Trained as a Western-schooled child developmental psychologist (Ph.D.) and empowering lives based on principles of amalgamating Vedic and modern psychology, Dr. Richa Chopra reveals some of her deepest and unshared memoirs in nurturing her daughter!
The night of 30th April 2000 – seemingly presented itself as the darkest night of my life. Witnessing eighteen long years in retrospect, smilingly I can now pass it off – as being the brightest day of my soul!
Malvica, my daughter was then just around five. Being the first child in her paternal family, she was everyone’s possessive delight. Uncouth words, animalistic gestures, cold silences - the atmosphere was almost always emotionally saturated. Everyone owned Malvica, but me. Consciously or unconsciously, she was being distanced from me.
One such morning, I heard her repeatedly murmuring “shut up” to our helping hand. The fourth time she said it, I gave her a hard slap on her little cheeks. She, perhaps, was blurting out all that her senses had ever been fed from her immediate environment. Yet, it was an indication strong enough that I would no longer permit her tender developing world within to be malnutritioned.
In those days, I was successfully running a clinic for differently-abled children in two rented rooms. One burning volcano in me was unmanageable. I knew I would not be able to see another reigning inside my daughter.
April 30, 2000: I eloped with my daughter, strengthened with the support of my parents.
Five formative years of her life had already passed. She had been a passive witness to her home atmosphere. There was a mammoth task at hand. Facing my own terrifying inner world on one hand and struggling to adjust amidst the constant societal hammers. And the never-ending legal complications - ranging from custody to divorce from alimony. My life was literally on drips! All the situations had come together in a master plan to escalate my life state further to being “socially autistic”.
Choiceless, I found myself in an Art of Living Happiness Program. My first Sudarshan Kriya, a powerful rhythmic breathing technique, exploded the oceanic deep reservoirs of emotional garbage.
Leaving the luxury of her maternal grandparents’ home in a small town in Assam, my daughter was brought to the city where I had started to live in a working women’s hostel. Each morning, she would be packed and dropped in a man-pulled rickshaw in a day boarding and picked up in the night. I had established a full-fledged child development center in a reputed neurosciences hospital and was managing my life amidst a job, pursuing a doctorate and trying to fit myself in the role of a mommy. Discipline, commitment, hardships were all that the child was observing and growing up with.
And then, there was another world of ecstasy that existed within our seemingly difficult and gross world. Almost every late evening, we would find ourselves in some Art of Living activity or the other: singing, assisting ongoing programs, attending knowledge sessions, volunteering for service projects or looking up in fascination to the spark, strength, and compassion exuberating from the senior Art of Living visiting faculty. It was a perfect cushion for the growing child amidst the lessons of hardship and discipline that life that was throwing at her.
My husband had no intention of supporting Malvica or me financially. My father was fighting my case. In the midst of every uncertainty, it had started to become more and more clear that my life was for something bigger.
In 2004, with all situations at its peak and being in a high-flung job, both Malvica and I moved to the Art of Living ashram. I had to do this to strengthen and reaffirm our true security that lay beyond the material. In the world’s eye, it was an irrational decision.
Just one thought magnetically reigned – “Let my life breathe my Master’s Vision.”
Unflinching focus, determined, directed and sincere efforts: life zeroed in on these. I had plunged myself totally into an unknown zone. Each day presented itself with surprises. The only certainty was uncertainty.
I would hand a ten-rupee note each day to the helper at school to buy my daughter some odd little snack. When the entire ashram slept, I would find a spare computer for myself and write project proposals each time in a different office space. Scattered amidst all odds, we were finally home - ashram made us feel like we were home.
At 6.5 years, Malvica was firmly entrusted to fetch drinking water from the common taps each night. I would ensure she found her way alone fearlessly. Genetically, I guessed, she had my musical genes. She was religiously attached to a music teacher.
From the age of seven, she was already traveling alone on flights. The discipline at home was being observed by her. It was not thrust upon. And underneath the discipline was rationality, communication, and love.
It is not uncommon that parents engage their children with some hobby class or the other. I, too, chose the common path. And aspired to see my daughter someday as an officer in any of the defense services. After her 12th standard exams, as she was preparing to step out for the first time, away from home to study at Lady Shriram College, Delhi University, I handed her a thick guidebook on ‘Defense Services’ and expressed that through her forthcoming three years, she simultaneously prepare for her defense services and apply for the same after the completion of her graduation. And she replied gently that her only condition to go to Delhi would be that each month, she visits Bengaluru not to miss her sitar classes with her teacher. This signal was enough for me to understand that her passion lay elsewhere.
Seventeen years of astute chiseling, her dream is a dream I now cherish! Her choice is my choice. My effort was never for her to clone me on the outside. Yet knowledge attracts its followers. She is a regular practitioner of meditation with her faith deeply embedded in her practices and Gurudev’s teachings.
She has managed to find a beautiful balance in her life, following her aspirations as a classical sitar player and also forming a worthy bond with her father.
The trusteeship of a mother has now ended!
Dr. Richa Chopra is a child developmental psychologist and an International Art of Living faculty, she is currently Founder and Officiating Head of Department of Behavioral and Contemplative Sciences at Sri Sri University, Cuttack, India.