March 2016 – Mum’s the word

Sunita Behl

To celebrate Mother’s Day on Sunday 6th March this issue is dedicated to all of the women who arguably do one of the hardest jobs in world – being a Mum! Thank you to our contributors for sharing how your mother has influenced your life or the lessons you have learnt since becoming a mother yourself.

Next month we want to hear about any major global issue that you feel passionate about and how it impacts you. It is natural to focus on our immediate world however, what are the bigger issues that impact us on an individual basis? Do you feel strongly about global politics, child poverty, the environment or human trafficking? Do you work with a charity, political organisation or healthcare body that wants to making a positive and lasting change for future generations? Send your article for April’s issue on The Bigger Picture (400-700 words) to before 20th March, 2016.

Wishing all of our GRIT readers a very Happy Mother’s Day.
Sunita Behl, Editor.

Women are just as strong as men

By Deana Uppal, Actress,
TV Personality and Business Woman

My mum brought me up single-handedly. Soon after I was born my father passed away from cancer but she never re-married. She completely shut down her personal life and dedicated her life to taking care of me.

Today I am 27 and I look at my mum with admiration. I now know that it takes a very strong woman to successfully raise a child alone with no support. My mum always taught me that women are just as strong as men, sometimes even stronger in many ways!

My Mum taught me that independence is the most powerful tool a woman can have. She taught me that it is OK if you choose not to stay in a relationship that does not make you happy, rather than just conform to society norms. She taught me to have respect, values and ambition.

My mum is now 65 years old. Today our roles have reversed and I am looking after her like she is my daughter. And I will continue to do so until the end as she also taught me that the love between a mother and daughter is the most beautiful thing in the world.

Is being a mother a ‘job’?

By Shalini Kumar-Sawhney

What is a job? Typically it is a role which involves completing certain tasks within a timeframe. Upon completion of those tasks, you get paid and, if you are lucky, your employer may even give you a bonus! So by this definition, with the exception of the payment part, being a mother is definitely a full-time job. And it is actually a really hard job because how you execute your ‘mother’ role has a profound effect on your children – the torch-bearers of your family.

As I sit down to write this, the only definition of a ‘mother’ that comes to mind is ‘grace and resilience.’ Traditionally, Asian women of my mother’s generation were seen as submissive to the father – they had to keep ‘mum’ on most matters. Children obeyed the parents and a ‘perfect’ family was one in which the father had the most knowledge and would be the best counsel. A mother’s role was to raise children (preferably boys) and take care of household chores. They were married not only to their husband but to his entire family! Such gender inequality was very prominent while I was growing up. Most mothers I knew had little spare time for themselves and very little say in many family matters.

However, the mothers I see today are standing up for themselves and paying attention to their own needs. More importantly their views on household matters and how to raise their children are considered very valuable.

My mother’s generation made sacrifices to ensure their children were given the best education (available at that time). They believed in their hearts that their daughters deserved as much of a fair chance as their sons to be educated and prove themselves beyond the four walls of a house. They knew, and believed, that mothers shape the destiny of a child. In turn, I believe we have helped our mothers come out of the conservative mould of putting themselves last by empowering them with our independence. We have helped them move away from some of the stifling ideologies they themselves don’t believe in.

Growing up I witnessed respect for elders, selflessness, humility, endurance, honesty and unconditional love from my mother. I feel these are some of the key ingredients that any mother can pass onto mothers across cultures and generations.

Since becoming a mother myself I have realized that I have adopted some of the beliefs and traditions my mother passed onto me. When my first child was born I decided to stay at home to look after my child. Whether circumstantial or destiny, (we had just moved country), my priority became my children. I have never felt that I took this time to do ‘a job’.

In a culture, which tries to redefine ‘submission’, I sometimes find that I still follow my husband’s lead out of respect but not compulsion. We both value each other’s contribution to our family and raising our children. On most matters, he looks at the practical/ logistical aspect, and I add the emotional touch. Together we strive to handle our parenting responsibilities efficiently. As a mother, I feel a stable marriage is a prerequisite to a happy family.

Personally for me being able to bear children and being a mother is a God given relationship; it is not ‘a job’. There is no selection criteria, no perks and you cannot resign. It is a privilege bestowed upon women and we should enjoy the role. The love, affection and the confidence we show our children act as the launch pads for their future well-being.

From a mother to all other mothers out there, I would like to wish you all Happy Mother’s day!

Words of wisdom of an imperfect Mother

By Ritu Sethi LL.B (Hons)
Solicitor and Author of a Guide to “Having it all now”

The words of wisdom from my mother, was that education and financial independence go a long way for your own self-esteem and the future of your children.

