Estimated read time : 8 minutes
Deepa Jayaraman’s world-view is exciting and unique, includes embracing parenthood with all its challenges
Some people get to live life on their own terms. And they embrace that life with gusto, setting their own rules and charting their own paths.
Deepa Jayaraman from Bangalore is one such feisty lady. In an article in Outlook Money, titled ‘Guilt-free happiness’ (March 9, 2016), she says, “In India, where we like classifying people in stereotypical buckets and giving labels, I am tagged as a ‘Single Mom’ but I believe that there is nothing single about me. Just as I am a daughter and a son to my parents, a boss and a mentor to my staff, a friend and a confidant to many; I am a mom and a dad to my four-year-old son.”
She tells us, “I am a single parent, which technically means I am everything to my son. I am a momma, papa, friend, teacher, maid, alarm clock, dart board, washing machine, coach, trainer, chef, guide, travel buddy… I have to play the good cop and the bad cop!” She admits that parenting comes with its share of trials and errors but that doesn’t deter her; in fact, it’s helped her in shaping her son to evolve. “I am not perfect, so I don’t expect my son to be too. I give him to space to figure it out on his own. That’s made him so confident, so much more mature and extremely independent. He has his own views of right and wrong, makes decisions, sets rules and keeps the hustle going.”
Juggling work and home can be a challenge for any woman, more so for a single mother. But Deepa not only works but she also travels the world with her son, Shlok. How does she manage? She says, “I am not just hands-on, I am a control freak when it comes to my work and my family. I plan for most things, so even when I am away for a longer period of time, if someone were to follow what I have instructed, they’d be good. Plus, I believe in outsourcing – outsource as much of your work as you can and reserve your time and energy for love and affection.”
Deepa points out, “Let’s face it – we have limited time and resources. So I’d rather play badminton with my son than scrub the bathroom. So I spend whatever little time I have with him to bond and make memories. We dance, we sing, we play, we bake, we cuddle, we play Scrabble, but most of all we plan our next travel destination.”
Today, her son is nine years old and he has travelled to over 30 countries! She jokes, “The kid started travelling when he was still wombed inside me.” She recalls how, when she was a child, ‘my travels were mostly through books’ and says, “Travelling opens up one’s mind, I’d say a little more than books.” And both mother and son have their own Instagram accounts where they post pics, videos and content.
Deepa was determined to travel the world with her son, because she profoundly believed it would open up his mind to the world of possibilities. “If books taught me to imagine, travelling taught me to believe in people. I wanted my son to start travelling young and see how there are so many different people in the world – some blessed, some poor, some with two dads, some with rooms full of Legos and some without football shoes. Travelling teaches my son to be humble, become a helpful human being, accept people as they are, not to alienate sections of society, acknowledge religion, faith, customs and rituals and, above all, fills him with a sense of gratitude for everything he has in life.”
And travelling is not just a casual fun-filled activity or a whirlwind tour of the famous sites. Shlok is an equal partner in the decision-making process, and travel is all about opening their eyes to the realities of the places they visit. Deepa clarifies, “When I say ‘visit’ – it’s not like a tourist and go see Disney Land or take a picture with an orangutan in Singapore Zoo. We research the country we are going to – mostly for history and to relate it to the current socio-economic-politico status. So we’d go to Rome and enjoy the Colosseum and Trevi fountains and Vatican churches and understand how they were built and who built it. But we also see how the country is more than 80% dependant on tourism as its major source of income. The country’s growth is stagnant, add to it the issue of illegal immigrants and 60% of the local population over 50 years of age. We understand why it’s going through recession or what measures it could take to revive.”
What is interesting is that Deepa travels with her son even during the school term. She explains, “Learning is a daily process – and I believe that education does not come only from your school. I notice that my son studies more when he is travelling rather than when he’s at his base station. He is constantly converting currencies, improving his multiplication and math. He is connecting the dots in history and learning actual life skills. He can pitch a tent, pet an animal, ride a horse, snorkel with fishes, ski in the snow slopes, go mushroom picking, cook food, wash cars, babysit a child, run errands, bartend and, most importantly, strike a conversation with any stranger without any inhibition.”
Fortunately for Deepa and her son, the school is very supportive. Although it is a conventional school, its ethos resonates with her. She explains, “His school focuses on creativity as against mugging up. They encourage him to come up and speak about his experiences in a new country. They appreciate how he’d go to a new place and come back with pictures to show and stories to tell – whether it is the Hiroshima nuclear attack or the lost city of Petra. The schools also give extra points (or compensates for missed classes) when the child volunteers. My son has volunteered with UNICEF in many poor countries in Africa and central Asia – which has been recognized by the school.”
Deepa travels solo with her son. With most schools having a 70-75% attendance criteria, they ensure that they utilize it well. Taking care of health is a priority and her theory is that travelling improves immunity. Additionally, his studies are not neglected. She says, “We both understand that travelling comes with responsibilities. So I carry my work and my son carries his school, whenever we go. Every day, we take an hour or two to focus on work/study. So we are up-to-date on homework and classwork even if we miss school days.”
In her article, Deepa sums it up beautifully when she says, “Being a single mother is twice the work, twice the stress, twice the tears; but is also twice the hugs, twice the love and twice the pride.” And it seems to have worked wonderfully for mother and son! As she tells us, “Bottomline – if I have brought him into this world, it’s my duty to show him the world. My son is a peace-loving world-citizen!”