Shivani Savdharia sits down to talk human to me about being a mother, the complex dynamics found in relationships, the various connections we find ourselves with other people, the vulnerability of humans compared to other species, normalizing postpartum depression, and great idioms and Mom-isms passed down from mothers.
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Our Conversation with Shivani Savdharia
00:00 Jeffrey Shiau: Okay. Let's get started here, Shivani. Thank you so much for doing this with me. I know I've been trying to schedule this with you for a long time. If there's a little bit of nervousness, totally understand. It's a very... Like you said, it's a very, I think, vulnerable, open way to talk with people that you probably don't know that are listening. And also, it's even scarier sometimes for me when actually a lot of the guests ask me questions back that my parents and my friends also hear it as well.That's actually how I actually revealed my journey with depression and kind of contemplating suicide, live, [chuckle] with actually a mutual friend, Penelope Douglas, who you know, and she's a mentor to a lot of people. So, it's a... Yeah, again, I really wanna thank you for doing this with me. So, we're gonna go ahead and get started here, and as listeners know, I start with the exact same question with every single guest and that is, what about humans strikes you the most?
01:22 Shivani Savdharia: I know that you start with that question, I can't believe I forgot. What about humans strikes me the most? I think [chuckle] the fact that we are born so vulnerable. Like, babies come out, human babies come out, and are not able to walk, or talk, or they would not survive without an adult taking care of 'em, where every other mammal comes out ready to move and go in the world. And when I found that out, that blew my mind. That we come out prematurely because our heads have gotten so big...
02:10 Shivani Savdharia: That we need to get out. We need to get out 'cause otherwise there would be no way to birth the baby. So that, [chuckle] just physiologically, I cannot get over the fact that for being such the smartest or whatever species out there, the fact that we are born that vulnerable and we rely on each other that much from the very start is crazy. [chuckle]
02:35 Jeffrey Shiau: That just blew my mind actually 'cause I did not even think about the fact that yes, I'm not sure that, yeah, with both mammals and also animals that I know like... What's it called when you come out of a shell? One of those...
02:50 Shivani Savdharia: Birds.
02:51 Jeffrey Shiau: Yeah, terms. [chuckle] But I never thought about that because you're right, there's... A lot of other mammals definitely have some vulnerability, where if they were not given care by their caretaker, or a mother, or whatever animal gave them birth, they most likely will... Some of them will survive and some of them won't, right? But you're right, a baby is completely helpless.
03:26 Shivani Savdharia: Yeah, because they're mammal. I mean, birds are different, but mammals like giraffes, and monkeys, and dolphins, they come out and they have mobility right from the start where we don't. Even monkeys can hold on to their mom's hair but we don't, we've evolved to not have hair anymore, and so we... As a baby, you can't even hold your mom; you have to be held by your mother. So I think our... Abdullah told me that and it made me feel much better...
03:56 Shivani Savdharia: For some reason. For some reason, it was really comforting, something to learn about humans.
04:02 Jeffrey Shiau: And you're a new mother, right?
04:03 Shivani Savdharia: And I'm a relatively new mom. Yeah, she's two. But I still feel very new to the experience of motherhood, for sure.
04:10 Jeffrey Shiau: Right. Did you think you've understood or really viscerally experienced or thought about vulnerability before you had your daughter?
04:26 Shivani Savdharia: I don't know, I don't... No, I don't think so. I don't think I knew what to think. I think I was just... If anything, I thought about my vulnerability, not really the child's vulnerability because it was so abstract. I'm a first-time mom, and the idea of having a child, it was just so abstract for me, all of it. So I was unable to think about someone else's needs and what my needs would be, and how I'd be vulnerable, and how my life would change, it was just too hard to picture or imagine.
05:02 Jeffrey Shiau: Do you still feel like you don't have... I feel like most parents actually... What I'm learning, there's a lot of opinions from parents, is that they never actually really get a full grasp. Everything they say they try to learn before the child comes and is born, it all goes out the window the second the child comes. It's like you really learn on the job.
