Danke dir, Neetu!
Upneet Neetu Bains mit Umrao Cairo Cobra Bains (5 Monate), September 2017
Fotos: Julia Nitzschke
Interview: Marie Zeisler
In Kooperation mit BabyBjörn! Die neue Be-You-Kollektion hat es nicht nur Neetu angetan, sondern auch uns. Wir freuen uns nämlich über die besondere Botschaft der Kollektion: Du bist als Mama oder Papa genau richtig! Sei dir selbst treu und lass’ dich nicht verunsichern! Denn genau das ist auch, was wir auf Little Years immer wieder kommunizieren wollen; eine undogmatische Herangehensweise an Elternschaft, sich auf die eigene Intuition verlassen und das alles mit einer großen Prise Humor und Leichtigkeit. Nichts muss perfekt sein – Hauptsache, du bist du selbst. Und genau deshalb hat die Be-You-Kollektion so viele verschiedene Styles und Farben, schaut sie euch am besten selbst an.
The moment I stepped into Neetus charming and cozy apartment in an off area in Neukölln not (yet) the hipster part, I was somehow enchanted: Beautiful soft music was playing, Neetu was cooking a delicious chai tea while her son Umrao was smiling up at me in my arms and her two little dogs were jumping around in the apartment. Neetu is photographer and owner of a bar, and loves being a mum. While life hasn’t always made it easy for her, she is full of joy and appreciation for it. I’m so happy she is sharing some of her experiences and wisdom with us!
Dear Neetu. You are Indian-Canadian and have been living in Berlin for 10 years. What made you move to Berlin in the first place?
Moving to Berlin was very much an off the cuff and more importantly, a temporary decision I made with a couple of friends when I was young and carefree and living in Toronto. I had no idea what I was getting into, and how much that decision would go on to change my life forever. We came for the summer knowing nothing about the city except for the fact that it was a metropolitan city that young and broke creatives like us were flocking to. We arrived bright-eyed, penniless, and full of mischief. Two months later we were shells of our old selves, even more broke, and frustrated at how difficult it was to call this place home. We had paperwork problems, which led to work problems, which led to having to learn German with more money problems, and so on and so forth…my two friends returned to Toronto, but I stayed on because I didn’t have enough money for a flight home. This was a really scary month or two where I knew nobody in the city, had no work and had to sell all my beautiful old vintage dresses at Mauerpark to have enough money to survive on. I stole my groceries for a week or two and was really starting to worry about what would happen next, when I finally got a job, and things began to turn around. Ten years later, I’ve been married, I run my own business, I have a beautiful baby boy, but I still have trouble calling Berlin home.
Seeing you with your happy baby and your strong positive attitude supports what a mutual friend of ours told me about you: “She is a warrior!” He said. What do you think?
I think it just means that I’ve been blessed enough to have met some kind and generous humans along my path in Berlin. This city is bursting at the seams with beautiful and talented people that I’m incredibly proud to call my friends. People that have supported me helped me and encouraged me at every step along the way. My lovely little nomad family.
Umrao is such a beautiful name for your son! Why did you choose that name?
Umrao was the name of my father’s father. I fell in love with it the first time I heard it. It’s an ancient Indian name, and I felt it was very important to pass on some of our rich Indian history and background to my son. There is so much in a name, no matter what Shakespeare would have you believe.
In what way has your family history and upbringing influenced you in how you raise your son? Is there something you learned through those challenges?
The one thing I’ve learned living in Berlin is that there’s no such thing as a ‘normal childhood.’ Mine at least was anything but that. I was born in Canada but spent most of my childhood in India not knowing that my real family even existed. When finally I settled into life in Canada with them, my relationship with my parents was strained and frustrating. I was not the child they would have raised me to be. Over time I finally befriended my siblings, and to this day, my sister is my savior…but I still have trouble making my parents understand and accept me, although, credit where it’s due…they’ve come a VERY long way. What I learned from my childhood, is how impactful every experience and minute of a child’s life is for them in the long run. I make sure with every moment that I spend with my baby, that he knows how much he is loved, and that nothing in my life will ever come before him.
