Daddy's the man

Amrita Prasad
Saturday, 16 June 2018

On Father’s Day (June 17), Amrita Prasad speaks to people about their relationships with 
their dads and how the dynamics have changed with time and age

Not all heroes wear capes — some wear smiles, assuring smiles, as they wrap you in the warmth of their love. 

A dad dons many roles — disciplinarian, bread-winner, moral guide, role model, teacher. He is probably the first person to tell you that you need to take responsibility of your own life. In a world that glorifies mothers and their sacrifices, the contribution of this parent often goes unsung. 

But things begin to change when fathers start to age. Many adults begin to befriend their father — share things that they couldn’t as teenagers, begin to enjoy drinks together, while others take up dad’s responsibilities and treat them as their own kids, no matter how fallible they become with age. 

On Father’s Day (June 17), which falls on the third Sunday of June every year, people tell us how their relationship with their father has changed with age.

From Baba to Bondhu
It is a story of every son — from being a dad-fearing child, you become his companion and confidant. So was it with Abhishek Bose. The Delhi-based client servicing manager whose dad Amitabh (an interesting coincidence, isn’t it), has transformed from being an angry young man (much like his namesake’s screen image) into a calm and ‘cool’ veteran today. Talking about how his bond with his baba has changed, Abhishek says, “Baba used to be this strict authority at home, the one who scolded me for almost every wrong deed — my low scores in school, fights with my little brother and so on. Now that I am on my own in this big bad world, I truly realise the pain that my Baba took for me.”

Today, Abhishek feels closer to his father than ever before. As a working professional, he can relate to the time when his father used to work. He realises how it feels when somebody bothers you at home after a bad day at work. 

“I truly understand now why Baba used to be angry when my brother and I (as kids) bothered him. Of course, once we grew up, there was a change in his approach. He started treating me as a friend and we would discuss life and how to deal with its issues as a man. I still have a hearty laugh with him over the incidents when he had given me a good beating and thrown me out of the house. Over a period of time, he has become a guide, a teacher and a friend to me. On this Father’s Day, I will just appreciate him for the man he has been and here’s a shout out to all the dads, all the unsung heroes!,” exclaims Abhishek.

THE BEST TEACHER  
They say you begin to understand your dad when you become one. When you try to juggle between work, life and handling a child, you realise how you father (along with your mother) tried to ensure that you had the best of everything (education, fun, holiday activities) when you were growing up. City-based restaurateur Ashutosh Joshi says that he has started to respect his father a lot more now. A single parent himself, Joshi says now that he has a 12-year-old daughter, he is realising that it is time for him to ‘bring up his own father’ too. 

“My dad  (Jayant Joshi) was the person I looked up to, when it came to being ‘calm’. When I was growing up, he would patiently explain everything to me. Today, while teaching my daughter, I get frustrated at the drop of a hat and often use Google to explain things to her, whereas dad did it when there was no Google,” says Joshi.

The fact that Joshi has to make his daughter’s holidays useful and entertaining, makes him realise how hard it must have been for his father to keep him and his siblings engaged. Despite being 69 now, senior Joshi continues to be his son’s source of inspiration. “I think a bigger challenge for my dad was to entertain us as kids.  With no television and online games, he and mum would take two months off from work and take us on road trips or just sit and play board games and cards with us. Dad making Rasna sherbet was like half day’s fun activity in summer. Today it’s easier for us to send kids to a summer camp or make them watch movies and play video games. 

“Dad teaches me parenting each day. My relationship with him has changed and despite being old, he is getting better and stronger each day,” says Joshi.

An ageing parent is just like a toddler who can be difficult to handle. They may not be too receptive to reason and logic. “Dad’s become more demanding like a kid. The stuff he would tell us to avoid eating as kids, he relishes now,” Joshi smiles.

‘CHEERS’ TO THE BOND  
When you fall in love, you usually confide in your mother about it because you fear that your father may disapprove of your choice. When you have the first drink with your friends, you dread that you father might find out and bring the house down. However, as you grow up and begin to understand your responsibilities well, you realise that your dad wasn’t the villain of the house. Bengaluru-based engineer Soham Nandi who used to save his father’s name as Gabbar (his dad’s original name is Bireshwar Nandi) on his mobile and couldn’t have any kind of conversation with him as a teenager, has suddenly begun to confide in his father. 

Says Nandi, “I was hell scared of my father. He was strict and very particular about how I behaved, hence I used to call him Gabbar behind his back. But now, I’m in my late 30s, he is someone I can’t hide anything from.”

As a youngster, when Nandi was found drinking with his friends, his father was wild with anger. He beat him up and sent him to a hostel immediately. When his father learnt about Nandi’s girlfriend, he stopped his allowances too. “I realise that dad wanted me to be responsible. He is 60 now and he is the coolest person I know. I hadn’t touched alcohol after that beating but the day I cleared by IIT exam, dad got the best whiskey available in the market and we drank like fishes. Till today, I haven’t been able to beat him in our ‘chugging competition’, and he is the best companion to enjoy a drink with. In fact, he plans my dates for me and helps me with buying gifts for my lover. I feel we must not misunderstand our dads and wait till they show their cool side. 

And Gabbar? I still call him that when we are drinking,” chuckles Nandi.

MY OLD BABY
A father is a girl’s first hero and once she is married, even if the geographical distance between them grows, the emotional bond only strengthens. In certain cases, old age takes people back to their childhood.

Says Deepika Shah, 45, a Delhi-based homemaker, who quit her job to take care of her father, “By the time you grow up and become responsible, independent individuals, your parents have begun to age. After my mother’s demise, dad had become over-protective about me. He never let me hang out with boys. He ensured that I married the guy he approved of. It’s been 10 years for that. Now dad lives with us but he is like a child. It feels strange to think how dad, who was always there for me when I was young, needs me to be there for him at the age of 79. It’s hard to play your dad’s mother when he is constantly trying to be the centre of attention.” 

Shah often finds this new role taxing. “I have to understand his physical and mental state,  the changes in his personality. He is fragile and insecure — he wants me to be around all the time. He often forgets that I have a husband and a son and demands that I spend all my time around him. It is not annoying but sad to see what dad has become with age. The strong man with thick moustache, is now a complaining old man who loves to munch on wafers and yearns for an extra helping of Gulab Jamun. Although his limbs and vision are weak, he wants to play cricket. To let him indulge is putting his health to risk and stopping him from doing it is creating a havoc in the house. He talks more than he ever did in his youth and ensures that everyone else is an audience. Sometimes, it is embarrassing, but that’s the beauty of having a father who ensured I never felt alone in my mom’s absence,” says Shah.

From teaching her menstrual hygiene to dropping her to the beauty parlour, Shah’s father has done it all. He’s been her best friend and so today she has taken up the job of reminding him to wash his hands after using the washroom, taking his medicines on time, brushing his teeth among other things. 

“When your parents are old, it is your duty to keep them happy. It is time for role reversals,” says Shah.

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