Welcome to another edition of DadVerstions! We have some amazing moms on BabyChakra, but what most of us never realised that there are some very evolved dads around as well! It’s been a total delight talking to Sharath Komarraju who is none other than our #SlayFitMama Aditi Manja’s better half. Sharath is an author based in Bangalore. His best known work till date is his Hastinapur series. His first novel, Murder in Amaravati, was longlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize, 2013. Yes, we are in august company, so please google him if you haven't already read his books! For those of you who don’t know Aditi yet, she describes herself as a crazy mommy by day and an equally crazy fitness junkie by evening because that's when she gets a short window to squeeze any workout. She is a certified Hatha Yoga instructor, a budding weight loss mentor, a dancer, an aspiring writer and a software engineer in some previous forgotten life. Together, yes together, Sharath and Aditi are doing a wonderful job of bringing up Sarayu, their 10 month old awesomeness! Not many dads are able to help much in the first 2 months. Sharath is a rare exception. Read on to find out why...
Q: 24 books. Full time writer. Full time daddy. Sharath when and how do you manage to write?
Sharath: Good thing about writing is you can write any time you chance upon a free hour or two. I work from home, so my timetable has been flexible over the years. In general, though, I try to write in the mornings, and on a perfect day I am done with my day’s tasks by 10 a.m. I used to be less disciplined before Sarayu was born, but after she has come, I’ve had to pull up my socks a little bit.
Q: How hard was it to give up your IT job to become a writer? Did the financial uncertainty scare you at any point of time?
Sharath: Financial uncertainty is part of any freelancing career, but on the upside, you get to make your own time, do work that pushes the right kind of buttons, live life on less stressful terms than the average office-goer. I felt – and still feel – that the trade off is worth it. You make a little less money, but you gain a lot of mental space and calmness.
Q: Writers are perceptive and study people well. When you met Aditi for the first time, did you know “she was the one?”
Sharath: Not the first time. But by our second meeting, I’d more or less made up my mind.
Q: When Aditi was expecting did you read any books to prepare yourself for parenthood?
Sharath: I did not. Aditi would send me a lot of content about this and that and I would steadfastly ignore it all. I recall I was quite immersed in work at that time; I took on more projects than I usually do because I figured we would need the money. Also, I intuitively realized that I would have less time to work once the baby came, so I was ‘getting ahead’ when the going was good. That allowed me to take some time off once the baby came.
Q: Sharath, I have been told you are a very hands-on-dad! What falls under “daddy’s portfolio”?
Sharath: Daddy’s portfolio keeps changing. When we have extra help at home (like my parents or Aditi’s parents), I am quite hands-off, limiting myself to playing with Sarayu and making faces at her. When it’s just the two of us at home, naturally I do more. I am reasonably skilled in cooking, cleaning Sarayu, changing diapers, giving Sarayu a bath and other such things. Aditi tells me what needs to be done, and I try to do it to the best of my ability. When Sarayu was younger, I used to put her to sleep by carrying her around after she’s been fed. One of my favourite memories of the time is watching her fall asleep in my arms. In general, apart from breastfeeding, which I cannot obviously do, I’ve done everything else.
Q: Question for Aditi: During your parenting journey till now, tell us how Sharath has been your strength and the ideal co-parent.
Aditi: I consider him my rock. He has been by my side throughout this journey. Right from the first day our daughter was born he assumed his fatherly responsibilities and how! We had decided beforehand that we will be spending the first few months after delivery in our own house. Both of us wanted to be involved in looking after our new born, hence I had decided to not go to my mother's place and had my parents and in-laws over instead. The initial days post delivery were very daunting for me due to the newness of breastfeeding, pain from the c-section and the very feeling of looking after a tiny human being. I still remember the first day after coming back from the hospital with our baby girl. I broke down in front of Sharath because I was extremely overwhelmed. I still remember his words when he hugged me to comfort. “We are in this together, Aditi. I will be with you at every step.” That was the biggest reassurance a wife could get from her husband. Over the next few months, I could see him sticking to his promise. I got to know within the first week after delivery that I had almost flat nipples. So latching was a huge problem for my daughter. To add to that, I had developed debilitating pain in both my wrists. It had started in the 8th month due to fluid retention and it worsened after delivery. So much so, that I was finding it difficult to even hold my daughter. To ease my problem, Sharath actually sat with me through every feeding session in the first 2 months and held our daughter to my breast. We used to have amazing conversations in the dead of the night when our baby would be oblivious to the world, busy suckling. I cherish those moments even now. It was something I would always be grateful for. Later as I grew more confident and stronger I successfully weaned off him (pun intended). He also made sure I stuck to eating healthy and in control. This helped tremendously with my weight loss. He encouraged me to go on walks after the 3rd month and spend some me time everyday. Today he juggles his work and taking care of Sarayu so well. I know as the baby grows older both the parents become capable of looking after him or her. But the initial few months are extremely crucial. If the father can support in any way possible, he should do it. It really builds the self confidence of the mother. I know now that our bond strengthened a lot because of what I got from Sharath when I needed him the most.