05:28 Shivani Savdharia: As you go, as they get older. Yeah. I mean, my... I think I now have a little bit of perspective. I can step back and realize what made the early months and the beginning so hard and difficult and challenging. But I don't know if it's over, maybe this is just a lifetime of push and pull that happens and that's the role of a parent. My mother-in-law said something when Nova was first born, and she said, I wish I had her exact words for it, but she said something like having a child means that I will constantly be celebrating and mourning at the same time. And I didn't get what she was talking about. How could you celebrate and mourn at the same time? And she said, "Well, when your one-year-old becomes a two-year-old, you're gonna be filled with so much joy, you won't know what to do. And it's gonna be so fun and exciting, but at the same time, you're mourning and missing the one-year-old. But there's no time to really dwell in the mourning of it because you're just filled with the next stage, and that keeps you busy and it keeps you going." And her saying that made me realize that if that's true for Nova's transition from one to two, it's gonna be just as true as her transition from 31 to 32. I'm constantly going to be missing the previous version of herself, and then also be so excited to see who she grows into. And the image that keeps coming to my mind is those Russian babushka dolls. You know, one nests inside of the other...
07:08 Jeffrey Shiau: Oh, yeah.
07:11 Shivani Savdharia: And I have to step back and remember that I am that amalgamation of all those years, and that that three-year-old me is still inside of me, and the newborn Nova is still gonna be inside of her, and 15-year-old Jeff is still inside of you somewhere and that we don't actually ever go away; we just build. [chuckle]
07:31 Jeffrey Shiau: It's just the way, let's say, a reptile sheds. We actually grow and...
07:36 Shivani Savdharia: Acquire. [chuckle]
07:37 Jeffrey Shiau: Acquire a layer.
07:38 Shivani Savdharia: Baggage. Yeah.
07:41 Jeffrey Shiau: Everything is now just blowing my mind, just thinking about that doll, just what the term... Or everyone has a baggage, that's true. Every little saying that we have now all makes sense. So, it's interesting 'cause who was Shivani before your daughter was born?
08:11 Shivani Savdharia: [chuckle] I didn't realize how different life was when I only had to think about myself. To be constantly on and impacted and touched by somebody else in every moment, I didn't know what that was gonna be like. So who was Shivani before Nova was born? It was just someone who didn't have to consult [chuckle] anyone else. I could do whatever I wanted to do, really, as long as I didn't harm another human being. And that feeling, that disappeared very early on right from when I was pregnant. I had this moment a couple of months in where I realized I was never alone. During pregnancy for nine months, you're never alone, there's always someone with you. And so I thought twice about things because they impacted somebody else, and even now, my time... I think about my time as every moment I'm not spending by myself, I could be spending with her, it's kind of this black or white.
09:23 Shivani Savdharia: I'm now getting to a place where I feel more comfortable having a little bit more separation, but in the very beginning, I think especially if you're a nursing mom, your body is so connected to another human being, so it was really hard to create that separation. And I wasn't ready to deal with the ambivalence or the strong contrasting feelings that come with motherhood. I really wanted to be very close to my child at all times and then at the same time, really missed having personal space. I needed some time to myself. So wanting that closeness and then wanting space and separation, and feeling both of those things simultaneously at the same time was a hard thing to hold. It might be because I also was a mother in my... I became a mom in my 30s, and I was just used to having a lot of personal time, whereas if maybe if I had become a mother right after college, I was... I didn't really cultivate the practice of taking as much time for myself until my late 20s, early 30s. And so when that changed, that was a kind of shock.
10:34 Jeffrey Shiau: When you're feeling this... Kinda holding that, it's almost like conflicting sides to yourself, right? When you're going through that process, especially those nine months, do you feel like, "Oh, this is just a balancing act," or do you actually feel a sense of guilt? Or it's like, "No, this is just the experience and I'm just have to be in the moment."
10:56 Shivani Savdharia: I just felt crazy. I didn't know why... I don't think I really thought about why I was feeling what I was feeling. I just felt like just a lot of big swings, like so much joy and so much exhaustion, and so much like wanting to run in a different direction and wanting to run really close. I didn't really thought... I didn't think about... I didn't really have the perspective. I just remember feeling so turned up, like, "Why am I feeling so many things at the same time?" And I don't know, surprisingly, I feel like the best support I got was from my own parents [chuckle] who just kept reminding me that everything was temporary, and then that it was all gonna change, and to just enjoy moment by moment, day by day.
11:50 Shivani Savdharia: And it's so true 'cause you can't... I'm so used to... I think all of us who are really ambitious and professional and motivated in our workplace are so used to holding the big picture, and then also honing in on the details and being able to fluidly go between the two to be successful in our jobs and careers. And when I became a mom, I was so in the weeds that it was hard for me to have the bigger picture perspective that this was not gonna last forever, that your one-year-old child might be very different than your 11-year-old, and that time is gonna... You know, what is the saying? That the days are short, but the years are fast or something like that? So true.
