Web developer turned entrepreneur, Shreya Okhde, talks family life, a thriving business and being mum to two wonderful kids

BY CHARLENE FLANAGAN
PHOTOGRAPHS BY PREKSHA CHHAJER
MAKE-UP BY VANTAKULA NAIDU
HAIR BY MR PAVAN

AMERICAN actress Loretta Young had once famously said, “Love isn’t something you find. Love is something that finds you.” And for Shreya Okhde and her husband, Shashank, no truer words have been spoken.

WEDDING BELLS
Like with every traditional Indian household, Shreya’s parents wanted their baby girl to settle down the old fashion way—through an arranged marriage set up. As fate would have it, Shashank’s family were of the same mindset, and both families took to matrimonial sites to look for prospective partners for their children. “That’s how Shashank and I met,” says Shreya. “He came to my home in Goa to meet me, for the first time in November 2009. In our initial meeting, we were both equally impressed with the each other and instinctively knew that we’d be supportive of each other in all our life’s pursuits,” she adds.

Their second meeting a month later saw both families, along with immediate relatives, gather to bestow their blessing on the relationship. “Ours was a brief courtship. We were engaged in January 2010 and by May that same year, we began our married life. We had a very traditional ceremony in Goa and a week after that, we moved to Hyderabad where we’ve lived ever since,” she says.

THE FAMILY WAY
Despite their brief courtship, the happy couple couldn’t be a better match for each other, and realised that they were perfectly paired when they discussed their family and expectations from their union. “We both talked about our families and how they’ve infl uenced our lives some way or the other. This was when we knew that we were in complete sync when it came to having kids. We both wanted two cute chubby babies,” she says emphatically.

While their ideas and beliefs certainly did line up perfectly, they didn’t want to begin their family immediately, and decided to wait two years before trying for a baby. “The timing was perfect because after our wedding, I quit my IT job and moved to Hyderabad. In fact, a month after the move, Shashank was sent to the US for a project, and I went along with him. Life couldn’t have been better. The trip was like an extended honeymoon. We were away from family and friends. It was just us two. From setting up an apartment, to exploring a new country, we did everything ourselves and that was the best time for us to get to know each other. We explored new places, new cuisines, did adventures together and bonded extremely well during our four monthlong stay.”

On their return, Shreya didn’t want to sit at home, and so she decided to look for a job in Hyderabad. That’s when she took up the post of an IT teacher and and international co-ordinator at Hyderabad’s prestigious Oakridge International School. Life continued for the couple and before long, they were celebrating their second anniversary.

THE BABY MOON
“After we celebrated our second year of marriage, Shashank and I felt like we were ready to introduce a new member to our family, and we began trying for a baby. But a few months into trying, he was sent back to the US for a project that would most likely last longer than two months,” recalls Shreya. Since she was on vacation, she decided to make a trip to Delhi for some quality time with her in-laws. However, while in Delhi, Shreya suspected that she might be pregnant, and confi ded in her mum-in-law and suggested they visit a gynaecologist. “My mum-in-law was esctatic and told me to keep this to myself till after the checkup. The next day, she took me to a wellknown ob-gyn, Dr Anuradha Kapur, who also happened to be her friend, where the doctor confi rmed that I was indeed pregnant,” says Shreya.

Shreya and her mum-in-law returned home with a big box of sweets and couldn’t wait to break the news to the entire family. “While everyone was overjoyed with the announcement, the person’s whose reaction has been etched in my memory is that of Shashank’s grandfather, who was then, 90 years old! He told me I had given him another reason to stay fit and healthy ” While the family shared in the happy news, Shreya couldn’t help but miss her husband who was miles away when she learned about her pregnancy. “While I had the love and support of our entire family, I missed my husband terribly. I did Skype with him that night to break the good news to him but I longed for him to be by my side,” she recalls. A week after learning about her pregnancy, Shreya returned to Hyderabad and resumed school. While school kept her busy during the day, Shreya couldn’t fight the loneliness at home. Her parents noticed she was lonesome and that’s when her mother decided to come spend time with her. “I guess they were worried I’d fall sick. Since I was alone, I had to do everything myself, and the first trimester can be crucial so my mum came to be with me. It was definitely wonderful to have her care for me. I was pampered and it was wonderful. She made sure I incorporated a healthy and a balaned diet, and ate all my meals on time,” she says.

