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Published: Mother’s World Magazine, September-November 2012, Cover Story

“I’m an out-with-them mum”

Malaika Khan makes the parenting thing seem a cakewalk. Less Stepford and more hip soccer mum, the soon-to-be-32-year-old vivacious and soft-spoken mother of two, is in her element with her life and family well in control. And she looks fabulous. Sitanshi Talati-Parikh takes a peek at woman behind the mother….

She is struggling to get her older son, Zidaan (4), in the mood for the Mother’s World photoshoot. He is not pleased at losing his time with his cousins Hrehaan and Hridhaan (Hrithik and Suzanne Roshan’s sons) who are over for their weekly play date. Malaika Zayed Khan is playing the role of super mom – cajoling the kids, smiling for the camera, popping into the kitchen to bring cheese slices on demand to appease Zidaan enough to take a shot, checking frequently if her guests – including the Mother’s World team – need anything to eat or drink. All the whirlwind activity is managed in a lovely blue day dress and stunner heels. “I’m still on the mission of losing weight. People who know me know that this is not me. I’ve always been a 44-kilo girl. I am 5 feet 2 inches, so 44 is a good weight for somebody of my height!” She’s a self-confessed foodie – to the extent that she can stare people down when they are eating enough to make them ask her if she would like a bite, she relates, with a peal of laughter.

The real challenge through her pregnancy has been losing weight, particularly her second one, which was a C-section. “It took me eight weeks before I could actually start working out. According to me, I have still got 10 kilos to go and I’m hoping it will happen by the end of this year. The first time (my weight loss) was so quick that I don’t even know where it went – because it was a normal delivery and also, I was far more conscious about what I ate – this time I’m eating what I feel like eating, when I feel like eating.” She works out three days a week with a trainer in what she terms ‘functional training’, which is a full body workout but using her own body weight rather than external weights. “I’ve been doing it for four months and I have been enjoying it – I haven’t had to sacrifice anything in terms of my food intake. It’s also genetics – I have it in my genes to be skinny – though I missed the height gene,” she chuckles.

As we track through her wooden-tiled living room to the marble floor bedroom, I express concern over ransacking her Juhu apartment. She reveals she is the person responsible for cleaning her house once a week. “No one is allowed to touch anything, the staff have to go wait in the kitchen. I’m a cleanliness freak…I set up my house every Sunday. Boarding school habits die hard!” It’s obvious then that she is a super active person, someone her husband refers to as one with ‘ants in her pants’. “People have this myth that pregnancy weight is so difficult to lose – in fact, it’s the easiest weight to lose. It’s how quickly you decide to tackle it. If you sit back and relax and enjoy life, it will pile on. I’m not a stay-at-home mum as much as an out-with-them mum.” She plays the role of soccer mom with ease: “trotting about everywhere”, taking Zidaan to all his classes (drawing, reading, writing), doing his kung-fu tumbles with him; simultaneously watching out for the younger one, Aariz (11 months) who is already attempting to walk – all of it becoming easier because of her naturally athletic body from years of enforced sports at boarding school.

Malaika’s a chronic planner – someone who always knew what she wanted when she wanted it, and luckily, managed to get it. “I completely planned my life – when I was going to have my first child, my second, when I was going to get married…when I was going to fall in love! It was a quick pregnancy each time, and I had planned a sufficient age gap between the kids.” I wonder if she’s got her children’s future planned as well? “No,” she laughs. “But yes, I’ve already told my son, you have to study law and you have to…” she breaks off with giggles. “My rule is that you have to complete your MBA and then you are done – you can then have the golden key of your life in your hands.” Coming from a secular household into a rather easy-going family, Malaika who is half-English, half-Hindu Jain, finds that she can even easily keep a balance culturally and let her sons experience a wide range of things.

