She has been a favourite bahu on television, participant of various reality shows, winner of the much talked about reality show Big Boss 5…Juhi Parmar, 34, is an actress known the talent and charm that she exudes onscreen. Offscreen, we find the new mother appreciating the simple joys of life with her husband Sachin Shroff as she cuddles and kissing her ninemonth-old daughter Samairra
Juhi Parmar needs no introduction. In the recent past, when the saas-bahu sagas ruled the television screen, she won herself accolades for her acting and had a huge fan following in her lead role in Kumkum – Ek Pyara Sa Bandhan, which, even six years after it ended, still counts amongst Star Plus’s Top 10 shows of all time.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
We ask Juhi, who is still a household name across the country, to tell us her own story. The one of a girl hailing from Ujjain in Rajasthan, who comes to the city of dreams to chase her own aspirations and ultimately fulfi lls them. Talking of her early life, she says, “I was a focused person in life even then. I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be an actress. Soon after I finished school, I landed in Mumbai when I was 17 to pursue my dream. I did my graduation through correspondence as I didn’t want to delay working towards my goal for three more years. My parents were totally understanding and supportive of it. They have always been that way.”
Then started the clichéd rounds – auditions, photo shoots and more auditions. Television those days wasn’t as big as it is today. So, her aim was to land up with plum roles in films. “But somehow I never found it very clean and smooth. Even though I wanted to be an actress I had it drilled in my heart and mind that I would achieve my dream through fair means. I always wanted to do work that I could sit and watch with my parents and face myself in the mirror with full dignity,” says Juhi, about her work preferences. So, when films of the calibre she hoped for seemed to be a distant dream, she turned to TV. A wise decision in the long run. “Those days, serials were broadcast weekly and daily soaps weren’t around yet. Since I didn’t have anyone to help me in the industry, I had to work really hard to get a foothold. Slowly, I started getting work and I started off with small roles. Probably my work spoke for itself, because I soon had plumper roles coming my way. I did the popular serial Shaheen. Then came Chooriyaan on Sony TV and when I auditioned for Kumkum, I ended up getting the lead role in this daily soap which aired for seven years on Star Plus. Name, fame, recognition all came my way,” says Juhi. Alongside Kumkum, Juhi also appeared in a host of reality shows and life kept her busy and cheerful.
THE LOVE INTEREST
As Juhi carved a niche for herself in the television industry, there was no looking back… work came her way and it came in full swing. She became a known face on television and was also seen in other popular soaps like Yeh Chanda Kanoon Hai on SAB TV, Devi on Sony TV, Virasaat on Sahara One, etc. She also acted in two Pakistani TV series ? Tere Ishq Mein and Pehchaan. Her work took her places and also set the stage for her to meet the love of her life along the way. Juhi met her husband Sachin Shroff for the first time when they were offered work on a new project together. “We shot a pilot for a TV series but unfortunately the project got shelved. We didn’t actually become friends while shooting but were mere acquaintances. We exchanged numbers and probably texted each other once in a blue moon,” recalls Juhi. Little did the duo know then that they were to be paired as the hero and heroine for rest of their lives soon! Though the couple later sizzled onscreen with their dance performances for Nach Baliye 3 on Star Plus, took part in other reality shows like Pati, Patni aur Woh on NDTV Imagine, showed off their comic side in Hans Baliye on Star One, but their love story wasn’t about an instant spark. Rather, it took time to develop and evolve into the deep and meaningful relationship it is today.
KYA SCENE HAI?
