Meet the Parents 2018

One-sided Innings

Anita Bhogle is the superwoman, who enabled her kids and Harsha to pursue their dreams

Soumik Kar

For his easy demeanour, Harsha Bhogle switches to a slightly serious mood, when he realises it is a discussion on parenting. That lasts for no more than half a minute before he breaks into that grin one has seen innumerable times on air. “If you really want the truth, I will step out and go for a walk. Anita will give you the complete story,” he says.

While he says it with characteristic wit, his mainstay while commentating, it is not far from the truth. His wife, Anita has been the backbone of the parenthood story in the Bhogle household. She has been through the journey of bringing up their two boys, whom the parents are immensely proud of. Calling them boys is somewhat incorrect, as they quickly point out. After all, Chinmay is 29 and Satchit is 24.

Anita and Harsha were classmates at IIM Ahmedabad. Both started their careers in advertising, with Harsha at Rediffusion and Anita at Contract Advertising after graduation in 1985. Three years after that, the couple had Chinmay and after a year’s break Anita went back to work joining FCB Ulka in 1989. But with no grandparents to help out, working full-time for limited hours came with its own constraints. In 1990, Anita decided to branch out on her own, starting a market research and consultancy firm, Prosearch Consultants. In 1993, their second son Satchit was born and Harsha was just finding his feet as a commentator, which meant more time was spent out of home, often abroad, for long periods of time. This was when Anita decided to drop anchor and take charge of bringing up the kids. “There was many an occasion when I felt like a single parent. We did not have anyone in Mumbai and it wasn’t easy with Harsha being away on overseas tours. There is no doubt I had to give up a lot but I am certainly not bitter about it. I was there to open the door when they came back from school. That I think is a very important time,” says Anita candidly.

Bringing up two boys meant Anita knew the measurement of every WWF wrestler’s biceps and triceps apart from lining up outside Crossword at 5 am to be the first to buy a Harry Potter book. But both Harsha and the boys would agree that Anita was the glue that held the family together. Right from single-handedly managing school admissions, midnight fever spikes to  getting them exam-ready, Anita was there all the way. To this day, Harsha says the boys think their mother knows exactly what question will come in the exam. “They believe she does know everything from answers to complex Math problems to making a tail,” he says with some disbelief and awe.

“Academics are not everything. We have encouraged our boys to play sport, learn music. It is important to have the experience and exposure. The boys are not toppers but they are smart enough and good human beings. There are so many opportunities and it’s all about one’s passion and what one wants to do,” Anita says.

In this day and age when kids can’t wait to get away from home, the parents are particularly happy that both boys decided to study here and not go abroad after their IB education, which is usually the norm. “They must be extremely fond of their parents!” says Harsha with a laugh. “It’s wonderful to have kids who are as old as ours. You can relate to them as adults. When you go to them with something, they bring in a very different perspective.” In fact having both sons at home helped Harsha and Anita a great deal when they wrote their book The Winning Way. “It was about understanding Gen Y,” says Anita. But the best part of having grown-up boys with diverse interests at home means she no longer has to deal with the incessant sports chatter. “What really bothered me was the constant conversation around cricket or sports. I was quite happy when that phase went away,” says Anita.

Taking a step back after doing brilliantly in academics, Harsha does not fail to credit Anita for making that difficult call. “I don’t think we could have done it without the sacrifices that Anita has made,” he says.  But making it all worth it is the fact that even till today the boys still look up to Anita for the final word. “It is important for children to respect their mother not because she is at home but for what she has studied, achieved and her smartness. In our house, when I say something, they say, ‘Have you asked her? Are you sure?!’”

What is the most challenging part about being a parent?

Anita: It has to be about what to teach your kids. We were taught not to show off our achievements. In today’s world, it’s all about saying, “I am this.”

Harsha: It’s also about deciding what they should be given. They had no fancy phones nor did we have a fancy car. They went by school bus. Chinmay always took the train.

Who is the more lenient one?

Anita: Harsha is, since he is not around. I think there is a bit of guilt.

Harsha: Yes, I do try to make up by buying material things. Coming home from an overseas trip and opening the bag was always a joy. It was fine till they got to the same size and did not have to grab clothes!

What’s the harshest punishment you have given?

Anita: Maybe denying television on a few occasions or giving them more Math problems to solve.
Harsha: She keeps quiet when they need to be fixed and that’s terrifying.

A memory that always brings a smile to your face:

Harsha: When Satchit was young, we would always ask him to go to the ladies loo. On one vacation, I asked him to go the men’s loo...

Anita: He never came out. I asked someone to check if my son was inside. Both of them came out smiling a few minutes later. He was too short for the loo and had to be picked up!

Can you recall an instance where a comment from the kids left you in splits?

Anita: Chinmay was in class 7 or 8 and there was this driver who kept asking for his dad’s number, which Chinmay knew he was not supposed to distribute. Upon much persistence, Chinmay gave him a number. I asked him whose number it was and he said, “Balbir Pasha helpline for Aids.”

What’s the difference in the way you and your kids grew up?

Harsha: Our kids are not afraid of their parents. There is a mutual understanding between us. For instance, I am fine with them grabbing a drink at the end of the day, but I would be disappointed if they came back late after having one too many.

Anita: We respected our parents’ decisions instead of being too sceptical about it. They don’t accept anything without valid proof, which was a result of us encouraging them to question. They are certainly more well read. Someone once told me that books bought for the kids should never be put in the cupboard. “Leave them around and they will read them,” he said. I always remember that.

What have you learnt or picked up from your children?

Harsha: I remember a phase when what was being said on Twitter was affecting me and I was reacting to the comments. My kids asked, why I even bother responding when I didn’t even know those people. They advised me to just ignore them. Satchit, who is a lawyer, told me I need to start reading all my contracts. I used to get bored reading contracts after page 4 and discovered the important things were on page 7 and 8! Thanks to him, I read it very carefully.