Did becoming a mum change you?
I don’t think it changed me per se, but it allowed me to put on display behaviors that I normally wouldn’t have presented to the public. Trying to make it in a city, where you are a visible minority, a foreigner, AND a woman, you have to present a tougher exterior, so you don’t get taken advantage of or waved aside. It’s nice to be able to put all of that away for a little while and spend my day nurturing, loving and showing affection. Although I occasionally miss the days of yelling at drunk people to behave themselves!
As a single mother – how do you organize your life? Where do you get help?
It’s tough, but as the saying goes, it takes a village, and I have the most beautiful little community surrounding and supporting me. My roommate literally got me through the first few months by feeding me, taking care of my dogs, cleaning…everything. She’s one of the most incredible people I’ve ever met. My friends also help in every way imaginable…from putting up shelves, to helping me build furniture, to driving me places. Umrao and I are so lucky to be surrounded by such an eclectic and thoughtful bunch! As a bonus, he hears at least an average of three different languages a day…I hope that comes in handy for him in the future.
You are wearing the BabyBjörn Baby Carrier One, and at home you have the BabyBjörn Bouncer Bliss, both of the new Be You Collection. How do these products work for you?
The baby carrier is great when I’m out and about and really need to get things done. I have a beautiful old vintage pram that is great for long walks and letting him relax and enjoy the scenery, but when I have to run to the bar to do inventory, and then go straight to DM to pick up diapers, before heading back to receive the order, take the dogs for a walk, and then go do groceries…the baby carrier is the only way to go. It’s super snug and comforting for him, and practical and comfortable for me. The bouncer is also great! I’m literally typing these answers with TWO FREE HANDS (unheard of!), and bouncing him with my foot to keep him occupied. It’s super lightweight and easy to clean, so it’s getting a lot of outdoor action as well. I also love the colors of the new Be You Collection. They’re super easy to work into my home interior without being too intrusive, and the baby carrier also lets me be free with my personal style without having to tone down who I am.
Your apartment is beautifully decorated and such a warm place! Where do you find all these amazing things?
Thank you! I love making a house into a home. I think old things that come with their own stories and histories always add a feeling of warmth to everything. It’s pretty hard to tell the difference between my bar and my apartment actually, I like everywhere to feel like home. My favourite places in the world are junk shops and flea markets. There is no treasure greater than the one buried at the bottom of the pile! I love finding the little gems scattered amongst the clutter or abandoned in the streets. Picking up something that catches your eye, and imagining it in its new life. I’m adamantly against this new disposable society that we’ve become, where nothing is made with love and time anymore. Everything is built to last until a new model comes out. It’s so depressing. I’ll take the musty, old and well loved over the new crap any day!
What is the most challenging about being a mum?
Becoming a first-time mom at the age of 37, I think you have an idea of what you’re in for, and a belief in yourself that you’re capable. The most challenging thing for me about being a mom was actually becoming a mom. I had four miscarriages, including an ectopic pregnancy before I had him. I never really knew how badly I wanted to be a mother before I was told that I probably couldn’t be. Every time we have a long night, or a frustrating day, I just thank whoever/whatever is up there for the opportunity to be going through it. Every day is an experience I’m genuinely forever grateful for.
What’s the most beautiful?
The waking up groggy-eyed and tired next to a wide-eyed and beaming face next you, the small sounds and big smiles, the big sounds and sad pouty lips, the eternal look of wonder at the smallest and most insignificant of things, the toothless belly laughs, the picking of outfits, the pooping of outfits, the tiny daily differences, the shocking big ones that have happened right under your nose. Everything. Everything melts my heart.
Thank you, Neetu!
Upneet Neetu Bains with Umrao Cairo Cobra Bains (5 months), September 2017
Photos: Julia Nitzschke
Interview: Marie Zeisler
In cooperation with BabyBjörn.