My mother was the driving force for my educational achievements. She always insisted that I did not waste time in the kitchen (as it soon became apparent that my skills in the kitchen were not as good as my skills elsewhere!) She used to say, leave the kitchen and go and study. And so that became a natural way of being.

I loved reading and challenging myself. To each attribute, my father and mother, who were teachers themselves from Kenya, would have an adjective. My mother used to tell me the story of the Merchant of Venice and how clever Porsha was in court. Later her nick-name for me was Jhansi ki Rani – fighting for justice, with her child strapped to her back. Then when I became a fitness instructor, my parents would call me “The Commando!” They said I was always ready for a physical challenge. I learnt about saving money, investing in property and how to become satisfied with my personal achievements.

These views shaped the mother that I would become. Since becoming a mother, I have instilled the same values about a strong work ethic and integrity into my children – and sometimes they have to remind me of this!

The most satisfying and happiest moments I have experienced during motherhood have been as my grown up children have become my best friends. I enjoy their company over a dinner, glass of wine and jazz music and we just talk about everything – without thinking they are your children, your creation and prodigy any longer. Along with the ethos of working hard, I have also instilled the importance of having a balanced life. You need to experience as much of life as possible and always grab each opportunity with both hands, as you don’t know if it will present itself again. I have taught my children gratitude and never to pass anyone by who may be in need of help. From a young age we would do our daily “ARK “s, an Act of Random Kindness, which we would then discuss with great delight at the end of the day.

We cannot be perfect parents, as much as my husband and I have tried, we have discovered no such “perfect parent” exists. It is a myth, just as the “perfect child” is yet to be born. However, every child is a precious gift to their parents, who strive to be “the perfect parent” for “the perfect child”.

What I learnt from my Mother

By Waleed Khan,
Financial Advisor

I come from a large Asian family and being one of the youngest of my siblings it was inevitable that I would become a ‘mummy’s boy.’ However my childhood wasn’t all steam-pressed bed sheets and freshly cooked rotis! My mother made me appreciate the real meaning of life and instilled values into me, which I still live by today.

My parents emigrated from Pakistan to the UK in the early 70’s and had a challenging time settling in. My mother was fluent in Punjabi and Urdu but did not speak a word of English. I recall her telling me about her first job working in the Gillette factory constructing razor blades (which probably explains her tough hands!)

It is human nature in a foreign land to gravitate towards those who are similar to you. My mother’s first two friends in the factory were a Sikh and a Hindu; Aunty Bimla and Aunty Bobbi. They had lots in common and would share stories about life back home and how different their life was in the UK. More importantly, although they all practised different faiths, they shared the same values as they ultimately came from the same land. Their different faiths had taught them the same framework for life and how to be a good human being.

Religion was important to my mother and the first lesson that she taught me was to “always remember God and be thankful for what we have”. The second lesson was to always respect people regardless of their race, religion, faith or background. Today, I am lucky enough to be blessed with an eclectic mix of friends from all colours and corners of society.

Thankfully, my parents were able to make it out of the early struggle and establish a successful base for themselves in London. Despite this, my mother continued to always tell me that if I kept working hard and do the best that I can, eventually good things will happen in life. Across the Asian culture many believe in fate and that good fortune is a matter of luck or chance. However my mother would say to me in Urdu, loosely translated into English, “Like a farmer plants his seeds, that is solely not enough for his crops to grow, he has to have the right amount of rain and sunshine. That is kismet (luck). If you keep planting those seeds, then with good kismet you will eventually reap the fruits of your labour.” That statement has always resonated with me and every day I try to plant a seed which may benefit me later in life.

My mother’s views helped shape me into the person I am today. She would always tell me to stay humble and thank God for any success. She strongly promoted the virtues of giving back to others who are less fortunate than you and today I am firm supporter of charity and helping others.

When my wife and I have children I would like to pass on some of the values that my mother gave to me. I believe the best gift any parent can give isn’t money but wisdom. With wisdom, you can make anything possible.

Being a mum when times are tough

By Rebecca Root,
Communications Officer, Lepra

Make the dinner, wash the clothes, do the drops offs…these were the things my mother dutifully did for me for probably a good 16 years. Looking back I’m sure she didn’t do these mundane tasks because she enjoyed wiping noses or sewing trousers but, because, as a mother, it’s what she did. Mothers are there to love, support and care for children…but what happens when something gets in the way of that basic care, or makes it difficult or nearly impossible even?

For many women at home and overseas, this is the case. Can you just imagine in the poorest communities having to battle illness, and worse, stigma, potential divorce from your husband, possible domestic abuse and the out casting of your friends to deal with?

