­rable mo­ments and a min­i­mum of dif­fi­cul­ties, her preg­nancy was truly flaw­less... just like her skin. “I don’t have a sin­gle stretch­mark. I needed zero make-up while go­ing out. In fact, I got these dark cir­cles only af­ter preg­nancy be­cause of lack of sleep and since I lost 11 kgs,” she says.


When Areeza was born in Mum­bai’s Kok­i­l­aben Am­bani Hospi­tal, Mo­hit was present in the labour room, sit­ting right be­hind Ch­havi through the en­tire 45-minute or­deal, hold­ing her, coax­ing her to push. Her eyes brim­ming with emo­tion Ch­havi says, “I could see the doc­tor was more wor­ried about him and kept ask­ing if he was okay... He helped me do my duck­walks in the room, he was count­ing my con­trac­tions, he even noted them down. Rather than the nurse, Mo­hit was fol­low­ing

all of the doc­tor’s in­struc­tions. We had had to in­duce labour be­cause Areeza stopped grow­ing in the tummy for two weeks. Her weight was only two-and-a-half kgs for the last two weeks, the doc­tor got wor­ried and told us we needed to get her out. In the last month, the baby should put on half a kilo ev­ery week; I was 38 weeks ma­ture, pretty much full-term. I was some­how not able to push and they had to use suc­tion and even for­ceps... and fi­nally, madam Areeza ar­rived! Even af­ter the baby came, Mo­hit was very ef­fi­cient.” Ch­havi’s mum, who was in the labour room too, has a rea­son to adore her son-in-law. She says, “I saw his ex­pres­sion, he was about to cry when she was strug­gling with pain. Even af­ter Areeza ar­rived, he sat still, only both­er­erd about Ch­havi. In our times, hus­bands never went into the labour room. So I loved that...” Ch­havi re­calls see­ing Areeza upside down with her black eyes wide open. But they had to take her to the in­cu­ba­tor be­cause her lungs had not de­vel­oped fully. She re­mem­bers be­ing full of won­der, ask­ing her­self ‘Was this the baby in­side my tummy? Is she the one who was kick­ing around?’. Mo­hit was awestruck too, and af­ter five min­utes af­ter the birth, the doc­tor had to re­mind him ‘don’t you want to know if it’s a boy or a girl?!’ And Mo­hit came out of his stu­por and said ‘Yes please...’ and the doc­tor broke the news that it was a girl. Says Ch­havi, “A mother feels like a mother the mo­ment she be­comes preg­nant, but a fa­ther feels like a fa­ther when he holds the baby in his arms. For the first three-four days, he was very scared to even hold her, but even­tu­ally he did. He would stare at her for long, try to touch her. Now we are scared to dis­turb her lest she wakes up!!!” So, how did they think of call­ing her Areeza? Ac­cord­ing to Ch­havi, Areeza is de­rived from the word Arzi (mes­sage). On a night called the Badi Raat, Mus­lims pay trib­ute to the dead. You have to visit the burial ground where your an­ces­tors are buried and light a can­dle. That’s also when you write a wish on a piece of paper, wrap it in flour and throw it into a wa­ter body for the fish to eat. They say that when the fish eat up that flour, they are tran­fer­ring your mes­sage to the 12th Imam. That wish or re­quest is called Areeza. Ch­havi ex­plains, “This name came up on a Badi Raat when Mo­hit was ex­plain­ing the sig­nif­i­cance of that night. At the very mo­ment that he was telling me to write my Areeza on a piece of paper, ev­ery­one cho­rused – Areeza sounds like a good name for a girl. And then he ex­plained to them its mean­ing. It was a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion that if it was a girl, we’d name her Areeza.”


Ch­havi’s story about be­ing a mother would not be com­plete if we don’t tell you what hap­pened when Mo­hit, who stayed with her for 15 days af­ter the birth, had to re­sume work, and her mum also left af­ter a month. She was all alone. She shares, “That’s when I found it dif­fi­cult to cope. The baby and I were alone and that’s when I made a rou­tine for her. For 20-25 days, I was try­ing to get her used to sleep­ing on her own. Her cot was in my room so I used to put her in the cot and stand near the door for hours wait­ing for her to set­tle down. She was about three months by then. I had read up a lot and fol­lowed in­struc­tions and did not rock or pat her to sleep. Grad­u­ally, she got used to sleep­ing on her own.” Nurs­ing was a dif­fi­cult pe­riod. “I used to feed her ev­ery two hours and that would drain me out. For five months, it was pretty much exclusive breast­milk for her. Af­ter a while, I started ex­press­ing it so some­body else could feed her. This was also the time I couldn’t step out and I used to be very hun­gry. Strangely, I had put on a lot of weight dur­ing this pe­riod. I have the most adorable videos of her feed­ing. She used to make a strange noise and we con­sulted the doc­tor so he told us that she a had a lit­tle block­age in the nose but it would be okay with time and it was. She would mostly dose off and Mo­hit would take her lit­tle foot and rub it against his stub­bled cheek and she would wake up... it was the cutest time. Burp­ing her took the long­est and I would not put her down be­cause of the fear of her chok­ing. As a re­sult, I used to get my sleep in fits and starts. I used to mas­sage her and bathe her my­self, feed her my­self so I felt very over­worked at least for those six months that I breast­fed her,” she says in a gush of emo­tion.


