KANAKAVALLI VIGNETTES : The Mothers' Day Special - In Her Footsteps

This Mother’s Day, we bring you a special edition of Kanakavalli’s Vignettes, featuring a mother-daughter duo from Raipur. Dr Sanjana Khemka Agrawal and her mother Dr. Megha Khemka are both OBGYNs who care deeply about issues of women’s health. They draw inspiration and learn lessons from one another, both as doctors and as women. In this conversation with Aneesha Bangera for the Kanakavalli Blog, they talk about what drew them to the field of obstetrics and gynaecology, and about the unparalleled joy of bringing new life into this world. Dr. Sanjana and Dr. Khemka open up about the way their relationship has evolved over the years—they have gone from being mother and daughter to becoming soul sisters, travel and shopping partners, best friends. They reflect on what beauty and tradition mean to them, as they describe discovering the kanjivaram for the very first time. Browsing through the Kanakavalli repertoire, Dr. Sanjana and Dr. Megha curate a selection of saris that epitomise their love for the weave. Excerpts of the conversation below…

In Her Footsteps

What inspired you to become an OBGYN?

Dr. Sanjana: My mother is my biggest source of inspiration. I grew up seeing her working 24/7, delivering babies and being there for the women who were her patients. Every woman will consult a gynaecologist at some point in her life, and many women still hesitate to talk about their problems with their families. As their doctors, it is important that we allow them the comfort to open up to us and to really listen to their stories. I believe that every time I deliver a child, I have saved two lives—that of the mother and the baby. The joy of handing new-born children to their parents is truly unmatched.

Dr Megha: I think that caring for women was my calling in life. Even as a young medical student, I loved to study and talk about women’s physical and psychological health. I feel a deep connection with the women I treat, and I believe that health includes emotional, mental and spiritual wellness. Thus, my approach as a doctor became very holistic. I enjoy being a sounding board for my patients, and the conversations I have are my favourite aspect of the job. There is also no greater moment than handing a baby to a new parent. The greatest miracle of all is bringing life into the world, and it never gets old. I still tear up during deliveries, having been on the journey with the parents. I feel very lucky to do what I do, and I always wanted my daughters to carry forward my legacy.

Above (Clockwise from top left): An old photograph of Dr. Megha with her three children; Dr. Sanjana as a child, wearing a dress made from one of her mother's saris; Dr. Sanjana and Dr. Megha with their family.

What does being a woman mean to you?

Dr. Sanjana: Being a woman is life’s biggest blessing. I believe in creating change by uplifting other women.

Dr Megha: I think that being born as a woman brings both joy and responsibility.

How has your relationship with your mother/ daughter evolved over the years?

Dr. Sanjana: I am so grateful for my mother, and I know that I am lucky to have her. My mother is truly a woman of substance. She is sweet, kind and gentle, and I love her deeply. My relationship with her evolves each day that I am in her shadow and I want to follow in her footsteps.

Dr Megha: Sanjana and I have been on a beautiful journey together since her birth. Our relationship changed through her childhood, as she grew into a young adult. Now, we are soul sisters, and our relationship continues to evolve.

Above (left to right): Mother and daughter all dressed up for a family occasion; Dr. Sanjana and Dr. Megha celebrating Teej, a festival where mothers give their daughters special gifts

What are your most cherished memories of your mother/ daughter?

Dr. Sanjana: I enjoy being in my mother’s company. I love the joy with which she sings and dances, and I cherish every moment I spend with her. One of the most unforgettable moments, though, was when I completed my post-graduation in Obstetrics & Gynaecology. At the convocation ceremony, I had to put my cap on my mother’s head—it is only because of her that I have reached such great heights.

Dr Megha: I love travelling with my daughter. When we visit new countries, we take maps and wander everywhere. We use public transport and have wonderful adventures, and love traveling and shopping together!

 

Above (left to right): Dr. Sanjana at her post-graduation convocation ceremony; Dr. Sanjana receiving an award from the Health Minister for providing the best care in the region.

What are the traditions and lessons you have imbibed and hope to pass on?

Dr. Sanjana: My mother has taught me to be true to myself and to others. She showed me that happiness is found in the little things and not in materialistic objects. Thanks to her lessons, my mantra in life is that all that glitters is not gold.

Dr Megha: I think I have taught my daughter self-discipline. To be honest with herself and in her relationships, is something I hope she has imbibed from me. It makes me very happy to see Sanjana carry on our family’s traditions during Diwali and other festivals; this shows me how much she cares.

Above (clockwise from top left): Dr. Sanjana and Dr. Megha at the La Tomatina festival in Spain; At her Master's graduation ceremony, Dr. Sanjana put her cap on her mother's head as a symbol of her gratitude; Dr. Megha celebrating her son's wedding with her two daughters.

How do you define beauty and tradition?

Dr. Sanjana: I believe that beauty comes from within. You are beauty, and beauty is you. Tradition is something that connects you to your roots without putting you in the shackles of superstition.

Dr Megha: I think that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. For me, tradition refers to the moral values that we carry forward from one generation to the next. Tradition gives us certainty and keeps us on the right path.  

Above (left to right): Dr. Megha with her husband; On a trip to Tadoba in Maharashtra.

What does the sari - and the kanjivaram in particular - mean to you?

Dr. Sanjana: The sari is six yards of pure grace. When in doubt, I always wear a sari.

Dr Megha: The sari is beautiful because every single one has a story.

Tell us the story behind the Kanakavalli sari you chose for the Vignette shoot.

Dr. Sanjana: My mother had always wanted to own a kanjivaram sari and when she heard about the Kanakavalli exhibition coming to Raipur, she and I went to look at the collection. I picked this beautiful kanjivaram and I wore it for a daytime function at my brother’s wedding. It’s the first kanjivaram sari I’ve ever worn and I love it.

Dr Megha: I have always admired the kanjivaram sari and wanted to buy one, which is why I was so excited when the Kanakavalli exhibition came to town. I was struck by the beauty and quality of the saris—the fine silk, the colours and motifs, the rich zari. My daughter and I bought our first kanjivarams from Kanakavalli to wear for my son’s wedding.

Dr. Sanjana is wearing a Kanakavalli kanjivaram in pink shot with beige and adorned with a beige chevron pattern. The pink borders have twill, diamond, chevron and paisley patterns woven in gold zari and orange. Dr. Megha is wearing a red kanjivaram handwoven with stylised leaf and geometric stripes in gold zari. Twill and chevron patterns in gold zari adorn the borders.

- Dr. Megha Khemka and her daughter, Dr Sanjana Khemka Agrawal in conversation with Aneesha Bangera, photography by Raghuram Vedant

View their curation here

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