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Soumik Kar

Meet the Parents 2018

Bootcamp Parenting
Sanjay and Falguni Nayar’s globetrotting taught their kids to fend for themselves  

Naini Thaker

Between 6:30 am and 8 am, like most families, the Nayars found themselves most active, no matter what city they moved to. Over the span of 27 years they have moved from India to London, then New York and finally, back to India. But, managing their high-pressure careers with twins was a tough task. They’ve had their share of ups and downs, but the IIM-A graduates sure are proud of their kids, Anchit and Adwaita.

The initial couple of years were tough, but Falguni says, “Through the whole process, they have gained some fabulous experience from different countries and today they are what they are because of those.” The cultural khichdi was truly an interesting one, yet it couldn’t have been easy being the new kids in school all the time. “It brought Anchit and me very close, since we got to hang out all the time and often we had just each other. These guys (Sanjay and Falguni) were working all the time, so we had to fend for ourselves,” says Adwaita. There was only one way to get accustomed to the constant moving, and that was accepting change. Philosophical as it may sound, Falguni has been a thorough optimist. “We like to focus on the brighter side of everything. Little things like the lovely school uniforms, with blazers in London and laid back school rules and the excitement to wear casuals in New York, helped the kids get through the constant change.” 

Although they had a maid who came along with them from India to London and then New York to help out with housework and the children, like most kids would, Adwaita missed her mom quite a lot. While she managed to find solace in her brother’s company, it couldn’t replace her mother’s presence. “I have always been a very guilty parent, because I could never spend as much time as I wished to, because of work. The commute was long enough at the time and I would be working late hours. Often my friends would tell me to spend more time with the kids,” Falguni explains. But once the kids settled down, things got better. 

When they finally moved back to India, Adwaita was relieved, but Anchit was the one who had a tough time adjusting to school and the education system here, which was a lot tougher than that in the US and UK. “I was happy to be back in India, because finally I wasn’t lonely. We always had family friends, neighbours and our grandparents, even if our parents couldn’t be around. But in the UK and US, especially during winters, it would get very depressing,” Adwaita adds. As 13-14 year olds, moving to a new school, with a completely different culture was challenging. “The pressure of tuitions and practically no extracurriculars was very difficult for them to absorb, so of course the kids were unhappy,” shares Sanjay. With a fair understanding of the Indian education system, Falguni and Sanjay had tutored the children with classes in Hindi and Mathematics before they moved back to India, to make the transition smoother. 

Strong believers in the concept of do-it-yourself, Falguni and Sanjay barely provided any hand-holding to their children, except for the extra support with certain subjects, especially languages. “By the time the kids got back to India and got a fair understanding of Hindi, their peer group was already writing essays. I would try reading Hindi to them, but I would fall asleep even before they would,” Falguni laughs. Anchit often lagged behind, especially when it came to numbers — like most kids, they weren’t the best of friends. “I remember, we had to solve some really complicated Math problems for homework. But, since Math wasn’t my strength, a friend and I decided to swap, I did his History homework, and he did my Math. When I came home, mom was super impressed with what I had done, but she figured it wasn’t me and got me to do the whole thing, all over again,” Anchit laughs. 

For their 11th and 12th grade, the twins moved to Dhirubhai Ambani International School, where the transition was easy since they focused on other activities as well. Later, Adwaita and Anchit went on to pursue undergraduate programmes at Yale and Columbia, respectively and Adwaita followed it up with an MBA from Harvard. Anchit is currently working at Morgan Stanley in the US and Adwaita works with her mother at Nykaa. But, no matter how busy their schedules get, their annual family holidays remain sacrosanct.  

While most might think bringing up twins can be a handful, Falguni and Sanjay have been blessed. Like Anchit and Adwaita joke, they practically “raised each other.”

***

Given your extremely busy careers, how challenging was it for both of you to raise twins?

Sanjay: Initially it was tougher for Falguni, but it was a lot of fun after they turned five years old since they would keep each other company all the time. Luckily these guys don’t fight that much, they are really good buddies. 

How did you tackle sibling rivalry?

Adwaita: Rivalry? What rivalry? Sure, we fight, but there is no rivalry. He’s my best friend! 

