Saturday, May 14, 2011

Backseat Dads

Vintage Dad
India is full of them. Peep into the backseat of the family car and you will see the sticker marked “Dad”. It is a nice sit back spot. You can recline most of the way, occasionally leaning forward to grunt approval or purr displeasure as the case may merit.

While the man delivers his show stopper moments, the hot seat is reserved for the mother. She is the one in the clan cockpit, sweat trickling down her bindi adorned forehead, bangles jangling over the multi-dial console as the family charts a cruise called life. Should a leg turn out to be spectacular, the master heaves himself up to take a bow. God help the driver though, in the event of a car breakdown or a bump over that deceitful spead breaker. Come what may, she has got to live up to the role bequeathed her by Noah’s wife.

But of course, casts are changing and most of my generation Dads do lean over to occupy the passenger seat when it suits them. Some Dads of 2011 today, go so far as to envy their wives motherhood and the associated front seat work. Perhaps my girls will earn enough for their men to be able to potter around at home and coo to the babies. I don’t know. Domestic help gets increasingly fickle, unaffordable and untrustworthy. Grandparents are more self-centred and privacy conscious than I ever remember them being.

These revolutionary trends notwithstanding, majority Dads are still used to taking the back seat when it comes to full scale, active parenting. One school of thought is that this division of labour works well for all. The distant Dad is a good ruse to dole out sparingly as a deterrent. What will Dad say? Dad may not agree! Dad is very disappointed! Go ask Dad. I will discuss this with Dad! These common phrases in Indian families are indicative of the deity status of Dad. He nods sagely from the throne, holding out his right hand to shell out cash or the short stick, staying clear of the brass tacks at all times.

The world is changing Daddy oh....and it is time for the family head to step into the nitty gritty. Everyone stands to gain, more particularly the daughters.

Nothing defines the father-daughter relationship in India as succinctly as the song, “Babul ki duaaen leti jaa, jaa tujhko sukhi sansaar mile....” And every self-respecting Indian father and daughter knows this song! But it is no longer enough for the father to give the sobbing daughter a farewell shoulder hug and that pat on the head. He has got to wake up and smell the coffee. His role and significance in his children’s lives have leapt to monumental proportions while he was walking that shuffle to the flower bedecked “doli” car.
Their father's girls
Fathers are very critical role models for their daughters today. It is they who will lay the blue print for all her future relationships with men. An involved, supportive and encouraging father will lay the foundation for an independent and self respecting young woman. Girls with active dads can be expected to be more determined, more successful, more self-nurturing and less tolerant of abusive relationships. It is from their father that the girls will learn adventurism, achievement, assertiveness.

It is a welcome sign that the great modern Dads are coming off their high horses to vocalize their love and unconditional acceptance to their units. They are respectful of the women in the family and value their daughter’s feminism! Capable of being silly and having fun, they are not fighting shy of making their feelings known. They are honourable family heads their daughters can trust and confide in.

Three cheers and welcome to the front seat, Dads!!!


Kartik said...

Well put, as usual. Two things come to mind - one is that I cannot wait to be a good dad to the daughters I may one day have. And secondly, I saw a lovely film this week, SOMEWHERE by Sofia Coppola. It's all about a father-daughter relationship. I think you'd enjoy it.

Honey Sangha said...

Amen to the first. I will look out for the film, thanks Kartik.