This is the situation I was shocked to learn about through my work with Lepra, a UK based international charity working to support, children, women and men living with neglected tropical diseases. Parenting must seem secondary to having to live with visible disability, the shame and social stigma associated with leprosy.

Kalpana is one mother who had to do just that. Living on less than 80p a day she was already struggling to provide for her daughter when she was diagnosed with leprosy. When her husband found out he was angry that her family had kept this from him at the time of their wedding because of the significant stigma surrounding the disease. Did she have a curse or had she done something terrible in her past life? He started to beat her and eventually, five years later, she ended up in hospital with a broken leg. When she arrived back home her belongings had been thrown out of the house along with her four-year old daughter.

From that point she struggled even more to provide that basic care for her daughter but, after seeking help from Lepra, she was able to access treatment and no longer has leprosy. She has now set up a small business and Kalpana and her daughter are living a happy and healthy life.

During a month where we celebrate our mothers, I think it’s important to highlight the plight of women like Kalpana who mother in the face of adversity. It’s important to raise awareness so that women may be diagnosed quicker, treated sooner and get back the opportunity of health, livelihood and motherhood without the worry of poverty and prejudice.

So this year, when I’m giving thanks to my mum, I’ll be taking my hat off to women worldwide who are mothers in the face of true adversity and wondering what I can be doing to help…

Mother really means ‘Wonder Woman’

By Dee Pattani,
Director of The Cherry on Top Art Academy

Did you ever notice that MOM* spelt upside down reads WOW! So, how do you summarise the role of a ‘Wonder Woman’ in a few hundred words? Well…’s the hardest job in the world; it’s unconditional; it’s challenging; it’s rewarding; it’s unpaid labour; there’s little time left for yourself; and you have to get used to feeling guilty for the rest of your life!

My mum always says to me on a regular basis “You are the strongest girl on this planet!” I think it is actually my mother and my Grandmother who are the strongest women on this planet. However, every time she says it, it still makes me smile because when I am older I want to be just like them!

My heart belongs to the city of London. A city filled with endless culture, green spaces and opportunities. My mother always says “It’s easier to get hold of the queen than it is trying to contact you. You’re always busy and running around but it’s all good- you’re never bored!” However despite the fact that life is ’busy’ there’s still 86,400 seconds in a day. So can we spare 1 second to smile? My mother does – always 🙂

My mother is a key inspiration to me – a flawless gem. She is well-grounded, peace-loving, forever smiling and the definition of integrity. Her qualities of honesty and her strong moral principles are the most useful application to life she could have possibly taught me. I spread it onto everything, like butter on toast!

My mother shared so many life skills with me as she raised me which have become extremely useful over the years. I did not initially understand the purpose of all of her teachings and sayings, but over time they have increasingly made more sense, especially after becoming a mother myself. I now give my own son little ‘life skill’ mantras of my own. There are hundreds of favourites including “Life is not a dress rehearsal, this is it” and “Don’t be a side salad!”

My mother introduced me her philosophy and a yogic way of life. Her most famous words of wisdom are “Give respect to people whether they deserve it or not. Not as a reflection of their character but as a reflection of your own personality.” These words speak volumes to how I conduct my day-to-day life. For example: losing the urge to have the last word. If someone does me wrong, I wish them well, thank God for saving me and don’t add flame to the fire. This creates a lot of space in my mind and allows me to harness an energy field of positivity. Another favourite mantra on my fridge reads “You shouldn’t look back; you’re not going that way.”

Finally, some food for thought: a profound verse to brighten up your day:

“Kiss your own fingertips and hug your own curves.

You are made of waves and honey and spicy peppers when it is necessary.

You are a Goddess, I hope you haven’t forgotten” -Emery Allen.

Here’s to strong women. May we know them, may we be them and may we raise them. Happy Mother’s Day!

“Children are our future, let them paint a new world…

Did you know that painting & drawing stimulates white brain matter? It encourages the use of small motor skills, is de stressing & boosts confidence! It has been scientifically proven.

I am the director of The Cherry on Top Art Academy ( We encourage & enhance both children & adults to express themselves, spark their creative flow & have fun developing & learning using a variety of mediums & tools which are all provided. At present classes are running in Harrow on the Hill, Rickmansworth & Hammersmith.”

*US spelling of MUM

We need more than a plumber!

By Chamali Fernando
Civil litigation barrister and policy advisor

I was so eager to enter the world, I arrived much in advance of my due date. Biologically, none of us would be here without out our mothers but my mother’s actions were outstanding. In third world countries, some women have no choice but to give birth unassisted. Unsurprisingly, infant and maternal mortality rates can be high.