12:33 Jeffrey Shiau: You have a lot of wisdom bombs. These are just flying out. [laughter]
12:36 Shivani Savdharia: These are not wisdom bombs. I have two Indian parents, and they are full of idioms. And so, all my knowledge or wisdom are their translated idioms that sometimes land so perfectly and sometimes are just hilariously off, but...
12:53 Jeffrey Shiau: Right.
12:55 Jeffrey Shiau: I also think about all the Chinese idioms that always come up as well.
13:01 Shivani Savdharia: My favorite is when they... My dad will get a idiom wrong, but it still makes sense, so he calls me "Beta", which is "dear" in Hindi or Gujarati. He's like, "Beta, that's... " Well, what does he say? He's like, "Maybe it's a blessing in the skies." I'm like, "Dad, I'm pretty sure it's a blessing in disguise." He's like, "No, in the skies."
13:22 Shivani Savdharia: I'm like, "Okay, I guess that works but you tell me." Ones like that are so funny.
13:28 Jeffrey Shiau: I wanna start saying that. "Blessing in the skies." [chuckle]
13:31 Shivani Savdharia: The skies. It kinda sounds like that, right?
13:32 Jeffrey Shiau: That's great. That's fantastic. So, do you think when... I think you came from a life that... There were a lot of entrepreneur communities, and like you said, there's a lot of mindsets about how to plan, how to create strategy, how to execute and all these things. Did you find yourself... 'Cause you're describing how you felt like that might cross over into this experience, but it was completely thrown out the window. Did that affect you personally as well in terms of just... I know the priorities all change when you have a kid, but did it also change your point of view on what matters?
14:26 Shivani Savdharia: Yes, definitely. Well, there are a couple things in that question. For one thing, I was so used to thinking that when I had a problem, I could research my way out of it, or plan my way out of it, or just get busy chipping away at things, or researching how to take care of it, whether it was a career move or anything, like a house project, a relationship. And so I took that approach when Nova was first born. Everything from nursing to sleeping to feeding to whatever, all of it, I just had no idea how to do things right or wrong or what right or wrong were. And so I fell into this spiral of just... I would be nursing her with one arm and then the other arm, my thumb is scrolling on my phone just reading all these blogs and articles and advice columns and stuff. And I just went into information overload until I got to the point... I still do this all the time. My nightstand is filled with [chuckle] parenting or teaching books.
15:32 Jeffrey Shiau: There's a reason why mommy blogs are very...
15:34 Shivani Savdharia: Such a thing. But the thing is you always find something to support whatever you're inclined to do or something that will tell you that you're doing it wrong. So, I still have to remind myself that the answer is not always going to be out there, and that I need to really... This is where intuition comes into place, and I have to check in with myself, and I have to stop and pause and think about what feels right. And sometimes what feels right doesn't match with the parenting trends in society or even in your most immediate community, what people see as the healthy thing to do, and so, that was hard. It's like, "Wait. I'm the expert? I'm naturally the expert because it's my child?" There is no right or wrong as a parent, so you get to decide, and you have to check in with yourself, and ultimately, I'm... I think when I took that stance and realized that for this child, I get to make the decision, and I'm the expert, and I can't just keep going externally to try to find the answer 'cause it didn't work all the time.
16:42 Jeffrey Shiau: It's like what you're referring to is there's this almost dismissal of the strength of a mother's instinct. I'm thinking about when I was a kid and the way my mom raised, especially I think there's also, I think, this difference between a lot of eastern and western philosophies. I think my parents definitely had a combination of balance between eastern and western philosophy as raising my sister and me. But with me, I just remember I'm watching the way my sister first started when she had her first kid, and the way how she was almost obsessively caring for him and was paranoid about every little thing.
17:26 Shivani Savdharia: Yeah, totally.
17:27 Jeffrey Shiau: And then, with her second kid, half of that goes out the window. She's like, "She's fine. [chuckle] She's gonna be okay. She's gonna fall if things are gonna trip." And I'm just also thinking about, it's like, "Man. My mom let me do a lot of crazy stuff," and she would just let me wander off when I was three years old and she sounds like, "He's gonna be back."
17:48 Shivani Savdharia: Yeah, there is something to birth order, right?