Q: Babies are stress busters aren’t they? What activity with 10 month old Sarayu do you cherish the most?
Sharath: She seems to be learning something new every day. She loves to play a version of hide-and-seek with us, peeking out from behind walls and such. She also likes to pretend that she’s running away from us while cackling in glee, and looks back over her shoulder to see if we’re pursuing her.
Q: Share a funny experience or incident with Sarayu.
Sharath: As a family, we laugh a lot. At each other, with each other. We are always giggling about something or the other. Many a times, the joke would be on Sarayu and looking at us laugh she would also laugh out loud. That really cracks us up.
Q: Question for Aditi: One parenting skill about Sharath that you envy.
Aditi: I am always amazed at his sense of practicality in any situation. He has always shown patience and positivity. He has always given me suggestions that work and make my life easier. I sometimes envy their bond too. They have endless conversations in a language only they understand! And he is clearly more patient of the two of us. So I can see whom our daughter is going to prefer in the future.
Q: What do you admire most about “Aditi the Woman” and “Aditi the Mom”?
Sharath: Aditi the woman is empathetic, a good listener, and laughs a lot at the little things. Aditi the mom is fiercely organized, and can seemingly do five things at once without losing her sense of balance.
Q: Has becoming a parent changed you as a writer or the subjects you are now thinking about?
Sharath: One way I have seen it has changed me most perceptibly is that now I plan for the duration of my daughter’s life, whereas before I used to plan for the duration of mine. Fatherhood has also made me calmer in some ways, and more short-tempered in others.
Q: What are you working on right now? Do you see yourself ever writing for children in the future?
Sharath: I am working on an installment of my Hastinapur series of novels. I should be wrapping it up by the end of the month and beginning a new book immediately after. Writing for children: it might happen as Sarayu grows and begins to read, but right at the moment, no concrete plans.
Q: Sharath, as a young hands-on parent, how do you think we can change the mindset of men who don’t share the parenting or household burden and leave it all to the woman?
Sharath: In many ways I think I was fortunate that I have a flexible, work-from-home career. Many men do not have that, so I don’t know if it’s a question of mindset. Also, in most households, there is plenty of support for the new mother in the form of in-laws and parents, so the working man might feel that it is ‘being taken care of’, and that he is not needed. He might feel that he will better contribute to the cause by focusing on providing financial resources to the family. Life, perhaps, forces us deeper into our respective gender roles. Having said that, there is a lot of joy to being a hands-on father, not to mention that it’s useful to pick up the skills (cleaning the baby, putting her to sleep, burping, cooking) because you never know when you might need them. More and more families are turning nuclear for various reasons, so it’s always comforting to know that you possess the skills in case they’re needed. So these are the two reasons: one, there is immense joy in it. Two, developing the skills and helping out your spouse is of practical importance to preserve the harmony in your marriage. It might not take much more than, say, sitting down and asking your wife if you could help in any way, and invest perhaps an hour a day to babysitting chores. That will help her immensely.
Q: What do both of you like about BabyChakra?
Sharath: It’s a great community of mothers. I find a lot of positive energy in women getting together and guiding one another through what is a challenging but ultimately rewarding phase in their lives. Hope the community grows and nurtures a lot of friendships.
Aditi: I think BabyChakra is one of the finest parenting communities present today. I have come across quite a few but none have been so comprehensive and involved. Especially for young mothers, it's a blessing. It feels like being part of a huge sisterhood even when one is miles apart. Also when you read another mother's story, you feel connected. The experience of other women in similar situations is very beneficial and it's really comforting to know that you are not alone on this path. I am really amazed by the work this community is doing and pray that it grows by leaps and bounds each day.
Q: One piece of advice for new and to-be dads.
Sharath: You will find joy in the most unexpected of moments. So embrace everything that comes at you. The last ten months have been physically and emotionally the most demanding of my life, but I have also never smiled and laughed as much as I did in this period. The more deeply you throw yourself into the experience, the more it will reward you. It will be hard, but the memories will be sweet. I know mine are.
Thank you Aditi & Sharath! Here’s to more peeka-boo games with Sarayu!
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