I had a very traditional Indian upbringing. I was born just outside Nairobi in 1959; I was one of six children, the oldest girl. My mum had had a child almost every year, there were a lot of us to wash, dress, and feed. She was constantly either breastfeeding, or expecting the next baby. I remember her doing my hair; mine used to have two plaits. I used to cry a lot when she combed my hair, she didn’t have time to be slow and gentle.
I was frightened of my mum - I never even told her when I broke my leg, I just pined until she realised something was wrong. The truth is my mother had six children and I wasn’t her favourite; I couldn’t go to her, even with my deepest troubles. So I never relied on my mum for advice on bringing up my own kids; my faith became a far greater guide.
I didn’t develop my faith until I took the children to the temple to learn Gujarati. I used to sit in and listen to the presentations on Hinduism, and that’s how I became interested in my faith. I have to thank my children for that! Even before my faith became stronger, I did bring up my children with the ethos of Karma. If you do good things, you’ll get good things.
I became a single parent when my own children were 16 and 14, and I divorced from my husband. We had to move away to a new town, to a new school, leaving old friends behind. The 14 year old found it very challenging. He was taller than me, bigger than me; it was quite intimidating because he had a lot of anger following the divorce. When he turned 18 and the aggression was still there, I was actually physically frightened. So I gave him an ultimatum on his birthday: shape up or ship out. He shipped out to his dad’s.
One of my children had gone; it was like a bereavement. He didn’t keep in touch, so for almost two years I had very little contact with my youngest son, my baby. That was the biggest challenge to my motherhood. He’s 27 now; that was 10 years ago. We see each other regularly now, we socialise together; we go out for meals and to the cinema. I still think, if I hadn’t kicked him out, he wouldn’t be the nice man as he is now. I made the right decision. I didn’t want to be frightened in my own home.
Bharti's story is featured at London's Museum of Motherhood, due to launch at the V & A Museum of Childhood on Thursday 21st June, along with a book. All revenue from ticket and book sales will go to fund Proshanti, a charity supporting maternal healthcare work in Bangladesh. You can buy tickets here for the launch and follow them on facebook and twitter.
You can also win a pair of tickets to the launch by joining our next mums' Make Date. Join us on twitter on 20 June 8.30pm – 9.30pm BST (other timezones here) using the hashtag #somum for a chat and a doodle: Museum of Mum. To see what a Twidoodle's all about, check out our first ever attempt last month... Hope to see you there!