Soha Ali Khan talks motherood and lockdown
Over the last few months, Soha Ali Khan has been devouring books by the dozen, eating right and trying to do a headstand, even as she spends quality time with her actor-husband Kunal Kemmu and their two-year-old daughter Inaaya. Recently, Soha discussed ‘the importance of ensuring family health and nutrition amidst the ongoing pandemic’ at a virtual session organised by the Almond Board of California.
After the session, we caught up with Soha for a chat on her lifestyle changes in lockdown, the adjustments she’s made to parenting and how she’s gone back to reading big time.
What’s the mood been like over the last few months? Have you had your fair share of lows or have you been consistently cool?
I don’t know anyone who has been consistently cool! I’ve definitely had meltdowns, very badly on some occasions (laughs). But I think those are to be expected. As much as I can, I am trying to be relaxed over the last three-four months because I know the situation is a little extreme. There is all this pent-up energy and it has to come out in some way. We sometimes find a productive channel for it and sometimes we don’t. But for the most part we’ve done it right. Kunal, I and Inaaya are quite flexible and adjusting as people and we have quickly adjusted to this life. Now, when things open up, I don’t know how we will adjust again. Just being in the company of more than four people, going to a party or a press conference is going to be emotionally overwhelming for most of us! (Laughs)
Does being a mother 24x7 leave you with any me time?
Yes, a lot of my time is taken up with Inaaya, but there are certain things I’ve tried to bring under control. Things like nutrition, physical well being, happiness, being present in the moment... so I’ve tried to work all of that in, though I don’t actually get a lot of time to think about myself. But I try and do things that will make me happy. So if I eat right, work out well and sleep and wake up at the same time every day, then I feel like I am at least setting those essentials down and it helps me feel better equipped for the rest of the day.
My mother (Sharmila Tagore) keeps saying, ‘By the end of this lockdown, you should have learnt something. You should come out of this with some kind of skill’. So I’ve started reading again. I realised I haven’t read so many books that had just been lying on the shelf, gathering dust. When you read a book, it transports you to places that you can’t go to, especially at this time... there is no lockdown on the imagination.
What I want to be able to do by the end of this lockdown is a headstand... that is, being able to do one by myself and being able to come down without any support (laughs). I want to be able to write, but, unfortunately, I haven’t been good with time management.
I like to believe that I am very organised when it comes to life, but it’s proved to be a challenge for me now because I am not being able to take any me time out... I am either being a mother or a wife or I am doing something professional or I am working out or I am eating (laughs). Where is the time to write a book now?! That would have been possible if Inaaya was in school or I was on a film set waiting while they were lighting up a complicated shot which would have taken two hours.
I’ve actually done my fair share of introspection on film sets when I was waiting in the vanity van! (Laughs) I am in this phase of my life where I know who I am, where I am going and I am comfortable with who I am. The 40s is about that... the 30s, I think, give you a little more time to introspect.
Is there a lifestyle change you’ve incorporated in the last few months?
I’ve always been particular about nutrition and things like that. It’s actually become easier to be disciplined because you aren’t really eating out or partying or on holiday at this time. And when you have a child, you have to be a good role model when it comes to food. So I am eating the best that I have ever eaten because I am at home all the time now with Inaaya and I don’t want her to eat anything that’s junk. When the lockdown started, I went and stocked up on almonds because I know they are healthy, they have a long shelf life, they taste good... both Kunal and Inaaya have almond milk as well. These are things that are easy, there is no preparation time, they have all the nutrients. In the evenings, I pop a few almonds myself when I feel my energy levels dropping.
Has parenting changed for you at this time? Not only are you handling your child physically all the time, but even psychologically, you have to make them understand that it isn’t safe to go to the park or be out on play dates...
Yes, it’s been difficult. Fortunately, Inaaya has understood that there are germs outside and that people are falling sick and until things get better, one can’t go to school, birthday parties and play dates. She’s really taken that in her stride. I think she is enjoying spending time with her parents. She didn’t have Kunal for a greater part of last year because he was working. All three of us love being at home. We’ve created a space for her at home where we engage her through the day. We do physical activities, art and craft, storytelling... there is a school environment in the morning and she plays with a select group of friends in quarantine pods. I am thankful to her that she’s accepted the situation well. I don’t want to overwhelm her. I do ask her if she’s happy — her moods are pretty transparent — and she does seem to be happy.
So what have you been reading and watching that you would like to recommend?
Reading is, of course, a very personal and intimate thing. I was watching The Equalizer the other day and I went back to reading the book (by Michael Sloan). I always like reading (Gabriel Garcia) Marquez, (Ernest) Hemingway.... In non-fiction, I recommend Sapiens and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (both by Yuval Noah Harari). I am a big Harari fan. Another author I really like is Margaret Atwood... her Alias Grace is one of my favourites. Julian Barnes is my all-time favourite...The Sense of an Ending is a book I have loved. Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being is another pick. Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence... the list is endless... lots and lots and lots!
Right now, I am watching The Last Ship. I loved Paatal Lok and Mirzapur, as well as Jamtara. I watched Abhay, which Kunal is in, and I loved it. There is some really good Indian content now. Overall, the options are endless. But what invariably happens is that every night at 9pm, Kunal switches on the TV but we take so much time to decide what to watch that we get tired and go off to sleep! (Laughs)