Taru Mateti is all of 54 years but we couldn’t have met a more youthful soul! Full of life and zest, this runner/mom/army wife/ IT professional/supermom, Taru almost never fails to make it to the top three whenever she runs. As an exclusive for Mother’s Day mobiefit got in touch with Taru, who opened up about her running journey and the many roles she has donned along the way.

Since your husband was in the army, how did you manage fitness and family as an army wife?

When my husband, Chandan, was in the army, fitness depended on the facilities available at the station he was posted to. So it was a mix of badminton, walking, swimming, table tennis, occasional gymming, and a lot of dance parties! My daughter, Prakriti, and I had to stay away in separated family accommodation and also in Panchgani boarding schools for 3 years. I used to go for regular brisk walks then. Timing-wise, it has never been a problem because I always planned to set aside some time during the day, 3-5 days a week. So if there was some Army Women Welfare Association (AWWA)  commitment in the morning, I would go for a walk in the evening. I did compromise a lot on attending parties though. But the senior officers’ wives were very understanding and let me get away with a lot because I handled a job as well through most of Chandan’s service.

L-R: Son-in-law Chandan, Daughter Prakriti, Husband Chandan, and Taru Mateti

What were some of the troubles you faced initially and how did you overcome these?

The very first time we had to think how to manage was when Prakriti was just a couple of months old and I was participating in the College of Military Engineering (CME) internal badminton championship. Chandan and I would just take her in the pram and take turns playing matches and looking after her. Besides, there were plenty of other officers, wives, and kids around to keep her happy. All she needed was someone to speak with. Other challenges were typical to those of army life.

Sometimes it was mandatory to attend parties or I was involved in AWWA work. Being a single parent, when my husband was away on field postings or in places where otherwise accommodation was scarce, was something that brought in a lot of confidence because I had to manage many things by myself. From a very young age, I educated my daughter about safety and security. I decided to not work from the time my daughter was 11 months until she was three years old and started school. I then took up teaching to be able to spend more time with her and switched to IT only when she was in the 9th class.

How many children do you have?

I have just one daughter; quite a handful, I must say! We decided to have just one and give the best of everything that we could to her. Back then the fauji salaries were not much to talk about now! Neither were the school teacher salaries. But then, who worked mainly for salaries back then!

Taru with a baby Prakriti

When did you first conceive and how did you manage pre- and post-pregnancy health?

We got married when Chandan was 24 and I was two weeks short of my 21st birthday and a month short of my BE exams. Chandan was doing his BTech in CME then, so we decided to have a good time through his degree days, and then plan such that we have a baby before he finishes his course. Things worked well for us. Prakriti was born in April 1988, Chandan finished his course the same year in Nov 1988.

I am one of the fortunate women. I worked through my healthy pregnancy. I used to teach in DY Patil College of Engineering, and in those days I used to go on my moped from Dapodi to Pimpri to conduct lectures and practicals. I was very regular with my walks even then. It used to be quite a sight in CME with many student officer’s pregnant wives going out for walks in the evening or new moms taking their babies out in prams. I often went for my Gynaec visits to the Military Hospital, Kirkee directly after the lectures because Chandan would often be in his own classes. In the last three months, I had strict instructions from the doctor that every fortnight I would have to visit him to seek permission to ride my two-wheeler and continue with the job for another fortnight. This went on until two weeks before Prakriti was born 🙂

Prakriti was born with a weight of just about 2 Kg, and I had a tough task ahead to lose all that extra weight and get back into shape! Post-pregnancy, we continued with business as usual after I joined college back in 40 days. I was not much into massages (as is mandatory in several Indian societies), but under peer pressure, I went in for massages for an entire month. Prakriti took them longer. I ate well too, and slept a lot for those 40 days. We continued with our walks and some badminton until Chandan finished his course and moved alone to Bikaner.

A young family: Taru with husband Chandan and daughter Prakriti

For about 8 months, I didn’t do much in terms of workouts. Then I quit my job and decided that we had to stay together as a family. That’s when I joined Chandan in the regiment. Bikaner wasn’t a place with fancy gyms and such, and hardly any women ventured to the army institute gyms. It was impossible to get out during the day. I worked out at home for an hour plus daily and we also played some badminton. I mostly did some cardio and exercises that I read in magazines or saw in some of those trendy VHS tapes then…I don’t even remember now what they are called! Now when I think of it, I can’t help smiling at what I called a workout then. But it worked, and I did regain fitness and lost some of the excess weight.