For at least fi ve to six years, their connection had been an on and off distant friendship. “We would bump into each other at a party or a do, exchange pleasantries, start texting each other and then the spark would suddenly fi zzle out,” Juhi remembers. Neither tried to take the friendship to the next level. “Though Sachin confessed later that he liked me a lot but somewhere something didn’t click during those initial days,” explains Juhi. Once, when the duo did try to make the friendship blossom but things took a turn for the worse. “We planned to meet for a movie. So we were to watch Jab We Met together. I hate to be late for films. Like one would read a book from cover to cover, I like to watch a film from credits to the end. And Sachin was late. I was so annoyed that I left his ticket with the security and went inside. When he finally made it and was seated next to me, we watched the entire movie in pin-drop silence. After the movie, he dropped me home and we didn’t speak a word while he drove. On my side, I was seething. First, he was late, and second, he didn’t inform me earlier. On his part, he was upset that it wasn’t a nice gesture for me to leave the ticket with the security,” says Juhi. So, what next… Bouquets, chocolates and apology notes? No, just the opposite! Juhi and Sachin didn’t speak to each other for a whole year. Theirs is probably a love story where the unison of two souls was scripted to happen a little late as it is wisely said that patience pays. “After a year, I got a call from Sachin. He had one of the hoardings of the dance reality show I was participating in – Saas Vs Bahu for Sahara One – and he said I looked great. The next thing he mentioned was that he wanted to meet me. I didn’t object. When we met, the fi rst thing that he asked was about our future together. It came as a shock. I wasn’t expecting it and probably didn’t know what to say,” she says. So love struck and it struck hard. “I am not a person who would say yes easily to anything. And for a life-changing decision like this, I was awestruck at the moment. Even though I kept meeting Sachin on and off in the past, I couldn’t say I wanted to know him better, as I already knew him. Neither could I say that I was seeing someone else as I was not. He knew it was a ‘yes’ without hearing it. I knew it was a ‘yes’ without saying it. We just went with the flow of life. Then our parents met and after fi ve months of courtship, we tied the knot,” smiles Juhi. On February 15, 2009, the couple took the sacred vows.
A NEW CHAPTER
Work, love, marriage. It had all worked out great. So what next – a baby? “We weren’t in a hurry, but we were never on the same page when it came to parenthood. Sometimes, when I felt it was time Sachin wasn’t ready and when he thought we should give it a try, I wanted to wait,” says Juhi. Meanwhile, she landed up with an offer to participate in the reality show Big Boss 5 and packed off to the house. “It was an enthralling experience because I am a person who despises monotony. The Big Boss house kept me hooked to the core,” `says the winner. Two years down the line, Juhi was wanting to start her own family. “I confi ded this to Sachin and, for a change, this time our feelings were mutual. So we decided to go ahead before either one of us changed our mind. We had a planned pregnancy,” says Juhi.
Both Juhi and Sachin knew that once the baby was in the picture, it would mean more baby time and less couple time. So they decided to make the most of couple time before she conceived. They decided to visit Paris and steal one last vacation together. “We did the bookings over the phone and were about to go and pay the travel agent,” says Juhi, but her sixth sense stopped her. “It might sound bizarre but I had an inner voice telling me that I was pregnant and that my child was already within me. I was feeling a little under the weather and something deep down was nudging me. I told Sachin not to make the payment for the trip. When he asked if I was sure, I told him I would be within a month,” recalls Juhi. The next 30 days saw a long wait and then the two pink lines on the home pregnancy test kit proved her intuition correct.
The good news saw the couple gearing up and preparing to welcome the new life with an enthusiasm like never before. Sachin was compassionate and understanding, helping her cope with her mood swings. He was rock-solid support through the blissful nine months, Juhi shares. She prepared herself by taking a pregnancy yoga class, reading up on gestation, and eating correctly. “I read six books during my pregnancy and was so informed about everything that my doctor felt I was all set to be in her seat! The book What To Expect When You Are Expecting became my pregnancy guide. Sachin made sure that he was with me during all my check-ups and scan schedules,” says Juhi. So, was pregnancy an emotional rollercoaster ride for the couple, we wonder aloud? “Yes, it was. During our first scan, where we both were together, the sonologist showed us a small dot on the black screen and told us that was our baby. More thrilling was the fact that another dot within the fi rst one was pointed out to us and we were told it was the baby’s heart! Sachin and I were holding hands looking into the screen without blinking and were on an emotional high. For days I used to hold the report and stare at the dot for hours, marvelling at nature’s incredible boon,” confi des an emotional Juhi.
