Women's Day 2021: Raveena Tandon writes about adopting and raising daughters at 21

For someone who decided to raise girls at the age of 21, I guess my dos and don’ts can only stem from my own learning experiences. Strictly acceptable by me alone. I was 21 when I adopted my girls, the older one was 11 years old and the younger one 8! I didn’t look for approval ever, if it doesn’t sit well with my conscience, it is not good. Else it is good to go! Many have asked me what made me adopt girls that young... my answer would be a good upbringing made me do that.

I don’t think the solution to anything can be turning a blind-eye to it. So, I refused to do so! I did what I thought I should do, and had my parents’ full support. I don’t think I can take the credit for the lovely young girls my daughters have turned out to be without giving my parents their due.

A lot of times I used to be out shooting, and would be hardly home. So, it was my mother who used to go to their schools, check their homework, etc. It was only at night when I used to come home and the girls would sneak into my bed that we would have a hearty chat. Like I say, my mom took their academic lessons. I took care of the life-lessons.

Your child should know that despite her best intentions, sometimes some things will go wrong. Sometimes it will be beyond her comprehension but she needn’t change herself for it.

To begin with I never lied to them or hid anything from them. I told them things exactly the way they were. I used to tell them everything, what I am feeling, what I am about to do. The girls have seen me through my best and my worst years. They have learnt it all with me. Everyone makes mistakes, I think it is very important to teach our children that it is alright and one can move on. Please, I don’t mean you go to the extreme and say it’s alright to kill someone, just move on. What I mean is mostly around relationships. It is alright if you don’t get it right the first time. Hearts break! As long as you don’t cheat on anyone, its ok. The damage doesn’t have to leave a permanent dent. These are things, Indian parents refuse to talk to their children about. I don’t understand why! It is essential to teach children life-lessons, perhaps much more than it is to teach them academic lessons.

Your child should know that despite her best intentions, sometimes some things will go wrong. Sometimes it will be beyond her comprehension but she needn’t change herself for it. It is not the pegs fault, that its round – it’s not its prerogative to change the square hole either. You just have to be yourself. When I first entered the world of films, I was completely different from those who would bring their mothers along on sets. Say namastey and then sit in one corner not talking to anyone. I studied in a co-ed school. I had friends who were male even before I entered the industry. I didn’t think twice before sitting with my co-stars between scenes and chatting. So, it came as a shock to read a leading magazine report that I was sleeping around with my co-stars. I was so upset... ironically the same publication came for an interview shortly after. There was a male reporter and a female – I straight off asked them if they were sleeping together. They were like of course not, we are just working! Well, so was I! With that I shut them up, but it’s not possible to shut everyone up. You cannot go explaining yourself to everyone. People will only understand things from their level.

However, there are a few things I keep telling my girls and I think so should other parents. It is never about what you wear, how you dress! If that was the case 6 months old babies wouldn’t get raped. Yes, we live in unsafe times, and there is not enough being done to safeguard the daughters of India. There is much that we can complain about but what is it that we can do about our own safety? Well, keep your guards up, know how to get out of situations, know where to go and where not to… Know that our safety is in our hands, till better times come by. So, be prepared for the worst and give back as good as you get.

The problem with us girls is that we are not taught to be assertive enough. We don’t know how to say ‘No’ without being apologetic. I too couldn’t say no, I landed up doing some crazy films because of that. It’s a friend’s film. How can I refuse it? But it did me no good, and eventually I learnt that being assertive is a good quality. One needn’t feel apologetic about saying what one feels.

To sum it, be yourself, don’t be apologetic for how you feel and embrace your mistakes – That’s how I raise girls, how do you?

(Raveena Tandon was only 21 years old when she adopted her two daughters, Pooja and Chhaya in 1995. The siblings were biological children of her cousin who had passed away. The National Award-winning actor married Anil Thandani in 2004 and the couple has two kids from the marriage, Rasha and Ranbir. Raveena, who will be next seen in Netflix’s mystery thriller Aranyak, is also a grandmother of two.)

— As told to Shubarna Mukerji Shu

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