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» » Interview with Shabia Ravi Walia

Interview with Shabia Ravi Walia

Post by: Deepti Khanna


Shabia Ravi Walia, like every woman, dreamed of being a mother. However, it was not easy for her. She waited for 3 years to conceive after she decided to make an addition to her family. And her first book - Mamma Mania - is an account of all that happened from the time she decided to go for it till it really happened.

The book is part funny, part emotional and completely informative. From the funny incident of acting pregnant when she was not, to moments of sheer disappointment, like realizing that you have still not conceived, to moments of darkness when your doctor tells you that your baby could be affected with Down’s syndrome, Mamma Mania is full of personal, honest, and very moving instances that were a part of Shabia’s journey to motherhood.


In an interview with author (and media person with more than 16 years of experience in the field of television as an Assistant Director, Executive Producer, Writer, Ideation Head and Creative Director), Shabia shares how she thought about penning a novel on motherhood, how having a baby has changed her and what she thinks about the pregnancy books available in the market.

Tell us a little about your career. - the TV serials you have been associated with.
It all began 15 years ago with me being offered to take part in a TV game show audition, after which I began working as an Assistant Director for various game shows. I was part of the Surabhi team with Siddharth Kak and Renuka Shahane and that was an amazing team to work with. I have been a part of very popular shows, like Good Food Guide, Movers and Shakers, Breakfast with Zee etc.

I was also a part of the core team of Sahara Samay when it was launched. Then I started working as a creative director of the successful show, Siddhanth on Star One which was nominated for the Emmy's. I have also handled a number of shows including Ek Thi Rajkumari, KumKum, Mile Jab Hum Tum, Har Dil Jo Love Karega, Mtv Youth Icon etc. So its been a great mix of fiction, non-fiction, news etc…


Could you elaborate a little about your book Mamma Mania?
It all started when I was in a phase of life where I was happily married for 3 years and decided to have a baby. However the stress of being in the media, left me with no time to extend my family. Besides, my husband who is a cinematographer used to be out on work frequently for months together, and this used to make things more difficult. This is when I started to browse on the internet about the pre-pregnancy stage of a woman. And I found that all the information and books that were available were by the western world and there was nothing that spoke of the Indian experience of becoming a mom. In India things are very different and the decision to conceive is just not taken by the couple alone. It is more like a family decision. In such cases, there are various problems the girl faces when she is not able to conceive. The couple needs to go through various stress factors like work and family pressure etc. At the same time, you have lot many advantages out here, wherein you not only get the help of family, but also can hire a maid, cook etc to help you with house chores. My book is a compiled summary of my experiences, not as a doctor or a medical expert, but from the viewpoint of a woman who was carefree with no time to live life, to the point where I got to be a complete woman after the birth of my daughter Sia. The whole pregnancy journey right from the day I decided to have a baby till I held Sia in my arms was so adventurous, emotional, hilarious at times and interesting that I thought I must chronicle it for my daughter.

Why your book is titled Mamma Mania?
I chose this tile because right from the time you decide that you want to be a mother the madness begins and the chaos is never ending. In fact, the madness only grows with the baby. So I called my book Mamma Mania  which means the madness of motherhood… The madness is sometimes enjoyable, frustrating at times, chaotic, pleasurable…. Different in different phases but madness nevertheless…..

Any issues/inadequacy you found in the western baby care books available in the market?
I would say the books available in the market are mostly by British and American authors. The books are largely useful since the problems and dilemmas associated with pregnancy are universal.
What to Expect When You are Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel, Pregnancy: The Complete Childbirth Book by Nutan Pandit were very informative and The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy By Vicki Lovine was incredibly funny and useful.
But the problem with these books is that pregnancy is treated very differently. For instance, people in India will not think twice about coming and touching your tummy when you are pregnant but in the West it is a big no-no. Also, the way in which the child is cared for is very different here and abroad. For instance, no one in India will make the baby sleep in another room at two months or let the baby cry it out to fall asleep. Similarly people in the West do not have the luxury of hiring a nanny for Rs 5,000 a month which we Indians take so much for granted..  Our cultures are different, so are our problems and in turn, so are our solutions and our ways of handling them. I wanted to give an Indian perspective to pregnancy and motherhood where children are considered gifts of god and a woman is considered incomplete if she can’t bear a child.

What prompted you to write a book when your baby was so young? It would have been hectic… Writing a book and baby care are two taxing jobs after all.
The book was primarily written for my daughter. Every child when grown up asks his/her parent how he/she was born. So this book started as a diary for answering Sia’s questions. I primarily wrote when she slept and finished writing the book in 3 months. As I wrote, I could see a story developing and when I shared this with people I knew, they loved the book and hence I decided to get it published. Further, I realized that since not everyone would be interested in only knowing about my personal journey, I added a guide plus practical handout for people complete with tips, tried and tested formulas, lists of things to do and various other things which to be or new mothers could use. I could do this since I had read extensively on child care, pregnancy and pre pregnancy stages of a woman and had gathered a lot of knowledge on the subject. Besides I realized that the books written abroad were good but not completely relevant here. 

How has motherhood changed you as a person?
Being a mother has changed me a lot. It has made me a better person as you want to do things for someone else. You start believing a lot in karma and you start doing things right only because you don’t want your bad karma to harm your child in any way. Also, the fact that you can teach kids something only by setting an example prompts me to do little things like saving electricity, switching off the computer, exercising, praying etc so that my child also imbibes these qualities.

If there was one quality of yours you could pass on to your child what would that be? Why?
Well, its difficult to judge your own qualities good or bad but largely, I try to be non-judgemental because I feel that for every person to be the way he/she is, there has to be a reason, be it family background, childhood, upbringing or something else. I would like Sia to not judge people, be considerate and give everyone the benefit of doubt always. Also, I am a great believer in the Universe. I genuinely believe that if you need something, the universe will provide. And I want Sia to carry that belief, to have that faith. Because when you have faith and belief, you can move mountains!!

Would you continue writing? If yes, what will it be next?
I have always been writing. Though this is my first published book, previously I have written scenes for my shows, written corporate films and developed content for a few websites. I blog, contribute articles to certain websites, write poems. My next book would be a fiction novel. However, I plan to continue the Mamma Mania series. This time I will write about toddlerhood and issues with older kids. But the next will certainly be a fiction.

Your favourite book? Why?
I simply love the books - The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. In fact, I read a portion of one of these books every day, even if it’s only a page. I just make time for reading these when I am getting home in my car and can reread these books over and over again.

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