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June 9, 2015

Happy birthday Imara: Imran, Avantika's daughter

 For Imran Khan and his wife, Avantika Malik Khan — they have been together for 13 years now — the arrival of their daughter, Imara Malik Khan, has changed their lives entirely. Since then, they have diligently played their parts, as caring parents, taking their little one out on play dates, and watching her grow.

Yet, they have managed to keep her away from the media glare. How? "We just don’t go to places where she could be photographed," says Avantika.

On Tuesday, (June 9), as Imara turns one, we speak to the proud mother and father Imran and Avantika, who, for the very first time, open up about their daughter, parenthood, and more.

What are the plans for her first birthday?

Avantika: She just wants to run around all over, and climb on top of things, so we’re going to have a little get together for her and her close little buddies at a play gym. They will get to do everything they want in a safe environment. Then, we’re taking her for three weeks to Europe, and that’s what I am excited about. I want to show her a real park and open spaces.
Imran: If she wants to go skateboarding, there is no place (in Mumbai). If she wants to go rock climbing, there is no space. That is what I am really concerned about. I want her to have access to these things.

How has the first year been?

Avantika: Maddening, exhausting, crazy, amazing and phenomenal… I feel like it was yesterday that she was this tiny, and now she’s running all around the place.
Imran: Time has flown really fast.

Have you noticed any changes in Imran post fatherhood?

Avantika: Yes and no. Imran has always been terribly wise for somebody his age. He never worried about the small things. But once you have a child, you don’t have the bandwidth to worry anymore. For us, as a couple, it (having a baby) put things into perspective magically. It also happened to coincide with the time when some of his films hadn’t done well, and he had taken a sabbatical to clear his mind. Imara is a gift for us. The timing of her arrival was so perfect. So, we sat, talked about things, and realised that he should do the work he wants to do, and that it (acting) is a job at the end of the day. The thing with film people is that you get so consumed by all of it. It’s your job, and you should be passionate about it, but many of them are consumed by every aspect of it.

Imran: 24X7 there is this bubble of rarefied air that they’re breathing and consuming… all of you live together in this bubble. So, you, very quickly, lose touch of what exists outside it.

Avantika: You realise that this is life. For him, it (becoming a father) has freed him of a lot of things about the film industry that were holding him back. It has been liberating. Through this process, I have realised that you cannot take it all so seriously. Everyone needs to chill out. This is our reality — him, me and our child.

Now that Imran has resumed work, does that change a lot of things?

Avantika: It was great to have him at home. I needed his emotional support as much as his physical help. I miss him when he is at work, but more than anything, he misses the baby. But it has become easier now that Imara is set in her routine; so, not having him around has not been that hard. And I am glad he is back at work, and out of my hair. (laughs)
Imran: Yes, she is very happy.

Parents usually admit that the initial phase is tough. Was it hard for you?

Imran: The first couple of months were very difficult for the three of us because there was this constant panic and fear that we had about whether we were doing things right. But you don’t realise when those feelings fade away, and when you start to accept things. I remember, when we first brought her home, I went crazy with sterilising things and using sanitisers.

Avantika: He was being ridiculous about it. He was bathing in sanitiser.

Imran: Then came a point when she started moving around everywhere, and then we realised that maybe it’s not necessary to sterilise everything.

Imran, you have always been very vocal about your opinion of the education system here. What have you planned for Imara’s education?

Avantika: I have found a nice Montessori to send her to.

Imran: But we’re at a ridiculous place. When Imara was three months old is when we first went to get her admission sorted. They (school authorities) said that people usually come in the second trimester.

Avantika: I was told that I was late. For me, that’s ludicrous. I cannot understand having to pull strings to get your child into a school. It’s unfathomable. But luckily for us, things have changed. There are a couple of great schools I have been hearing about that are smaller, and I think there is some hope.

Imran: Having visited the school, I am also hopeful.

In a film family, how do you plan to keep her grounded?
Avantika: I think I am going to take a page out of Reena (Imran’s maternal uncle, Aamir Khan’s ex-wife) and Aamir’s life. They have done a marvellous job with Junaid and Ira (Aamir and Reena’s children). Kiran (Rao; Aamir’s wife) and Aamir are also doing a fabulous job with Azad (Aamir and Kiran’s son). It is all about how you are at home with them (children). If we can instil a basic value system from the beginning, then we should be good. I don’t want her to be a little princess because that would really upset me. All of this is earned by Imran. The house is a blessing from his grandfather, but this lifestyle is earned by him. I hope that she observes the way we live our lives and learns.

Imran: Ultimately, the kids become like their parents. That’s what they see, and that’s what they relate to.

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