Wasim and Shaniera Akram at ITC Sonar. Pictures: Rashbehari Das
You literally feel love is in the air when Wasim and Shaniera Akram are around. The easy banter laced with good ol’ romance. When we met the super couple last year, the dashing Pakistani had told us how he had gone down on one knee to propose to the Australian hottie. This time, the KKR mentor shared how he is padding up for a new innings — becoming a dad at 49. For Shaniera, with the birth of daughter Aiyla, the family is complete. A t2 chat at the ITC Sonar last week.
Wasim: Thank you! Thank you! (Smiles)
How do you look back on these four months since Aiyla was born?
Wasim: Ask her (pointing to wife Shaniera) this question... then I will answer. How are you feeling after four months?
Shaniera: It’s been four months of sleepless nights (laughs) as every mother would know. It is a love job... it’s been an amazing journey. My husband’s been so supportive.
Wasim: For me at the age of 49, I never thought I’d have a baby, but Aiyla is something... I love her to the core. She’s pretty, beautiful... she’s got the best smile...
Shaniera: And the biggest personality (laughs)...
Wasim: She tries to talk, crawl...
Shaniera: And she likes watching X-Men! (Laughs)
Wasim: Put the TV on and she’ll watch it... move her hands...
Shaniera: First it was BabyTV, now it’s X-Men! (Laughs)
Wasim: And her brothers Tahmoor and Akbar, they love her! Aiyla is godsend.
How are you approaching parenthood at this point?
Wasim: I am just enjoying life moment by moment. I am going to be involved with Aiyla’s life. When my boys were born, I was playing cricket.... For the last four months, I was home for less than a month. I think I am going to take three months off and I will be with her, with the boys, with Shaniera and I will try to learn how to be a proper dad.
Shaniera: You were always a great dad from what I saw.
Wasim: Ab mere paas time nahin hai. I had time then. For the last three-four years whenever I am home, I am home. Before I was home, but I wasn’t home. You know what I mean? My friends come over... we go out for dinner... otherwise we don’t have boys’ nights...
Shaniera: I think he has realised the importance of family. Having a massive cricket career and striving to be what he has become, now he gets to enjoy his family time.
Wasim: I am looking forward to it. It’s given me another dimension. And I think I’ll be working till the age of 80 now (laughs).
You obviously have been a great mom to Wasim’s sons. But now you are a...
Wasim: Actual mom...
Shaniera: I feel like I have been a mom for the last three years. I already hit motherhood running. Now, it’s more like enjoying the little things... a baby and bath time, the smile for the first time, rolling over for the first time. At the same time, I am also doing so much... one of our sons is graduating... I am constantly at the school... I am loving every minute of it.
What has the journey been like as new and busy parents?
Wasim: We were relaxed. We knew what we were doing. We had planned it. It wasn’t an accident.
Shaniera: No... it happened a lot faster than we had actually planned (laughs). I had a six-to-eight month plan.
Wasim: I said give me two weeks!
Shaniera: And I think three weeks later, I told my husband... ‘Ummm... well done! Congratulations!’ (Laughs)
Wasim: Thank you! It’s incredible.
What happens when Wasim is travelling?
Shaniera: These days with technology... we FaceTime, we Skype, we send WhatsApp photos. So, he never misses the baby. He doesn’t feel so homesick because I make sure he is around us all the time. I YouTube his videos so that our daughter can constantly hear his voice. That’s important. He has not left me emotionally for a second and I cannot fault him there. He has been amazing.
Wasim: You see! (Smiles)
Shaniera: I wasn’t sick for a day. I had a beautiful pregnancy. He was at every doctor’s appointment... every ultrasound. And, that’s what you want.
Wasim: Pregnancy is very tough and whatever support you can give as a husband, you should. It’s an eye-opener for me, a learning curve for me. Now, I have a baby daughter... it’s a different feeling altogether.
Shaniera: I think he fell in love!
How did you celebrate Aiyla’s birth?