17:50 Jeffrey Shiau: Yeah. [chuckle]
17:51 Shivani Savdharia: Absolutely. Yeah, my parents are South Asian, and my husband's family is Jewish, and so we have a bi-racial daughter and definitely cultural things come into play around, not necessarily values and priorities, but in terms of approaches that we take, and when you're lost sometimes you default to how things were done when you were younger. And so I find myself kind of confused about what the Indian culture thinks is the right way or how I was raised versus my husband's upbringing versus my own. And that definitely makes things challenging and fun and interesting.
18:32 Jeffrey Shiau: Yeah. Let's... Go ahead.
18:39 Shivani Savdharia: Oh, I was just... Just, right now, Nova's in day care. She's at a Mandarin day care and I just think about then there's this other cultural influence, she's in a Japanese-Mandarin Montessori.
18:51 Jeffrey Shiau: Wait, she's learning Japanese and Mandarin?
18:53 Shivani Savdharia: And Mandarin. She grew up speaking Gujarati, 'cause that's what my mom... I mean, not speaking but listening to Gujarati 'cause my mom raised her in her early months. We speak English at home. Her nanny spoke to her exclusively in Spanish. And so, just, whenever I get really... Kind of think about culture and religion and language a lot, I just... It's such a different world. She is going to be... She has so many different influences and she will pick and choose.
19:21 Jeffrey Shiau: She's gonna be the UN Ambassador...
19:27 Shivani Savdharia: The kids just roll with it. They're so resilient, they roll with it. She learns, she picks up, she adapts, and it'll be okay. But I definitely hear what you're saying about your sister having a second and being more relaxed. I definitely hear that story a lot. It's probably not the best reason to wanna have a second child, but sometimes I think, "Oh, it'd be really nice to have a chance to redo." Not redo...
19:50 Shivani Savdharia: I mean a lot of different, first child, I'm like...
19:51 Jeffrey Shiau: "We fucked up with you." [chuckle]
19:54 Shivani Savdharia: I'm like, "Things would be very different."
19:55 Jeffrey Shiau: Right, right.
19:57 Jeffrey Shiau: So, I've had this conversation with a lot of my friends. A lot of my friends ask me like, "Do you want kids, Jeff? You barely even try to go on dates right now." [chuckle] Last time I went on a date was maybe five years ago.
20:16 Shivani Savdharia: Oh, wow.
20:16 Jeffrey Shiau: Yeah, I think a lot of people don't know that, but yeah. Just because I've taken care of health issues and whatnot, I just really needed to make sure if I wanna be able to give myself to someone, I need to make sure I can take care of my own shit.
20:30 Shivani Savdharia: Very smart. [chuckle]
20:31 Jeffrey Shiau: Yeah. But one of the things is just me watching everything that's happening in the world, both socially and environmentally, the sheer amount of worry that I have for my nephew and niece, is... It frightens me.
20:52 Shivani Savdharia: Totally.
20:53 Jeffrey Shiau: And I'm just thinking like, "Man, it's so amazing how there's that much of an instinct and love to care for someone that you can break through that fear with someone that you love and bring a new life into this life when you're fully aware of these things." It's like, "Wow!" That actually just... I was thinking before, that's just crazy, but now, it actually blows my mind how strong love can be between two people and then of what they also wanna bring up. Does that... What goes through your mind when you see news and when you hear about the issues that are happening?
21:39 Shivani Savdharia: It was definitely something I thought a lot about before Nova was born. Just feeling like our world was overpopulated, do I really need to bring another life into it, climate change, we're all going down anyway. But at some point, the pull was too strong and...
22:00 Jeffrey Shiau: What does it feel like?
22:02 Shivani Savdharia: I think I just... We just... Eliah and I just built this home and we built our community and we just... Something felt like it was missing and we just wanted to... We wanted more, we wanted to share it. We wanted to share our intimate space with somebody and having Nova in the house, the house feels... It's funny, it's so funny. I have not... I don't think I laughed as much... How was I different before I had a child? I didn't laugh as much as I laugh now, she cracks me up.
22:38 Shivani Savdharia: So, that seems worth it. Even if the world is crazy, children just bring a lot of joy and laughter. There's just something inspiring about just the state of being a child. You see kids in crazy situations and they still find joy playing with a stick and a tire down the road with their friends. They find humor and joy...
23:09 Jeffrey Shiau: Cardboard box.
