Dad’s the way!

Ambika Shaligram
Saturday, 15 June 2019

Fathers are superheroes as much as mothers are. They too make sacrifices, fulfill our wishes and teach us important life lessons. Ambika Shaligram talks to a few dads and children who share a ‘friendly’ bond and feel closely connected despite staying away from each other   

Times are changing and so are parenting skills. Sharing a candid and meaningful relationship with their children, the new-age dads are more friendly, communicative and less hierarchical than their previous generation. Sometimes they are away from home and family because of work or other factors but that doesn’t make them a lesser dad. They take up the responsibilities pretty well and give important life lessons to the kids so that they are well prepared to face all kinds of challenges. On this Father’s Day, we speak to a few dads who have done their job well and deserve a big round of applause.  

‘My children are my friends’ 
Whenever 16-year-old Gaurav watches a TV show that both he and his daddy Jagdish Sahasrabuddhe would enjoy, he tries not to think of him. “I do get daddy-sick. But he is in the USA and I get to meet him every three months. We talk on the phone and WhatsApp regularly, but that’s not the same. When we were living together, we would bond over stock market and new technologies. Both of us love Japanese food, so whenever we meet, we go to restaurants which serve Japanese cuisine.”

Gaurav, who grew up in the US before moving to Pune, says that the fathers in the West are liberal, whereas Indian dads constrain the lives of their kids. “Daddy is pretty chilled though. He is strict when he needs to be. He doesn’t like it when I don’t submit my homework, or when I spend money unnecessarily or when I waste food,” adds the 16-year-old.

When quizzed about his parenting approach, Sahasrabuddhe says, “ My children have been my friends from their birth and they continue to be so. I see my relationship more as a guide to my children. When things go wrong, the first step is to believe the kids and try to understand their point of view. Yes, there are times when I need to communicate sternly, but I don’t do it from a position of hierarchy.”

Sahasrabuddhe believes in discussing the good, bad and ugly with his daughter, Rachana (21) and Gaurav. “The lines of communication are so open that I play, drink, dance and laugh with them. I can openly talk to them about my problems and many a time get a fact based, no-nonsense guidance from them,” he adds.

His father’s absence has brought about some changes in Gaurav. “My mom says, ‘Gaurav is acting daddy of the house’. I switch off the lights, bolt the doors and feed the dog. I do everything that he used to do,” he says.

‘It’s because of him I turned out pretty good’
My parents got divorced when I was in Std I. My mom felt that I would be more comfortable with papa, because I had my friends, school in Goa,” Arjun Karkare says in a matter-of-fact tone.

“When I was in Std IV, papa, who serves in the Indian Navy, was transferred to Visakhapatnam and he was on a ship. My grandparents stayed with me for that one year. That period was a little tough as compared to others,” says Arjun, who moved to Pune three years ago, when his father was transferred to Mumbai.

He has wonderful memories of the time he spent with his father. “We played squash together. Whenever I felt sad, he would come and play with me. We had a dog and we would go to the beach and have a lovely time. Every Sunday, we would drive to the market to pick up groceries and then we would head to restaurants to eat dosas,” says the 17-year-old.

Karkare says that Arjun was shy as a kid. “We got him a dog, who gave him great company. Today, he has grown into a confident, sincere and honest young man. My relationship with my parents was a formal one, but Arjun has been given a lot of freedom,” says Karkare.

“I never believe in supervising my child on a daily basis. But there is a need to keep myself updated. Every two or three days, we call and chat. When I drive down from Mumbai, we talk about his school, teachers and friends. Technology has its use, but I prefer face-to-face contact over emojis,” says the father.

To have a better bond, Karkare believes that parents and children must be friends. Children do have an understanding of right and wrong, but they may not always have the courage to tell their parents when they have erred. Which is why it’s important to allow them to freely express themselves. Says Arjun, “When I was in Std III, I used to hang out with older kids. One day I got angry and I used the ‘F’ word. Later, I felt bad and I told papa. He said, ‘I am glad you realised that what you said was wrong and came and told me about it. Don’t do it again.’ It’s because of him I turned out pretty good.” 

Families make sacrifices 
Sanjyot was around five when her parents got divorced. She has hazy memories of her father, Kuldip Singh, when she was a kid. “What I remember from those days was that he was a very hands-on dad. He used to plait my hair, take me for swimming and also let me assist him in the kitchen,” says the youngster.

