Former Coronation Street actor Shobna Gulati has revealed that having her son out of wedlock was seen as a total “no-no” by her local community.
Speaking on White Wine Question Time, the 54-year-old revealed that, after moving in with her mother Asha to raise her son Akshay, the pair received some backlash from those closest to them.
“Not only had I had a failed marriage, I had a baby out of wedlock whilst I was still separated, and by a person that nobody knew about,” she revealed to host Kate Thornton.
“Then that person was also of a completely different heritage — an African Caribbean background — which given the racism that exists across the board, and especially within Punjabi South Asian culture, that was just an absolute no-no.”
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In her recent book, Remember Me? Discovering My Mother As She Lost Her Memory, Gulati wrote about how her siblings were also against her.
“The world caved in. Unplanned, expecting and alone. My siblings were disappointed about the pregnancy and felt I should be disowned.”
Despite the pressures the pair faced, her mother stood by her – something to this day Gulati is impressed with.
“My mum overcame all of that because she wanted to understand, she wanted to be with me in that journey,” she said. “ I don't know how she did it, actually.”
Gulati ended up staying with her mother until her death in 2019 and she said she was the “ultimate baby whisperer.”
“I mean, flipping heck, without my mum I don't think I would have coped,” she laughed.
“You know, you have a baby, you don't really know what to do! There's no manual, it's not natural. I didn't even know how to bathe him.”
Despite overcoming backlash from family and friends, their culture did mean that Gulati’s son has always been treated slightly differently.
“Because he was a boy, she was even more caring,” she told Thornton.
“When my nieces arrived, she was still loving, but she was kind of harder on them! I think he was allowed much more freedom than we were as children. And perhaps even more than my brother was afforded.”
Gulati was the third daughter born to her mother and father, Kulbhushn. She was followed by her brother Rajesh, who become somewhat of the chosen one due to his gender.
Despite most people in her local community recognising men as having more value, her father, who sadly died when Gulati was just 19, did raise all three girls to have their own opinions.
“He was permissive,” she revealed. “He allowed us our opinions. I mean, our house was a big political noise. Dinner time — everybody had an opinion. My mom voted Tory. My dad was Labour. My sister was Liberal. You know, it was a crazy household!”
Gulati’s son, who is now 26, has followed the TV star into acting, although she says his career has been somewhat halted by the pandemic.
“He's done a few plays and he really enjoys live theatre,” she said.
“Now it's just a question of whether he can land something on film or TV, which has become increasingly harder because everybody wants something now on that, because theatres are shut.”