23:10 Shivani Savdharia: I mean, look at this. Yes, this is her favorite toy, is this box that she just keeps painting and now there's doors and windows and stickers.
23:19 Shivani Savdharia: So, it's a reminder of the little things and what we're capable of emotionally, I think.
23:26 Jeffrey Shiau: It also appeals and reminds you of the tiny babushka doll within you, right?
23:31 Shivani Savdharia: Yeah.
23:32 Shivani Savdharia: Yeah. I mean, really, I remember the first time she made me laugh so hard. It was like so foreign because I hadn't cracked up like that in so long, and yet so familiar. I think that was the child in me came out and it came alive and it came back. And it was just a reminder that as a woman, when you birth a child, that I'm not just birthing her but I'm giving birth to me as a mother and bringing myself back into the world in a different way. And that's really powerful. It's just really, really powerful. A birthday doesn't go by now where I don't call my mom and say thank you because I realize now that a birthday is shared between two people and it's not a day that belongs just to you because you were born that day. Somebody was there that made it happen.
24:28 Jeffrey Shiau: That's so funny. Should we get the door? Or do you wanna know who it is?
24:33 Shivani Savdharia: Let's see if they keep knocking.
24:35 Jeffrey Shiau: Yeah.
24:36 Jeffrey Shiau: That's really funny. There's someone knocking at the door right now. We were joking actually right before we started recording that, what if someone knocks or rings the doorbell? I was like, "Oh, it probably won't happen."
24:44 Shivani Savdharia: At least it's not the doorbell. The doorbell's really loud.
24:46 Jeffrey Shiau: Yeah, that's really funny. [chuckle] Oh, yeah, I remember East Bay doorbells are just like, "Krriiinnnggg!"
24:51 Shivani Savdharia: Yeah, totally.
24:52 Shivani Savdharia: We definitely have an old-school doorbell.
24:54 Jeffrey Shiau: Yeah.
24:55 Shivani Savdharia: Yeah, so I didn't know this was gonna be so much about motherhood or being a new parent, but it's...
25:02 Jeffrey Shiau: It goes in every direction. I was actually gonna ask you 'cause you just mentioned how before Nova, you've never laughed this hard. So, before she was born, how would you... Let's go back to high school, college, early career Shivani, what made you feel like you were more serious? Why were you more serious?
25:30 Shivani Savdharia: I don't know. I think because there were so many external goals. Just getting through college was so demanding and a struggle. I mean, I had so much fun. I had a good time and I went out and whatever. But that kind of laughter and that kind of cracking up with your friends is really different than the laughter I have with Nova now. It's like deep in my gut laughter is new, and I don't know why I didn't. Maybe it's something that is harder for me to experience with adults. When we work together at the hub, people made me laugh and like, Idea was a hilarious place, I laughed a lot there, but now I work in schools, and I work with middle school girls and they also crack me up the way Nova does. And I don't know if it's just something that I experience with kids or if it's that she has activated that in me and now I'm able to. [chuckle] I don't know what it is. I think it's because it's so off the cuff and random and genuine when kids say things. But there is no agenda, they're not trying to impress anyone usually. They don't even know they're being funny sometimes, and that's what makes it so funny. [chuckle]
26:52 Jeffrey Shiau: Right, right. I'll ask you just maybe think 'cause when you're with your peers, communication is almost two-way when you're receiving communication but you're also, I think, as peers... Actually now I think a lot of people are made very self-aware about how they're receiving someone as well, like, "Oh, oh, I hope she doesn't think that I'm not listening," or, "she thinks I'm listening," but with someone younger, they don't give any... [chuckle]
27:21 Shivani Savdharia: Yeah, it's true. When I laugh with friends, it's different. It's definitely like banter laughter or we have witnessed something hilarious together. The other day, a friend of mine saw this old man walking past the park and he was holding a balloon and he had an ice cream cone in one hand and we just cracked...
27:38 Shivani Savdharia: It's just like the best image ever, but it wasn't... We laughed because we had this shared experience... We both just could read each other's mind about why this was so, so completely endearing and hilarious. But when I laugh with Nova, she's not laughing with me necessarily. It's just I'm bearing witness to her. It's different. I don't know. I don't know how to explain it. It's just different, and it's amazing.
28:02 Jeffrey Shiau: Yeah, it makes sense. There's that quote by Jake... I can never say his last name, the ukulele player, how he's like, "Why do people like the sound of ukuleles so much?" And he says, "Because ukulele sounds literally like a child laughing or talking." Right?