During her first trimester, she did experience an aversion to certain vegetables but her mother found interesting ways to make sure she got all the nourishment she needed. Finally, Shashank returned home by the end of November, and mum made her way back home. “I knew I would miss my mother, especially during this time, but I was very glad to have Shashank by my side,” she says. “He was a great help during my pregnancy. He’d wake up early to ensure I ate a healthy breakfast that included loads of fruit, and made sure I took my prenatals regularly. He’d even drive me to work each morning,” she says, smiling.

And while she experienced a normal, healthy pregnancy, she did have the occasional mood swing and food aversions. “I became a completely different person for a little while. I’d just want to lie down and do nothing. I even hated it when Shashank worked. I expected him to sit by my side and do nothing as well. Fortunately, by the end of my second trimester, I felt like my old self again.”

Shreya worked till the sixth month of her pregnancy, something that she enjoyed because it kept her active. “My job required me to stand for long hours delivering lectures, climb three floors multiple times a day, travel in the schoo
bus and just generally be up and about. It compensated for the delicious food I’d keep eating because my friends and colleagues would prepare them specially for me,” she says.

HELLO WORLD
In the eight month of her pregnancy, Shreya made her way home to Goa, for the perfect last few days before her bundle of joy arrived. Since she wasn’t working, her mother ensured she kept active. “My mom kept asking me to do simple household jobs all day and she would even accompany me during my evening walk. I managed to spend some great quality time with my parents.” It was while in Goa that Sheray’s friends and family surprised her with a baby shower. “My mum-in-law flew in from Delhi and Shashank’s mausi flew in from Mumbai, and we had a very traditional godh bharai. It was wonderful!” Her due date was still a little time away, but on a routine check-up before the birth, Shreya was in for a surprise. “The due date given to me was June 21, 2013 but when I went in for a routine examination on the 10th, I was told that my water had broken and my cervix was dialated. I was instructed to go home, have something to eat to keep my strength up and to return later that evening.” Fortunately for Shreya, Shashank had come to visit, and the soon-to-be-parents and grandparents packed a bag and headed for the hospital. The family had dinner at the hospital and patiently waited for their baby to arrive.

Shreya first began feeling mild contractions at 12.30 a.m. But they only began full swing post 5 a.m the morningof the 11th. “I was slowly starting to panic as only the on-call doctor was available, and I refused to go through with the delivery without my doctor present. I was asked to lie down and the contractions were progressively getting worse. Three hours in, I couldn’t take it anymore. While I wanted the pain to end, at the same time I was terrifi ed of delivery and begged my mother to take me home. Thinking back at that moment, it makes me laugh,” says Shreya.

Finally, at 8.48 a.m. Shreya gave birth to a healthy baby boy, 10 days before her due date. “I felt like a grown-up when the doctor placed him in my arms. I didn’t realise it but I had been sobbing. It was certainly an extremely emotional moment for me. I had become a mother.”

Two days after her delivery, Shreya was discharged and she could take her son home. It was only when she got back to her parents’ home that she realised just how much life had changed. “I couldn’t sit back lavishly on the sofa and browse the channels while munching on hot pakodas and sipping hot cuppa tea like what I always did since childhood when it rained. I was responsible for another life. So quickly changed, freshened up and headed to feed the baby, followed by changing the diaper, followed by putting him to sleep, followed by asking everyone to be quiet, followed by guarding his sleep, followed by quickly having my meal, followed by feeding him again. It was an unending routine,” she recalls. Fortunately, the two months after delivery helped her learn how to properly care for her son Shaunak, and that’s something she’ll always be grateful for.

However, the real struggle began after her return to Hyderabad. While every new mother experiences a few hurdles along the way, Shreya definitely missed her mother as she found it exceedingly difficult to manage while Shashank was away at work. “I barely found the time to eat and keep my strength up because there wasn’t really a schedule he’d follow. I even remember crying to  Shashank on the phone asking him to come home from work, just so I could have something to eat!” Shreya continues, “As time passed,   got the hang of things but one problem seems to keep growing, and that was my body weight. I was hungry all the time, and was even advised by my doctor to begin some simple home exercises. I just couldn’t find the time!”

Fortunately, after Shaunak turned eight months old and began sleeping for six to seven hours at a stretch, that Shreya did manage to find some time for herself, and shed off 14 kilos of her pregnancy weight. Soon, everything was back to normal and the family of three found their stride.

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