Falguni: They were always in the same class, and they were always looking out for each other. They never needed anyone else, just the two of them were good enough for each other. Sure, they fought, they do even now…

How did you bail each other out?  

Anchit: She was always much better than me in school academically, so she would help me out with studies. 

Adwaita: I’m actually the emotionally weaker one and he always pulls me out of any kind of bullying. I feel like Anchit and I raised each other. 

Sanjay: You guys give each other too much credit!

Adwaita: It’s true because when single kids have a problem in school they have to go tell their parents, we just tell each other and talk it out.  

Who has been your biggest support system?

Falguni: When my kids were very young, till they were four, my mom helped me out a lot. In the US, I had some very good friends who really helped me out. In the US, for after-school activities, we would carpool, and my friends were kind enough to give me the later slots, since I was travelling a lot for work. They did more than their fair share! 

But the domestic support there is not as well established as it is here, so what kind of help did you have there? 

Falguni: So we took a maid, with permission from India both to London and the US, without her I wouldn’t have survived. 

What did you do to help them discover their potential? 

Sanjay: For Adwaita it was coming back to Nykaa and taking up a very responsible role. With Anchit, his company pushes him into new areas and it has helped him figure out his potential.

Falguni: We knew that Adu was very entrepreneurial and Nykaa would be great for her, but not once did we push her to come back to Nykaa. Had she taken up a job at Amazon or Google, we would’ve been just as happy. Even for Anchit, he constantly discusses things with us. He wanted to join the army and we never stopped him. Finally, he didn’t join, but that was his decision entirely. 

Anchit, what got you to change your mind about joining the army? 

Anchit: I felt like I didn’t want to disappoint her (Falguni). I’ve always wanted to join the army so I gave the test, came 10th in the merit list… so I was through. I didn’t mind giving up Morgan Stanley and the US. 

And Adwaita, you could’ve joined Amazon and later joined Nykaa. Why the rush? 

Adwaita: I worked with Nykaa before I went to Harvard and once you have tasted entrepreneurship and what that kind of drive feels like, there is no going back. Nykaa felt way more fulfilling than any other job that I could’ve had.  

Your most stressful moments as parents? 

Sanjay: Anchit’s decision to join the army, it took me by surprise. But I’m glad he decided against it.

Falguni: When Adu and Anchu went off to the US for college. They were still very young and I was very concerned about them. 

Any major sacrifice or tough calls that you had to make? 

Sanjay: We have gone ahead with our career the way we wanted to, the kids have had to move. 

Falguni: Not much. I told myself very clearly, that till the time the kids were three, I would not change my job, since the kids were very young. But those weren’t big compromises. 

What were the rules of engagement with Sanjay? Was there anything non-negotiable?

Falguni: For Sanjay, career always came first, so PTA meetings and other school activites weren’t a priority. We were very easy on each other, he was never pushy that as a mother you must do X number of things etc. He’s supported me professionally as well. Non-negotiables with him were exercise, discipline and vacations. Birthdays for me are very important. 

Sanjay: She’s talking about celebrating her own birthday. (laughs) For the kids birthdays, they wouldn’t be at home, but when they were, they would want to celebrate with their friends, or we would go for dinner. 

Falguni: When they were younger, we would always have a celebration, but as they grew up they would do whatever they wanted to. 

What has been your favourite birthday memory? 

Adwaita: The murder-mystery themed birthday party when we were 14! We always celebrate our birthdays together, last year was the only the third time we were away from each other. We made him (Anchit) cut a cake on Skype this time. 

When did you realise your kids weren’t kids anymore? 

Sanjay: Adu is still a kid. Anchit has been living independently for like nine years, since 2008 so I think it would be fair for me to call him a grown-up. 

Falguni: For me they are still kids.

Is there a most memorable milestone?

Sanjay: Both of them going to Ivy League colleges; Adu to Yale, followed by Harvard Business School and Anchit to Columbia. 

What have you learnt about parenting from your kids? 

Falguni: I think you have to spend quality time with them. I always make that extra effort to be with my kids, they are priority. I’ll be very sick and still be at work but if Anchit is visiting, then my calendar will be light. 

If you had a chance to start over, what would you like to change? 

Falguni: I was a young mother, so I thought I had to work very hard then. With my new career, I’ve realised it’s never too late to start. So, I could’ve spent more time with my kids while they were growing up.

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