Wasim: We were in Australia. She was in hospital for about a week. I took the boys and my father-in-law out... four of us went out for dinner. We had a great Japanese dinner, a good laugh and celebrations. Today morning I spoke to the nanny. She was telling me the boys played with Aiyla and then went to school. I asked Tahmoor yesterday, ‘Are you looking after your sister?’ He was like, ‘Of course I am... don’t ask me this silly question again!’
Wasim, what have you discovered about yourself after becoming a daddy?
Shaniera: I know what you mean when you say ‘daddy’. Men are ‘fathers’ when they have boys. With their daughters, they become ‘daddy’!
Wasim: I think I’ll be finding out in six months when Aiyla will be walking around and recognising me. I have only seen her for a month. I just got to go home after this IPL to enjoy Aiyla around me and enjoy seeing her growing up.
Shaniera: She is a special little girl. Her smile is contagious. I think it’s very much like Wasim’s. If he is in a bad mood, you can feel it, which is rare. But when he is happy, it’s intoxifying for the whole room. Aiyla is pretty much the same. She is a happy little girl. When she is happy, it’s overwhelming.
What about you Shaniera?
Shaniera: That I can survive on two hours of sleep at night!
And, you still look the way you do?!
Wasim: Thanks to me!
Shaniera, you have left Aiyla and come to Calcutta. Aren’t you tense?
Shaniera: This is the first time. And, I called the nanny 15 times! We have an amazing nanny from the Philippines.
Wasim: It would have been too much of a travel for Aiyla...
Shaniera: I want to raise her a very strong, independent woman. I think that begins at childbirth and infancy. I think it is also very important... and a lot of couples lose this... when you have children, you are occupied solely with the children and you lose that amazing relationship you have with your husband. This trip for me is not just visiting India but also being there for my husband. He is also very important to me and our relationship needs nurturing too. The kids will be fine because we are a strong team.
Wasim, till she arrived you must have been really missing...
Wasim: I missed Shaniera, Aiyla, Tahmoor and Akbar. It’s part of the job but the good thing is that I am in Calcutta. The hotel (ITC Sonar), the people...
Shaniera: When I got here, I actually said that it was like coming home...
Wasim: I remember after we landed in Calcutta after a week, when the bus left the airport, we were like ‘Thank god! We are back!’ The love I get from here...
Shaniera: When you travel so much, people forget that you are only a visitor. And Calcutta just has that extra amount to welcome you.
Wasim: She is leaving day after.... Yeah, I am bit sad. That’s only normal. But I have to work.
And KKR is very much a part of your lives now...
Shaniera: He has done such an amazing job with KKR.
Wasim: This is the fifth year. You are only as good as the team... the captain. They are good boys, hard-working people, the foreigners are so friendly, the owners... like a family. Not just KKR, but the whole of Bangal is like a family. When we come back after winning or losing, at 12.30am... people lining up the streets, just clapping... unbelievable. Even on a weekday.
Shaniera: I married Wasim after he stopped playing cricket. I haven’t enjoyed watching him play... only charity games. But I absolutely love coming to the IPL. At Eden Gardens you know that you will get the warmest reception. The fans are fanatic. Watching my husband coach the team to two championships (2012 and 2014), I feel very proud.
So life is good...
Shaniera: My life is just complete now. I have everything I wanted or dreamt of. My husband is amazing. My two stepsons are the best.
What have you cut out from your life?
Shaniera: Carbs! (Laughs out loud) My husband has made sure that my life has a comfortable transition. It’s a big deal... an Australian moving into the subcontinent.... He asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day and I said I have everything I want.
Wasim: I still brought you a present. I know that it is a hint ‘get me something!’ (Laughs)
The road ahead will be...
Shaniera: I have had four months of no sleep. He’ll have 18 years of no sleep!
Wasim: May be more! I feel more responsible now that I have a daughter. I am not going to think too far ahead. I am just going to enjoy her growing up. Every moment... the first smile, the first step, the first day in school... I literally cannot wait!
Wasim and Shaniera are made for each other because....