She lived with her mother and met her father occasionally, because he moved to Bengaluru and later, Chennai for work. “Both my parents remarried eventually. I understood pretty early that my family setup was different from that of my friends — I had two mothers, two fathers and more siblings,” says the 21-year-old, who is preparing for her MBA entrance exam. 

Their bond got stronger when Sanjyot moved in to stay with her father and stepmother when she was 12. Talking about having his daughter back in his life, Singh says, “I met Sanjyot properly after six or seven years when she came to stay with me and my wife. It was tough initially because I didn’t know her, her food preferences, her choice of movies, games etc.”

Says Sanjyot, “I have learnt to ‘live life’ from my dad. He is very spontaneous and always eager to do new things. I now understand that my parents had some issues which is why they couldn’t reconcile their differences. I have a good relationship with my stepparents. We have to take extra effort to reach out to each other. We have to make little sacrifices. That’s what families are meant for.” 

Kuldip is proud of Sanjyot and says, “As a father, I can only wish and hope that our divorce doesn’t affect her outlook towards marriage. She has grown up to be very independent, outspoken and a little rebellious woman. But she is caring too.”

Stepping into his shoes
Sushant Mukherjee describes his son Pratik as a fussy eater and an introvert. “Pratik is obedient, polite and hardworking. I am an extrovert, whereas he is reserved and doesn’t open up easily. We Bengalis love meat and fish. But we have vegetarian food too. When we are invited to get-togethers and parties, he still asks, ‘Are they going to serve veg or non-veg?’ If the answer is ‘only veg’, he makes an excuse and stays back at home,” says Mukherjee.

What Pratik has learnt from his baba is his management skills. “My father is a teacher. For the last five years, he has been living in Jharkhand and he comes home to Mumbai every three months or so. I do not struggle during his absence, because he has prepared me to face all that life is likely to throw at me,” says the 25-year-old engineer. 

“I was still in college when he would talk to me about how things would change after I take up a job. He told me that in the workspace, it would be difficult to make friends as my co-workers would be competing with me,” adds Pratik.

Now that his father is in town on a break, he cherishes their time together. “I had always looked up to my father as my idol, he is my inspiration. He taught me how to cycle and drive the car. We used to play cricket. He helped me with my studies as well. When he is away, he trusts that I will shoulder all the responsibilities and take care of my mother and granny. In case I falter, I know I can turn to baba,” says Pratik, adding, “He will hear me out and give me options — X and Y. But if I choose Z, he is perfectly fine with it.”

Mukherjee is pleased with the transformation in his son. “He has matured a lot in the five years that I have been away. If the house needs repairs or something is damaged, Pratik takes care of it. When he got his first salary, he bought wrist watch and mobile phone for his mom and I,” he adds. 

Game of patience
When you turn 18, everyone expects you to behave responsibly, act your age. Utkarsha Paraspatki not only became mature but she also learnt to live independently. 

“Last year, baba took up a job in Saudi Arabia. My sister, Aishwarya also left for the US for her higher studies around the same time. My mother and I were staying together in Pune. But then baba suffered a heart attack and my mother decided to move in with him, to take care of his health. I too stayed with them for some time in Saudi. But I returned to join college,” says Utkarsha.

“I was filled with trepidation. I am staying with my granny, but I have to take care of her and myself. I completed the entire admission process by myself. My father was proud of me, but he also got emotional,” she adds.

Her father, Girish Paraspatki says, “I was wary of leaving Utkarsha behind. These are very crucial years, education and career wise. This is the age when youngsters are eager to test their independence and chances are that they might go astray. But I have always been talking to my daughters about what’s right and wrong. My daughters often tend to ignore their mother’s reprimands. I don’t shout or lose my temper that easily. I am the bridge between my daughters and my wife,” says Paraspatki. 

Utkarsha agrees. “At times, Aishutai and I can ignore our mother’s advice. But not our father’s. When he takes us to task, we know that we have crossed the line,” she adds. When asked, ‘what is the line’, the BCA student says, “My father talks a lot about his childhood and how his parents were very strict. There was not enough communication between them. He doesn’t want to be kept in the dark about our activities. Many of my peers smoke, drink and party without telling their parents. He wants transparency, and has asked me to keep away from vices.”

Paraspatki calls this a ‘game of patience’. “The best approach is to keep talking and give ear to their concerns. And, in return, counsel them to make a sensible decision. I don’t have a problem if my daughters fall in love, but they should have the ability to judge if he is the right guy or not,” he adds. 

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