Anushka Sharma, in all probability, would have given birth to her firstborn with husband Virat Kohli, the captain of the Indian cricket team. When our conversation takes place, she’s in the last stretch of pregnancy, but by no means has that slowed her down.
In her first trimester, she was promoting her two production ventures—2020’s critically-acclaimed series Pataal Lok and the feminist supernatural film Bulbbul. These days, Sharma confesses she’s directing a lot of her energy in preparing the nursery and setting up the home for the baby. “I’m in forced nesting mode,” she laughs. “Whether you are pregnant or not, I think everyone has been forced into it this year,” she says.
As we speak, several weeks ahead of her due date, the animal-themed nursery is complete. “I just want to be prepared. Everything is slower because of the times we are living in and I don’t like to rush things. This time in my life, even more so,” she says. “I want the nursery to be very calm. It’s the place where you spend the most amount of time, where you are bonding with your baby, so it has to be peaceful.”
The theme of the nursery, much like Sharma’s approach to life and parenthood, is one that is deeply thoughtful, reflecting important facets of the couple’s world. “I don’t believe that boys have to wear blue and girls pink. The nursery has all colours,” she says.
A PANDEMIC PREGNANCY
I ask Sharma how the last few months have been. “We’re all used to it now, no? It feels somewhat normal to stay indoors. But I have had to be a lot more careful. It was good to travel to Dubai and stay in a secure bubble—probably the safest in the world at that time—but yes, I’m only seeing my parents now, and I haven’t met my friends for the longest time.”
Even in the strangest of times, silver linings do appear. For a couple with very demanding schedules, this time of pause gave them a chance to be together while also allowing them to keep the early months of pregnancy under wraps. “The pandemic has been a weird blessing in a way. Virat was around and I could keep it a secret. We only left to go to the doctor’s clinic. No one was on the streets so we couldn’t be spotted,” she says.
Working from home too worked in her favour. She recounts an incident while promoting Bulbbul, when she was feeling incredibly nauseous over a Zoom interview: “I quickly turned off my video and messaged my brother, who was also on the call, to stall them for ten minutes. If I had been on set or in a studio, everyone would have known.”
As with many women, Sharma’s first trimester was a blur of nausea and exhaustion. “Smells would revolt me, I couldn’t go near the kitchen. I swear, I could smell people’s skin. I thought it was never going to end,” she says. “I didn’t think I could feel so tired. I am an active person and it was startling, but even when you’re in pain, or uncomfortable, you are still thinking: have I eaten at the right time? Is the baby okay?”
Speaking of food, any cravings? “I was eating only toast and crackers for the first three months. So when it ended I wanted to eat vada pao and bhel puri, but that didn’t last long either. So no real cravings,” she says with a smile. “I am someone who likes to read a lot and research a great deal; I’ve chewed my doctor’s brain. So many times we don’t have enough knowledge… It’s what you are told by family members, but somewhere, it’s important to have a medical perspective rather than just follow beliefs and patterns. The first thing my doctor told me is that the biggest myth is eating for two.” She’s been staying active with walks and yoga, and while in Dubai, a little swimming. “You are more connected to your body, to all that is happening. It’s mind-boggling when I see the changes. It’s amazing,” she says of seeing her body adapt.
While Sharma admits friends have warned her about the surprises parenting brings, her penchant for organising ensures that they are already developing systems in place that will allow her to get back on-set by April or May. Kohli too will be on paternity leave after the baby’s birth. “Times have changed. It’s important for children to look at parents—they learn from you. And there is a sense of normalcy that both of us do work. Of course, one will have to manage things differently and more efficiently to work.”
Her candour on the challenges of balancing a career in overdrive with the demands of parenthood is noteworthy: “We don’t see it as mum and dad duties, but as a family unit. For us, it’s important that our child be raised with a very balanced outlook. It is all about shared duties. I will be the primary caregiver, especially in the first few years, and that’s the reality. I am self-employed and I can decide when I am working if I do one or two films a year. In Virat’s case, he plays round the year. What becomes important is the time we spend together as a family.”
The experience of pregnancy has filled her with a profound new appreciation for her upbringing. Sharma leans towards the ‘nurture’ end of the debate, with a belief that your personality is strongly shaped by your childhood. Her parents, she says, are extremely honest and very hard-working—attributes that Kohli shares as well. “There are so many similarities in the way we are as people and the way we approach life. So I do think that will work for us. I’ve been thinking about it before I even became a parent. Conditioning is the most important role in how we see the world. I come from a progressive background, so that will always be a part of our home. Love is the underlying factor in our home, and what’s important to us is that our child be respectful of people. You have to create that value structure. We don’t want to raise brats.”
BRINGING UP BÉBÉ
When I had asked Sharma about the incredibly harsh glare of the spotlight, she was unequivocal about retaining a sense of normalcy and privacy: “We’ve thought about it a lot. We definitely do not want to raise a child in the public eye—we don’t plan on engaging our child in social media. I think it’s a decision your child should be able to take. No kid should be made to be more special than the other. It’s hard enough for adults to deal with it. It’s going to be difficult, but we intend to follow through.”
She’s going into this adventure with a full heart, open eyes and some sage advice from her ‘village’: “The advice I have gotten is that you have to learn as you go; you can’t pressurise yourself, but you have to be prepared because there will be curveballs,” stresses Sharma, who continues to look strikingly fit and effortlessly stylish for someone eight months pregnant. “That’s the beauty of becoming a parent. It’s a less selfish existence and I’m really excited. I know it’s not going to be easy all the time, but you have to do what you have to do.”