How far did Sachin go to prove himself the perfect pregnancy support? “He had to deal with my mood swings for sure but I never gave him a tough time with unreasonable cravings as I never had any. Okay, only once. Sometime during my second trimester, I craved shahi paneer from Mahavir Dhaba in Jaipur which I had tasted years ago. Sachin wasn’t sure how to fulfi ll my craving but was ready to take on the challenge. He chalked out a plan. He called my school friend Abha in Jaipur and asked her to get it for me. Fortunately, her father’s boss was about to visit Mumbai the very same day and he brought us the parcel which we picked up from the airport. Back home, when we had the dish Sachin didn’t fi nd the paneer to be anything special and neither did I. But I wanted only that shahi paneer. That’s what pregnancy can do to you,” chuckles Juhi.
Sachin had romantic ideas to lift her despondent moods. “He told me that we should go for a babymoon and spend some time away together. But things worked out differently for us. During my fourth month, my sis-in-law, who was also pregnant, was warned of an early labour. We didn’t feeling like leaving a family member in distress back home and have the time of our life. In the fi fth month, Sachin had dengue and I was nursing both bump and my hubby all alone. The sixth month, my pet dog was so ill that I had to sit with him at the veterinary hospital for 12 hours every alternate day as he was on drips. Our romantic baby moon got shelved in the process,” rues Juhi.
But the couple found pleasure in the simple joys of life that brought them closer. “My doctor always said that in most cases, a fi rst-time mum misses out on the fi rst kick. I didn’t want to miss it, so I always stayed alert and attuned to my inner signals. During the end of my fourth month, I was out with my sister and she stepped out of the car to get something. Sitting alone in the rear seat, I felt two cute cosy punches within me which was almost like a tingling sensation. Instantly, I knew my baby was connecting with me. I called up my doctor to confi rm if kicks can be felt that early. And she affi rmed it. The next day, when I felt the kicks again in the night, I grabbed Sachin’s hand and placed it on my belly. He felt the sensations and was in tears. I knew that he would be excited but I never expected him to be in tears,” says Juhi.
Pregnancy can be romanticised but pregnancy niggles can really put you off. “But I can safely say that the first six months of my pregnancy were a breeze, healthwise. Of course, I had to pay for it during the last trimester, which saw me sick and weak like never before. I developed heat rashes, itching, edema, lower back and abdominal pain, what have you… There were days when I would lie on my bed in pain while Sachin would be leaving for work and he would return to find me in the same position. My mum had to massage my bump with oil as I couldn’t resist the urge to itch. My abdominal pain was so bad that I was hospitalised in the last week before delivery for the fear of an early labour,” recalls Juhi.
PAINT MY WORLD PINK
The couple had settled on the name Samairra a long time ago, as they were keen on having a baby girl. “We thought of choosing a backup name for a boy just in case our luck tilted on the other side. But somehow we could never decide on one till the last day and I was sure that I would birth a baby girl,” smiles Juhi, cuddling her little angel. There were other tell-tale signs as well. “My mum-in-law had ordered some sweet boxes before my delivery and when they arrived, they came in pink wrapping, although she didn’t ask for pink wrapping. My mum-in-law declared that it was a baby girl on the way. Also we had put two baby photos in our bedroom – one of a baby girl and another of a baby boy. Two days prior to my delivery, the baby boy’s photo just fell and the baby girl’s picture stayed on the wall. I was thrilled and told Sachin that Samairra was on her way,” she chuckles. And yes she was, even if all these ‘signs’ were just happy coincidences.
During her brief stint in the hospital just before her delivery, Juhi was given the option to induce labour. “But I wanted labour to set in in the natural way and so left the hospital and was warned that I might have to be back the very next day as I was due soon,” she recalls. It was January 25, 2013, when Juhi returned to her home being discharged and treated for her lower back and abdominal pain. “My mum and Sachin stayed home the next day with me. My mum-in-law left as there was still a day for my delivery. On the afternoon of January 26, a sharp, shooting lower-back pain got the better of me. It was so bad that it rendered me immobile and, within no time, I was in tears. When I called my doctor, she confi rmed that I was in labour but I could wait for some time before I moved into the labour room. It appeared as though Samairra was waiting for every family member to be present around me before she made her grand entry! By the time I was to leave for the hospital, my entire family – my father, my sister, her fi ancé and my mum-in-law, who directly reached the hospital – was with me,” recalls Juhi of her labour day. But something strange happened after she reached the hospital. “Suddenly, all that pain which had me in tears vanished into thin air and I was walking upright with my huge bump. My doctor checked me and said that the contractions have already set in and also my baby’s heartrate was escalating. Since the labour pains gave me a miss, I had to be rushed to the labour room for a C-section,” recalls Juhi.
