Jaya Bachchan and I have stayed connected steadfastly for over thirty years now. While my equation with the other Bachchans has changed over the years, with Jaya there has never been an arid patch in our kinship.When we talk she never has to remind me which parts of the conversation are off the record. The only three other Filmistan friends I share the same trust and comfort level are Shabana Azmi,Karan Johar and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Jaya and I seldom do formal interviews. But when we do she remains as candid as she is in our private conversations.

Once Jaya spoke about giving up her career at her peak. Was it for marriage or motherhood? “Definitely motherhood. You know, I come from a home where my mother was always around. Just her presence gave me a lot of strength. I became the person that I am because of her. Mothers don’t have to teach you anything. Instinctively, a child imbibes values and mannerisms from the mother. From the way you eat to the way you treat people, your mother’s influence is always there, regardless of whether she exercises the influence or not.”

She admitted she was an extremely strict mother. “And it isn’t because my children were susceptible to being spoilt. We never allowed that. We were in a joint family. My children and my brother-in-law’s children grew up together. They played and ate together, went to the same school. They had a normal life. They knew their parents were celebrities… we didn’t hide it from them. But they didn’t know what that celebrity entailed. They were aware that there was public interest in them when they went out. But we made sure they grew up with the celebrity status being a normal state of being. We never had to explain their identity to them. Amit and I have been honoured but never dazzled by our celebrity. As a couple we’ve ensured that our children don’t compromise or denigrate it.”

Jaya was careful to give Abhishek and Shweta a normal childhood? “I may be wrong…but I very strongly feel a guardian must be at home constantly. It could be a parent or an aunt or uncle. The presence at home needn’t be gender-driven.When I decided to pause my career to look after my children I never saw it as a sacrifice. The love, affection and respect that the children give me today are more important to me than any other kind of success in the world. I don’t care what the world thinks as long as the children have faith in me…And doesn’t that apply to all parents? I don’t think I’m an extraordinary mother. I come from a decent middleclass family. I’ve just behaved normally with my children.”
To behave normally in the film industry isn’t a normal thing to do.She disagreed. “You’re giving the film industry an unnecessarily abnormal tinge. In fact, the families in our film industry are very normal. I’m not saying the industry is perfect. It just seems more imperfect than other areas of activity because of the constant media attention. I’m fortunate to have come from a decent family. That’s why I could give decent values to my children.”

Jaya’s father Taroon Coomar Bhaduri was an eminent journalist. Speaking of him Jaya said, “He was out making a living for his large family. But I never felt that my father wasn’t around. I never felt the need for anything that I didn’t have. I was very happy with my life. I was very proud of my parents. I hope my children remain that way.I try to be a good daughter. I’m very duty-conscious. And I’ve become even more so after marriage because Amit was very conscious of his duties towards his parents. I’ve in fact learnt to be more duty-conscious through my association with the Bachchan family. I’ve lived longer with this family than I’ve with mine. From my own parents I’ve imbibed goodness and simplicity. God has been very very kind to me. I hope I’ve given back to my children the values I’ve imbibed from both my families.When they were growing up I always told my children it didn’t matter how they did in their exams. It’s what they made of themselves as human-beings that mattered. I remember when I was a child there were always a lot of red marks on the report card in some subjects. But the conduct column was always very good. That made my father very happy. He always said a good strong person has a better chance of survival in this world. I hope I’ve been able to give all these values to my children. The name, fame glamour…it all vanishes. What survives is your goodness.”