28:21 Shivani Savdharia: Really.
28:22 Jeffrey Shiau: And he's like, "There's a reason why when you're playing the ukulele, it brings a joy to people." I also experienced... I'm not a father myself but even just with my nephew, when I hear him laughing, I can't help but laugh, too, and smile because... It's weird. Someone was talking to me about the different senses and how with your eyes, your nose, your taste, your ear, out of everything, the first thing that gets hit is you hear something. That's why when you hear a car crash or you hear your child crying, you don't see, smell, or taste that or the touch before... The first thing you experience is hearing, right?
29:07 Shivani Savdharia: Well, I'm glad you shared that, I did not know that.
29:11 Jeffrey Shiau: Yeah.
29:12 Shivani Savdharia: I do find the laughter of children to be very therapeutic, just even in the halls of school, hearing the girls laugh, it's uplifting and I think because I went through a little spell of postpartum after Nova was born, I really had to pay attention to what around me lifted me up. And so, certain smells and colors and certain food was comforting, certain sounds. And now that I'm thinking about it, it's probably why I surround myself with the laughter of children because it is, it's something that keeps me happy and lifted for sure. We should thank them all. [chuckle]
29:56 Jeffrey Shiau: Yeah. Well, I actually just wanna thank you for also being open about postpartum 'cause I think, especially with a lot of young mothers or people who are thinking about becoming mothers, there's a stigma, I think, to, "Oh, how can someone have that with a child?" And now I'm actually seeing with a lot of my friends who are also becoming new parents, it's a very common thing; it's not something... And you realize it's like, "No, there's nothing wrong with anything. It's a completely human emotion and feeling." I think there's a stigma just on feeling sad, or feeling down, or just not feeling joyful all the time. I was like, "You want to feel sad, because if you don't feel sad, you can't feel joy."
30:57 Shivani Savdharia: And it's not sustainable to just be happy all the time, also.
31:00 Jeffrey Shiau: Right.
31:02 Shivani Savdharia: Yeah, and postpartum's a spectrum. I don't know if I even really thought about it being a stigma or not. I think the bigger thing is I didn't even know that I was going through postpartum until maybe eight months after when I started getting back into therapy and had someone be my mirror and reflect back to me that what I was feeling was normal, and common, and that it was connected to this big experience that I just had. And so I think part of it sometimes when you're going through postpartum is it's hard to take responsibility for your own emotions because you aren't even necessarily aware of what you're going through or how you're changing or how you're getting disassociated from yourself. So I really... My wish is for more postpartum education for people who surround new moms. Partners, and close friends, and mothers to watch out for signs so that people around you in your community can be that mirror for you. It doesn't have to be a therapist once you've gotten to that stage of getting into therapy.
32:19 Jeffrey Shiau: And that it's okay.
32:20 Shivani Savdharia: And that it's okay to normalize it and to remind you that it's gonna pass and there are things that you can do. [chuckle] And to remind you of what is biologically, physiologically happening inside of you and that your body needs time to recalibrate because it's just gone through this crazy big transition, you know?
32:39 Jeffrey Shiau: Right, right.
32:40 Shivani Savdharia: Yeah.
32:42 Jeffrey Shiau: So, when you're thinking... I want to do a little exercise here.
32:47 Shivani Savdharia: Okay.
32:48 Jeffrey Shiau: So Nova, as you said, she's two now or she's about to turn three? Or...
32:51 Shivani Savdharia: She'll be three at the end of the year. She's two and a half.
32:53 Jeffrey Shiau: Two and half, oh, the cutest age. [chuckle] So, obviously, Nova won't understand or hear this ever until she's at least 13 'cause I think that's the age minimum for this podcast rating. [laughter] So, if we were to fast forward to Nova of 13, so, 11 years from now, if you were to say something to Nova of 13 'cause this is gonna be the first time she hears this, what would you say to her?
33:20 Shivani Savdharia: Future Nova, what would I say to her?
33:22 Jeffrey Shiau: Yeah. By the way, that's gonna be like a song, Future Nova or a band name for anyone out there.
