Sunday, July 8, 2018

Tennis ace Sania Mirza on her impending motherhood, and what her parents taught her about life

“I don’t want my child to grow up and pass the buck”

Q. You are a powerful youth icon. Are you comfortable wearing power on your sleeves?

Power comes with a lot of responsibilities. And if you are a celebrity that responsibility doubles, because people look up to you and listen very carefully. I am okay with it all because that is who I am. I am not pretending to be someone else.

Q. One thing you’d like your child to imbibe...

The fact that the onus lies on him/ her. We make our mistakes and we learn, but we should never have to give up on our freedom of choice. I don’t want my child to grow up and pass the buck saying he/she is in a tough spot because he/she didn’t make the decision. That is a complete no-no.

Q. Friend, philosopher, guide, critic – what role does your father fit in? Or is he all this and more?

It will be unfair for me to say he is either one of the above. On the court, he was the best mentor I could have asked for. He drove 36 hours straight so that I could participate in an U-16 competition; such was his belief in me. But our relationship is best understood off the court. My father made me realise that there is a very thin line between a parent being encouraging and overbearing. Given the pressures of being a celeb parent, it must have been difficult for him to not push me into tournaments or egg me on to win matches due to emotional or financial investments. But not for dad.

Q. Are you going to follow the same philosophy?

It is important for parents to understand when they push their children towards their calling or towards a direction, they should recognise that their children are daughters and sons first. Profession comes much later.

Q. There must have been many life lessons that you have learnt from your parents. Which is the one closest to your heart?

The biggest lesson that I have learnt is that of equality. My parents have instilled in us the strong fundamental belief that as girls, we can achieve anything just as a boy can. It (our being girls) makes zero difference to them and it shouldn’t make any difference to anyone in the world. It doesn’t mean that we cannot achieve or dream to be what we want to be. There were a lot of people who used to tell my father back then; ‘you have two girls, no one to carry forward your lineage’.

And my answer to them was – I will always be a Mirza because it is something that has been given to me by my parents. And my child will take my surname along with my husband’s name.

Q. Does your father’s approval matter in your life choices?

It did to me. But it depends on where you are coming from. A lot of people don’t need to discuss their relationships with their parents and it is okay. I am sure my parents don’t agree with all the decisons I have made in my life, neither do I agree to a lot of theirs. However, we have always respected each others’ choices. As my sister and I grew older, we had the freedom to make our decisons.

We were told it is our life and we are responsible for it. Our parents trusted us enough to give us that independence and respect it. There is no point giving someone the freedom to decide and then telling him/her ‘Sorry it doesn’t work that way’.

I don’t remember that happening in my family.

They may not have agreed with a lot of things but they always respected my decision.

Q. Do you think in today’s world a mother’s and father’s roles are clearly divided?

This concept of role division according to gender is alien to me. It was never defined in my house that a man will do this and the woman will do that. My mother was a businesswoman and an equally good homemaker. She never said she wanted to sacrifice her career for raising kids. And we have both turned out well.

Thankfully, the same is the case between Shoaib and me. We do whatever comes to us naturally. For example, I have no interest in cooking while Shoiab is a good cook. And we are both not judged for it.

Q. In this era of complex parenting, have you discussed how you are going to bring up your child?

We just want to go with the flow. The one thing we are certain of is that perfect parenting is a myth. And we are in no competition. We will raise our kid the way we feel is right, not because someone or some book says so.

Q. Is Shoaib going to be a strict father or a lenient one? What about you as a mother?

Shoaib is going to be the lenient one because he has much more patience, and I have seen that to be a good parent you have to be very patient. I am a lot less patient. Shoaib is more paternal than I am maternal. He is also very discplined and organised, which is how I want my kid to be. As for me, I have a very strong sense of what is right and wrong. I will be a cool mom as long as we are headed on the right path.

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