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“‘Wedlock’ is So Shakespearean. It Has Nothing to Do With This Century”: Kalki Koechlin

Actor Kalki Mani candid with Cosmo Editor Nandini Bhalla, about motherhood and her choice to stay unmarried for now

A typical day in the life—correction, a typical day in the brand new life—of Kalki Koechlin goes something like this: “I wake up at 7am to the sound of Sappho screaming for milk. Then, there’s this elaborate morning routine where I take my dog for a walk, take Sappho out, make breakfast... And then I get this beautiful spot of peace from 9am until 12pm, where I can do my own stuff and Guy takes over with Sappho,” Kalki laughs, before adding to the list: “...and then I spend the afternoon with my baby, just playing and stuff. And in the evening, we try to get some work done, and the day ends at about 11pm. So, 7am to 11pm we are on it, like there’s just so much to do. It's pretty amazing, actually...”

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Sappho—Kalki’s daughter with boyfriend Guy Hershberg—will be seven-months-old in a few days. I learn from the actor's Instagram account that the baby girl is named after the famous Greek poet, Sappho of Lesbos...and that Kalki sings her to sleep every night, with lullabies in different languages (Portuguese, Tamil, Bengali, French...). The candid videos make for one of those heart-warming, aww-inducing Internet moments. 
“Around the time I found out I was pregnant, I was also in discussions with [director and actor] Rehaan Engineer about a play we were to do together. I called him to say, ‘The play is in December, and I’ll be nine-months pregnant by then! I don’t know if  I can do it!’. He said he was perfectly fine with me being pregnant on stage, as long as I was okay with it. And so we went along with the production, and one of the things he wanted me to do for my act was to play the ukulele. So, I bought myself a ukulele, and then I thought it would be nice to learn some lullabies because I was going to have baby! And as I began learning, more and more people started sending me lullabies from different parts of the world, in different languages. Sappho absolutely loves it when I sing to her; it really calms her down, and I think it calms me down, too. It gives us a sense of quiet, just the two of us...I’m sure she’ll be singing along very soon,” she smiles. 

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Kalki tells me that she “didn’t always want children”. She began giving it some serious thought about five years ago, “but I certainly did not imagine what an ultimate change in Universe it would become,” she laughs. “Your whole world shifts, your priorities shift. Everything becomes about what would be best for the child. Right now, it’s about her nutrition and getting her to grow up. But I’m sure other questions will come up. Like, 'Which school will she go to? Are we in the right city? Are we in the right country? What kind of people does she hang out with?' All this is a whole new world for me. I don’t know, I’m taking it step-by-step...”
When she first discovered she was pregnant, Kalki was “shocked”. “I got another test done to be sure,” she reveals. “Guy’s reaction was really heartwarming. He began celebrating immediately, hugging me, and that really made me feel good because, you know, you want your partner to want the child. I was happy, too, but it was a slow realisation... Like, ‘Wow, this is happening now!’ And I remember thinking, ‘I need to speak to my managers! I need to rework my career plans! The next couple of months...the next couple of years!’ I also remember writing in my journal, about how I just wanted to slow down... I wrote down all the things I love doing, and the things I would rather skip. Earlier, I might not have done the latter, but now, I can skip them.”

Styling: Pranay Jaitly and Shounak Amonker (of Who Wore What When); Photographs: Kay Sukumar