Motherhood is Just Part of Womanhood
As the daily news reminds us almost every day, women in India continue to face a large number of challenges. However, when you step away from the headlines and look at the big picture, it’s also encouraging to see the progress that urban Indian women have made and continue to make.
It struck me particularly strongly when I met a friend last year, on the first day of her maternity leave — two days from her due date! She was dressed in a skirt and a soft cotton top, her bump proudly showing, and the proverbial pregnant woman glow radiating from her. I would never have been able to tell that barely twelve hours prior, she was up wrapping up deals and preparing a handover note.
From people at work asking about the future of her career to people at home asking about the clothes she was wearing and the way she was going about her life as normal, the questions had been relentless. But she had remained firm in what she wanted to do. I was immediately reminded of an interview that Kareena Kapoor Khan, one of my favourite actresses (and also featured in my book, She Walks, She Leads) had given during her pregnancy, where she said she was only pregnant and not a corpse.
Mums like Kareena are, in every way, leading the charge to normalise every aspect of womanhood, including pregnancy. What I think is most important about the way Kareena handled her pregnancy is how well she wore it. For a woman whose career demands that she constantly be in impeccable physical shape, Kareena remained incredibly comfortable with her body. From an HT Brunch photoshoot proudly displaying her baby bump to walking the ramp as a showstopper for designer Sabyasachi, she set new standards for embracing the journey to motherhood.
Kareena was the first Indian actress to flaunt her pregnancy with so much pride. Her attitude was especially important because it told women across the country that despite the weight gain and the stretch marks, their bodies are beautiful and do not need to be hidden. In a global culture of size-zero bodies, Kareena, the original Indian size-zero actor, was gracefully smashing stereotypes.
Thankfully, she’s not the only one. On 17 May 2017, when Lisa Hayden announced the birth of her son Zack on Instagram, I was delighted for the radiant new mum and her gorgeous bundle of joy. It wasn’t the first time we’d heard about the birth of a child on social media but it was certainly amongst the first times in India that we’d seen a celebrity chronicle such a positive body image throughout her pregnancy on Instagram. Others have continued to normalise pregnancy and its changes — Esha Deol and Soha Ali Khan being two notable examples.
These seemingly trivial actions help encourage the steady steps urban Indian women are taking towards breaking the constrictive little boxes that society insists on putting them into. I suspect that this impact is not just in Tier 1 and 2 towns, and I couldn’t be more delighted. I can’t wait to see what they’ll do next!