She highly rec­om­mends a baby mon­i­tor and baby cot to ev­ery mum. “The baby mon­i­tor is a two-way alarm that can be turned on in the baby’s room and you have the re­ceiver with you. If she wakes up, you can hear her crys­tal clear, you can even hear the rustling of sheets if the baby moves. I feel Areeza sleeps so much bet­ter be­cause she sleeps undis­turbed. Ev­ery par­ent should move the baby to the baby’s room once they feel the baby sleeps for a good amount of time through the night, other­wise mum and dad don’t get time to­gether. I’m with her the whole day and I need my space, I need to watch TV in peace at night and un­wind, I can’t do that if she’s in the room. I’m soon go­ing to buy a video baby mon­i­tor, so I can see her too,” Ch­havi de­clares. Ch­havi doesn’t be­lieve in baby-proof­ing the house overly be­cause she rather Areeza gets used to her sur­round­ings. “There’s a big book­shelf, so when she started crawl­ing, she would take out the books and tear them, but we never stopped her so now she is done with it. She climbs on the couch but doesn’t know how to get off, but she’ll have to learn that her­self. We all fall, get up and even­tu­ally learn,” she philosophises.


The downside of hav­ing a baby, if at all, was that she put on weight, her stitches took long to heal and sit­ting down for long be­came a prob­lem. “I have a slipped disc and some pain in my up­per back, which could be be­cause of car­ry­ing Areeza on my left arm. Dur­ing my lac­ta­tion pe­riod, I had put on a lot of weight. I used to drink a lot of milk, and eat a lot of pan­jiri made of wheat flour, gaund and dry fruit, muesli and sooji halwa, apart from the reg­u­lar food with desi ghee. Con­trol­ling the hal­was, pan­jiri, moti­choor lad­doos, cakes and pas­tries was a bit tough. Mo­hit used to shoot in Naigaon, where there was a dairy – Bha­jan­lal Dairy – that makes the best rabdi and ras­malai... ufff... he used to get all these for me. Ini­tially, my weight was 51.4 kgs, and it went up to 61.4 dur­ing preg­nancy. But af­ter de­liv­ery, when I came home, I was still 61.4 kgs. In the four days that I was in the hospi­tal, I had bloated up. To lose those 10 kgs was very tough. Once I started go­ing to the gym, I stopped all pro­cessed food, su­gar, desi ghee, muffins and cakes. It took me six months to lose the weight,” she con­fides. Food has al­ways been a big deal with Ch­havi any­way, as she her­self con­fesses, “My hunger pangs just ir­ri­tate the [email protected]#t out of me, I have to eat in a 15-minute win­dow.” But why Threptin bis­cuits? She an­swers, “They are high in protein and

I can’t tol­er­ate hunger be­cause I get a headache im­me­di­ately. When I’m out or shoot­ing and I don’t have the time to eat, keep­ing these bis­cuits handy makes good sense. I started eat­ing these when I was preg­nant be­cause I used to feel hun­gry ev­ery one hour. Even now, a cou­ple of Threptins and cold cof­fee and I’m sorted.” She has a word of ad­vice for deal­ing with weighty woes. “In­dian women can’t lose the post-preg­nancy weight be­cause they take too long to hit the gym and get back to nor­mal life. If you let the weight set­tle for too long, then it takes even longer for you to lose it. It has taken you nine months to put on weight, so give yourself nine months to lose it too... don’t ex­pect it to hap­pen im­me­di­ately. Take con­trol of it af­ter your stitches have healed and you’re feel­ing fine phys­i­cally. You should start your walks within a month, whether you have a C-sec­tion or a nor­mal de­liv­ery, and def­i­nitely hit the gym af­ter two months. I started tak­ing my evening walks within a month. Af­ter two months, I hit the gym. Grad­u­ally, I started in­creas­ing the in­ten­sity of my work­out, which is why I could lose the weight. My doc­tor gave me the go-ahead af­ter the first month it­self but my mum told me to hold it a bit. We must ob­serve our body and fig­ure the right ex­er­cise plan for our­selves,” she avers.


Ch­havi and Mo­hit had the best re­la­tion­ship any­way but af­ter preg­nancy, it scaled up a bit. “When I be­came preg­nant, he started treat­ing me like a baby. He would tol­er­ate all my tantrums, never refuse me any­thing, no mat­ter what I did or mis­take I made, he never lost pa­tience,” she smiles. And now, if he is su­per car­ing to­wards Ch­havi, then he is like but­ter with Areeza. Says Ch­havi, “He loves her a 100 times more than he does me. His rou­tine is so tight and so is Areeza’s, he never gets to see her be­fore leav­ing for work or af­ter re­turn­ing. So, when he’s home, he just can’t let go. Whether it’s been giv­ing her a mas­sage or bathing her or chang­ing di­a­pers or burp­ing her – he does EV­ERY­THING for her.”


When we ask her if we’ll see her on the screen again, she ad­mits that the of­fers never stopped com­ing but she couldn’t take them up ear­lier be­cause Areeza was too small. “It’s good to know that I’m still wanted and I don’t have to start from scratch,” she avers. For­tu­nately, Areeza’s grand­par­ents are close at hand and happy to babysit if Ch­havi takes on work. “She is very happy with Dada-Dadi; when they are here, we get no bhaav!” she laughs. Her first shoot post-baby was for an ad when Areeza was four months old. She has en­dorsed sev­eral top-end prod­ucts – Benedryl, Google, Van­ish and Kin­der­joy. “Now, I’m ready to get back to TV,” she beams. “In TV to­day what mat­ters the most is that you’re do­ing the most im­por­tant char­ac­ter, and I’m happy with all the roles that have been of­fered to me. I want to make a come­back in a big way, not with some­thing that will not be no­ticed. I’m not in a great hurry and can wait un­til my baby is two years old,” says Ch­havi, clearly quite im­mersed and supremely con­tent with her cur­rent star­ring role as mommy! M&B

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