My Mother’s waters broke in the car while reaching for her seatbelt.  Dad wanted to drive to the hospital however she insisted on going back inside the house, knowing the head was “engaged” (midwife-speak for the baby will be here any moment now!)

Like a Shakespearian drama with a thematic subplot, we happened to have a plumber present who had lifted up all the downstairs floorboards – It was 1979 and central heating was being installed to my parents’ home.

My mother struggled upstairs, simply instructing my father to walk behind her ready to catch anything!  Dad was a keen cricketer so you’d think he would’ve been up for the task, however as they reached the first floor, reality took hold and shock set in. My mother grabbed some of my brother’s clean terry nappies and lay them down on her brand new Habitat bed.  Even at a time like this, of all things she was worried about spoiling her new mattress. (I think that is a ‘mum-trait.’)

My Mum had trained in England as a nurse, and qualified as a midwife in 1971. She devoted twenty years of her life to the NHS.  Her first delivery as a midwifery student was twins and her last delivery was undiagnosed twins.  It is a treat to listen to my mother’s account of her time on the labour wards but there is an emotionally strenuous side too: during her career my Mum saw four of the five rare causes of maternal death and the tragedy it brings.  My mother became a lecturer in midwifery and as a teenager, I recall several student nurses approaching her in the street to say Thank You.

My mother has also served as a lay magistrate for 20 years.  She saw a side of the world that can often be depressing: severe violent criminals; drug-related crimes; repeat offenders; people wrongly accused; and youth offenders growing up with little or no prospects.  Her devotion to public service is phenomenal.  My heart radiates with happiness when Mum says there is no greater joy than hearing a new voice, or handing over a baby to their mother for the first time.

My Mum did everything to ensure that I made it safely into the world. While the drama unfolded upstairs the plumber had telephoned for an ambulance. Two ambulance men turned up only to confirm I was a healthy baby girl. My father eventually had a brainwave and rang one of my Mum’s midwifery colleagues. He asked: “Wani’s had the baby, what should I do?” She replied:  “Why don’t you make the two ambulance men a nice cup of tea – I’ll send her midwife along immediately.”

I know I have plenty to thank my Mum for, especially Day One

Chamali is an approved Conservative parliamentary candidate. Her profile photograph was taken the moment she thanked her Super-mum during her speech at Conservative Party Conference in 2014 on Health.

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2016 GRIT Topics

APRIL – The Bigger Picture 
It is natural to focus on our immediate world. However what are the bigger global issues that impact us on an individual basis? Do you feel strongly about global politics, child poverty or human trafficking? We want to hear about any major global issue that you feel passionate about and how it impacts you.

MAY – Is it still a man’s world?
Women today are excelling across multiple fields. Do you feel your gender has hindered or helped your career? Do you believe women now have as many opportunities as men or that women still take on the burden of childcare and struggle to ‘have it all’? Do you feel less like a woman and more like a man in today’s world? Please send us your views.

JUNE – We should talk more about …
This month we want to hear about any issue that you feel we do not discuss enough but should discuss more. This is your opportunity to have your say and raise awareness of any subject big or small.

JULY – Inspiring Role Models – The Real Heroes 
In a world filled with superficial celebrity culture, who are the real heroes or heroines that you look up to? What traits do they possess and what have they achieved that makes them stand out? Whether your role model is someone you know personally or in the public eye please share why they inspire you.

AUGUST – Making time for me
Many of us think of August to enjoy the summer and look forward to the holidays. Tell us your views on how you feel about the importance of ‘me-time’? Do you think it is important to take timeout for yourself every day? Or is the thought of ‘me-time’ selfish or unrealistic?

SEPTEMBER – Health and Body talk
Do you think there is a link between body image and self-esteem? Do you feel there is too much pressure on women to stay young or be thin? What do you think of photo-shopped female images used throughout the media? If you have a view on any body image or health-related issue from cosmetic surgery and the size zero debate to the impact of fad dieting or social media we want to hear from you.

OCTOBER – Is a woman’s role changing?
Do you think a woman’s role has changed? How different is your life to previous generations? Do you think you have more opportunities than ever before or that there is more pressure to succeed? Is it really possible for a woman to manage ambitions alongside a happy family life? How has a woman role changed in society and the wider world? Please share your views.

NOVEMBER – Back to business
Have you started your own business? Do you have views on the benefits of working for yourself or would you recommend that you should stick to the security of a corporate career? Does the thought of being your own boss feel you with excitement or fear? Please share your experience, advice and business tips for others who may be thinking of taking the big step.

DECEMBER – Looking forward to 2017
What are your big hopes and plans for 2017? What will you change or how will you make a difference? Please share your proud moments, memories and achievements of the past year and your hopes for the New Year.

WE needs YOU!

Thank you.

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