Wow! That sounds incredible! But you guys did it! On that note, do you have any workouts or diet tips that you for new moms?

Ah! That was so long ago, my daughter is 30 now. To the to-be-moms, I would say that they don’t need to eat for two. They need to eat just the right amount of the good food. Iron and folic acid are something I took through most of my pregnancy. Stay as active as you can, and you will have a healthy pregnancy and a normal delivery unless there are complications.

I am not a nutritionist, so I am not the right person to advise. I was told to eat in the first 40 days everything that I would eat during the breastfeeding period. So I did that. Clean, healthy, home-made food is the best. Get the massages done for yourself and the baby. I started walking around in the hospital the day after Prakriti was born. Take rest for 40 days or as the doctor advises and then get started with light exercises as per an expert’s advice. There are some good videos also available. Nowadays, even gyms have good post-natal trainers. Work on strengthening the core gradually and the rest of the body too.

“Running is one of the easiest activities to fit into the daily schedule, one just has to be better planned, get the buy-in of some of the family members, and set expectations properly.”

How has running helped you? How do you manage running and alloting family time?

I started running very late, at the age of 49. This is the time when I had to look beyond profession and family and other routines because Prakriti had finished her education, had worked for a few years, and was off to Melbourne for her Masters. Chandan had joined the civvy street after taking voluntary retirement and was working with an MNC in Hyderabad. I had grown in Cybage (an IT services company) and didn’t want to leave Pune. I was regular at playing badminton and doing aerobics in the gym as well as weekend walks. When I got introduced to running, being outdoors was suddenly very liberating. I took to distance and to some extent to reasonable speed too. I suddenly found a new passion.

The benefits percolated in every sphere of my life with increased confidence, better planning, more learning, greater courage, more calculated risk-taking, and enhanced passion to take things to completion despite challenges. I made a lot of new friends too. Besides, my husband and I found another activity to do together. Running has opened a whole new world to me. I had reached a plateau at work, and after working for 32+ years at different jobs, I decided to call it quits last year. I now focus on fitness, home, and other activities. I would subsequently like to join some NGO or do some teaching as well. Maybe go back to learning Spanish, all of which I have forgotten now despite having completed three levels.

Running is one of the easiest activities to fit into the daily schedule, one just has to be better planned, get the buy-in of some of the family members, and set expectations properly. Further, we need to be flexible and have alternatives in place instead of being rigid with the timings. The morning I know for sure that I will have to skip my run, I move around the weekly schedule and do some yoga or bodyweight workout at home and run another day, or in the evening. Also, as women, we tend to take on too much ourselves and later regret it. We should learn to delegate and also get help. Then we can be real super-women 🙂

Taru running at the SCMM in Mumbai

Do you workout with your daughter, or try and teach them the importance of fitness?

My daughter is in Melbourne now. But when she was a child, we would take her with us to the park to play with other kids. Even in the cantonment areas and in boarding schools, she spent time with other children. Somehow, we could never really get her interested in swimming, table tennis, badminton, and many other activities that we tried. She was always more interested in reading books and in stage activities. She did show a spark in chess and won some interschool competitions when she was in 7th class. My son-in-law, Chandan again, although is very active. He plays cricket and also runs up to half marathons. I do know how I can go through the whole process again differently now with my grandchild when the time comes.

What’s your one piece of advice for new or expecting moms?

Know that you are blessed and you have a big hand in shaping the future of your child. The environment will provide many inputs. Be very aware and lay the basic grounds of health and wisdom for your child by spending quality time during the formative years. Give them the required experiences. At the same time, remember that you can be a good mom only if you look after yourself too. So definitely set aside some time for yourself without any guilt.

What are some of your fondest mother-daughter memories?

Most of these are the times we traveled together on holidays or went out for movies and/or dinner, both of us being foodie Taureans. When Prakriti was in middle school, we used to watch a movie on HBO (or some other such channel) almost 4 days a week at 9 PM whenever Chandan was away on duty. We remember this very fondly. My fun moments were when she learned to ride the two-wheeler and drive the car (I still can’t drive), and she would take me around. Trying out new clothes, matching accessories, shopping…the typical girl-things were always fun! Or just chatting…when it would be the three of us, Chandan would get no talk-time. Now that its four of us, both the Chandans get hardly any talk-time.


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