Lisa Ray on motherhood and more
She likes to describe herself as “a girl from Shyambazar” and would love to drive through the lanes where she spent a lot of her childhood. “Not happened in a while to be honest. I am hoping that may be in December I will take a few days out and hang out. Otherwise it is always like a flying visit,” smiled Lisa Ray, in town last week for the launch of Rado’s wedding collection at Exclusive Lines in Quest mall. When we caught up with her at Taj Bengal for a t2 chat, we were overhwelmed with her infectious enthusiasm for life, lived with the motto “enjoy the moment, but also let go of it”. Excerpts...
You’ve had a long association with Rado. Do you believe in long-term associations?
I do. Thank you for saying that... I genuinely do. It is actually a testament to Rado too. Rado’s ethos and style is more aligned with substance rather than just the pure surface and the bling, and I think that might describe me as well. Rado has stood by me for so many years through all my ups and downs.
I have the best collection of Rado watches in the world may be! (Laughs) For me, it is a watch that also overlaps with my lifestyle because it is stylish and durable, makes a statement and goes with everything that you can possibly wear. Rado watches are such a compliment also to our ethnicwear and wedding wear. It is also a wonderful investment.
Talking about watches, are you a punctual person?
I am a damn punctual person. Over punctual! Now there are certain factors which will come into your way like traffic or a crying baby… especially in India where we know the traffic, so I always add an extra half-an-hour to 45 minutes. And, I actually get really tense. I need to be on time. I don’t care if I am the first person to reach. Even on a set, I am the first damn person! Sometimes, they are still constructing the set and Lisa is there and make-up hasn’t arrived and they are looking at me: ‘Who are you? Aap kaun hai?’ A heroine never arrives so early! But I like it that way.
Time flies! We last met in March and in September you had this big announcement of your twins being born (through surrogacy)…
Time is a very interesting thing for me. It’s what we do with our time that is important. So, I think because it’s been such an enriching few months, I feel I have created these memories and time is a way of measuring these memories. It’s circular, it keeps coming back to me, again and again and again. So, I don’t think it’s flown. Time has just been enriching.
And now more than ever, do you want to hold back time?
No. That’s a fool’s errand. You cannot, so I have learnt to flow with it. So, flowing with time is really important; surrendering to time is also important, in every way. Enjoy the moment, but also let go of it and be open to what the next moment has to offer.
How has motherhood changed you?
I have to keep a schedule for the first time in my life. I am using my time-keeping abilities more than ever. Sleep at this time, eat at this time… and I have never been that person. But motherhood is amazing. It’s like drilling into your own heart… coming up with all kinds of new colours. So, what’s interesting is that you start seeing the world with a different sense of wonder. So, I am seeing the world through my babies’ eyes. That’s kind of given me an entirely new perspective. I’ve already had a very strong message through my challenges and cancer to let go of heavy anxieties and just approach each day with optimism. Now, I have taken it to the next level with the children, I have literally gone back to the sense of wonder.
What was it like holding them for the first time?
I was just worried that I should not drop them. And it was just a little awkward because they were two. And, they were so tiny! But it was also very natural to be honest. I have shocked myself. I did not think I had the motherly instinct in me, which is why this has happened exactly at the right time for me. I didn’t have an impulse to have kids before. So, timing is everything. But it’s been very natural but we’re still learning who we are every single day... me and my kids. And they have completely different personalities. And I love allowing them to show me who they are.
What are Sufi and Soleil like?
Sufi, I was thinking may be should be a mystic… Sufi is future CEO. She is like already in such a rush, she wants to get out there. She is already trying to talk. She is singing at four-and-half months. It’s bizarre! It’s not just a mad mother saying this.
And Soleil is a dreamer. She is my poet. So, I have one CEO and one poet. I told my husband (Jason Dehni), give me one, one has to be an artist. But the other thing I call them is FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), because Sufi has this look, like she is giving you an interrogation. She doesn’t blink. What is going on in her head?! Soleil’s eyes are always turned heavenwards and she is looking at the butterflies… you feel like may be she is not paying attention, but then all of a sudden she would do something that she learnt from you two days ago. That’s why I call her CIA… she is very covert operation. But so joyful!
Are you getting some me time?
I am, I am. I am fortunate enough that I have help. I have great nannies and my father is there and I have friends who are coming and we live in a great neighbourhood. My husband and I are always clear that our children are our priority, but having happy parents is also more important.
I am now here in India and they are in Hong Kong. I get constant videos and updates. Of course I miss them, but to be honest, I am also happy to have a break. I am dying to bring them to India as well. I have a lot of conversations with my friends who are moms about issues that I never understood before. This whole thing of mother’s guilt. I think that as mothers, there is so much pressure on us to conform to a certain way and I am very determined to do it my way. Give them as much love as possible, that’s what they need. It takes a community, a village to bring them up. So, it’s not about me always being there and changing every single nappy.
I want my kids to also understand what life is — there is so much potential, it is boundary-less, there are no boundaries for what they can accomplish and the kind of lifestyle they can have. My husband and I have always said that we are going to do things our way. There are no rules or even if there are rules, we are going to change them.
You tweeted: #FutureisFemale. Was having girls a kick?
Yeah! I am so happy that I have girls… I am in the happiest situation ever because I see so much potential and the future is female.
As girls, you want them to grow up to be as strong as you?
No, I want them to find their own voices. All I will do is shepherd them, support them, love them, but it is really important for me to also take a step back. I am definitely not going to be this controlling mom. That’s not my philosophy at all. I was not brought up that way. If I remember now, we were free-range chickens as kids. We were chaperoned. And the world has changed. I acknowledge that. So, may be it will not be possible to that extent. But I am determined to travel a lot with the kids. It is a very touchy subject and I will not judge another mother, but I would hope that no one would judge me.
We have to ask you about your book…
It will be probably out by mid-2019. Very excited about it. It is a very candid retelling, not just of my life, but circumstances. I have been fortunate to have moved through so many different worlds. I have always been an observer. The title is Close to the Bone. So, I have tried to live my life that way… close to the bone and it is a play obviously on my blood cancer, but it is a very sort of sincere, candid memoir.
Reading: I have recently finished a book called Less (Andrew Sean Greer) that won the Pulitzer. It’s candid and lovely. Also, Michael Ondaatje’s newest book (Warlight).
Listening to: Ghum parani mashi pishi… that’s what I keep hearing. That’s what we play for my kids. So, it’s stuck in my head. That, and ChuChu TV. It gets into your head and you will never unhear it again.