Lying straight on the stretcher, Juhi was wheeled to the OT. “I was tense, nervous, excited, happy and confused all together. All I requested was Sachin’s company by my side in the OT and I was granted it. I am happy and proud of the fact that my husband had the courage to be in the OT while I was cut open. For two days after the operation, Sachin couldn’t get over the sight. But while in the OT, he stayed calm and gave me a blow-by-blow account of my daughter’s arrival. When he said he could see the head, I was so overjoyed that I asked if it’s a girl. He smiled back and said the wait would be over soon and we would know it all. Within moments, I was told it was a baby girl. My joys knew no bounds,” recalls Juhi.
The only complaint a mother going under the knife would have is that her baby is not handed over to her immediately after the birth. With a still numb lower body, and the stress of the operation, there is much to be taken care of before the mother and baby are united. With a C-section, there is also a heightened fear of postpartum depression. “When I was settled in my room, the hospital staff got Samairra and held her up so I could see her face while lying on the bed. Our eyes met instantly and for me, it was love at fi rst sight. I never felt so connected with anything in my life before. Many of my friends told me about postpartum depression and the fact that the motherbaby bonding takes time to happen. But I have a different take on it. I was bonded with my baby the moment I saw her,” says Juhi jovially.
BEING A MUM
Juhi confesses straightforwardly, “I had never been a ‘kid person’ all my life. But with Samirra, my entire life changed and it revolves entirely around her. Today, I am a hands-on mum. I bathe my baby, feed her, dress her, clean her and all my thoughts just revolve around her. Both my husband and my sister are surprised to see this side of my persona. I had dutifully nursed her for the fi rst six months, and also gave her expressed milk in the bottle.” Samairra today, nine months old (when we do the shoot and interview) is a no-fuss, playful and cheerful baby. “I think parenting has a lot to do with what you subconsciously take from your parents. When I recall my own childhood,, I remember my mum used to stand outside the house and wait for me when the school bus dropped me. And seeing my mum after the whole day was like a breath of oxygen to me.
She was always there for me. The first 45 days after the delivery that I stayed with her, she was always by my side dawn or dusk without a frown or a complaint. I would like to be as caring and compassionate with my daughter. I feel that if there is anything that I need to give my daughter in abundance, that is my time. The initial years are crucial, which lays the foundation of your character and a mum’s guidance and gentle care can go a longer way than one can imagine. I have said no to eight roles in the past six months just to be with my daughter,” says Juhi.
Are the fi rst-time parents on the same page when it comes to parenthood? “I always tell Sachin that I would want the parent-child bond to be a friendlier one, open to all sorts of communication, so that if my baby ever goes wrong anywhere, she can come back and confi de in us. These days, children are exposed to more than they need to be through the Internet or other social media. There has to be a way to teach your child what is right and what’s not. Also, we would want Samairra to have certain values such as respect for elders, compassion, caring and sharing. Today, I splurge a lot on her and pamper her; she is too young to gauge that. But when she grows up a little, I will have to keep a tab on myself to teach her value for money. Sachin agrees with me on these terms. At the moment, it is too early for us to teach her tough life lessons and we are just enjoying connecting to each other with every passing day,” says Juhi, assuring us that the father and daughter also share a bond that binds them like friends. “When he is home, he plays with her, sings with her and they both have a great time. But I still would not say that Samairra is papa’s angel because the moment she sees me, she whines to be with mamma. She is too much of mamma’s daughter. But then again, it’s too early to pass judgment. But I can safely say that three is company and we are having a great time together,” concludes Juhi, cooing to her baby as she and Sachin beam at each other over their baby. M&B
Words Debjani Sengupta Arora
Visuals Akshay Kulkarni