What about keeping the kids grounded with fame surrounding them? “You have to let the child know his life, the only thing you can do as a parent is not let them think it all came easy. When we go shopping, and Zidaan wants to buy something, I never refuse. I put a hundred rupees in his pocket and tell him (with emphasis) that, ‘It is a hundred rupees – whatever comes in that money you can buy. And since it is a lot of money, you can buy at least three toys with it, so think wisely what you want to buy.’ We travel business class, not everybody travels business class. He can see it, and learn that if he wants to be somebody he has to work that hard. Just because he is an actor’s son, or has a grandfather, Sanjay Khan, or an uncle Hrithik Roshan, it doesn’t change him as a person.” Malaika admits, though, that she wouldn’t put him in a school just surrounded by celebrities – she would choose a more grounded school. Zidaan isn’t oblivious to his family’s chosen profession, however. He knows all his father’s and uncle’s films. “The other day I showed him a small episode from The Sword of Tipu Sultan, and he goes, ‘Dadu, that’s you!’” (Referring to his paternal grandfather, Sanjay Khan).

As the shots click by, we notice that Zidaan, who is known in the family as the “40-year-old man – with an old man’s soul” has settled comfortably into the nook of the sofa, clutching his sliced cheese roll in one hand and tucking the other arm around his little brother. Is it protective instinct, companionship or a sense of comfort? He isn’t in the least uneasy about having another person around sharing his parents’ time and affection, despite having got over three years of undivided attention. Malaika smiles at the thought; knowing it is something she has consciously worked towards and for which she has made an unconventional choice. “My theory was – if I give too much attention to the second one, the older one would feel the pinch. So, I focussed on the older one, because the younger was too little to know any better. When my older son was not around or asleep, I would go to my second child…to this day. I have left my second child to my mother and maid – both of whom have been wonderful – therefore not allowing my first child to feel at all insecure. Now I find Zidaan very connected with his brother, because he doesn’t feel jealously. I’m very vigilant – I look from the corner of my eye when I am hugging Aariz to see how Zidaan is reacting. This is my way of handling it – even if I may look back and find myself to have been the biggest fool for having given less attention to the younger one.”

While the baby of the family, Aariz, enjoys his toddlerhood, reaching out for things, gliding, looking at the AC vent and blowing out air with a cute rounding of his lips and a silent whistling sound; his mum proudly points out that Zidaan is thriving, with being able to spell his and his cousins’ names, knowing twenty words and framing sentences. Besides his martial arts, she’s trying to get him t
o play chess, but his father has drawn the line at pushing him into too many activities. “I’m getting him used to classes from now, so that when he needs to do more serious schoolwork later, he will be accustomed to the concept. These are not make-believe Einstein classes, these are fun activities incorporating knowledge – he enjoys doing it, I don’t force him into going.”

There is fun time – lots of it. “Holidays are just about the kids. Only twice a year do Zayed and I take off on our own and for no more than four days. We have flown back many times because I have started crying and having palpitations! Fifteen-day holidays without the kids didn’t work. Our holidays are adventurous…. In fact, I was hoping I would be charged enough to go for another child, hoping it would be a girl, but I’ll just hold on to that thought! Three boys are all I can take right now!” It does affect the time the couple get to spend together, but that’s all a part of the parenting life. “All relationships are going to have their ups and downs. Children are like kabab mein haddi – you love your child endlessly, but it does happen. The man may feel it more because he loses time with you, but it is a small phase and then you start enjoying it and it becomes three or four of you. Now I don’t even send out messages without signing off Zidaan and Aariz as well. It’s been quite smooth for us!”

Zidaan gets to spend Friday and Saturday night in bed with his parents, and he knows weekdays he’s on his own. His mom concocts creative games that he can play with his cousins on Sundays for their weekly play date. “I don’t encourage a lot of TV, it makes them feel that it’s more important that their mind gets more active than their physical body. If I watch TV, so will he. I have to make sure I’m doing the things I want him to do.” Malaika is all praise for her husband, Zayed, who’s always wanted to be a father. “He doesn’t even need me – he manages just fine, he’s just too, too good as a father. Zidaan and him are perpetually together. They go for movies and bowling, play videogames together, hang out on the iPad, he takes him to the park and sits on the bench and watches him play – that’s his time with him. Whatever time he gets at home, he wants to be with the kids. It’s been damn easy.”