33:28 Shivani Savdharia: What would I say to her? I would thank her for making me a mom. Thank her for making me a mom, and tell her and remind her and promise her that for as long as I can, I will be there to take care of her, and to protect her, and to support her, and to hold her up, and to be her biggest fan and her biggest ally and to be not judgmental. That's what I got from my mom. My mom is so... For all the things that drive me crazy about her, I think the thing that I just... I wish I had more of this, but my mom is so non-judgmental, I've never heard her say anything bad about anybody. And because of that, we're able to share things that I think especially as a first-generation Indian would be hard to share in a traditional Indian cultural home. But my parents were so non-judgmental that they created space for us to be completely open, we never had to have secrets or hide anything. I never had to, even the stuff that I maybe for a second was ashamed of or scared of, ultimately, I always was able to share with them.
34:54 Shivani Savdharia: And so I want her to know that she always can come and talk to me. And I just cannot wait to see who she becomes. It's like, it's already in there and just being able to watch her grow is gonna be so exciting. I have no idea. When she draws, I'm like, "Oh, my god, are you gonna be this amazing artist?" Or when she is twirling in her little bouncer, I picture her a ballerina, anything. And the world that we live in, she might do so many different things, but it's so fun to just envision what she could and might be. I feel so lucky. I guess I just hope that I live for as long as I possibly can to watch it all.
35:42 Jeffrey Shiau: Oh, we'll all be bionic within 20 years, so... [laughter] That's really fantastic. When you thanked her in the very beginning, like, thank you for helping you become who you are, what would you say is the most clear thing? What is that? Who have you become?
36:08 Shivani Savdharia: I guess just helping me not be so Shivani-centered. It's forced me to not be so selfish. And so I don't have time or energy of bandwidth to always think about what I want, and I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. It's really nice to be able to focus on someone else because I'm... Giving me the everyday practice of holding someone else in mind all the time. I think I first experienced that with Eliah, like if I see something that reminds me of him, to do something sweet for him or to call him when something reminds me of him, but it's such a different level with Nova. She is always being held in mind, and I think about her all the time and I thank her for getting me outside of myself.
37:01 Jeffrey Shiau: Mm-hmm. So, we actually end every conversation also with the exact same question. I wanted to thank you so much for, again, having this conversation with me and being open. Actually, right before this conversation, Shivani actually asked me if she could bring some personal items from... I think you brought the photo, right?
37:33 Shivani Savdharia: Mm-hmm, which is why the conversation went where it did.
37:35 Jeffrey Shiau: Yeah. No, it's a photo of her and her daughter, just to... Yeah, I don't know. You said it was just to help you think of personal things, but also I think it's calming as well, right?
37:46 Shivani Savdharia: Yeah.
37:47 Jeffrey Shiau: It helps you relax.
37:49 Shivani Savdharia: It just gives me confidence to just speak up 'cause I have to be a better version of myself if, as a mom, I'm gonna tell her to take positive risks and to put herself out there and to not be afraid, I've gotta walk that talk, right? I've gotta practice. It's scary for me to talk publicly. I've avoided careers to not have to talk publicly. I'm a teacher now and I partially do it because it's a really good practice for me to put myself in front of people and to practice having my voice be heard. And so I brought the picture as a reminder to have the courage that I hope to encourage in her.
38:33 Jeffrey Shiau: That's awesome. That's awesome. So, yeah, we're going to end, again, with the exact same question that I end with every single conversation, and that is, ultimately, what's the point of all this?
38:58 Shivani Savdharia: This life thing? [chuckle] I wish I knew. [chuckle] What is the point? I don't know. That's a question I would ask a lot when I was little like, "Why? Why does this even matter? Why does any of this matter?" What is the point? I think the point is that we... Connection, right? Nothing else really matters except in those moments when you feel a connection with anything, living or not, or whatever. Every minute you feel an authentic connection, that was the whole point. That's the point. And some of us will be lucky to have many and maybe only have a few, but however many, it's not really... I mean, just lucky. We're just lucky every time we feel a connection, a connection to anything. A connection to an idea, a connection to ourselves, a connection to another person, but those are the moments. I mean, someone...
40:35 Shivani Savdharia: The strongest I ever felt that in my life was when I first met Eliah, who's now my husband. I remember just so strongly feeling like it was someone I already knew and I kept looking at him. I thought we had met before, or he felt familiar, or it felt like I must have known him in the past, or we shared the same teacher in school together. That was the first image that went through my mind because that's what I was familiar with, is schools. But just, that was an example of a connection that I couldn't explain. It just felt like I didn't have choice or control over, but I bear witness to it. And so, every time I have that feeling with another person or with an environment, that's the point, and I feel so thankful when that happens. [chuckle]