For a couple of months now, I have been thinking about how we treat you differently than mom, about why we celebrate Mother’s Day with such pomp – gift, outing, fancy dinner – and Father’s Day with just a cursory phone call to you, and why have you never complained about the differential treatment?
It’s certainly not that we love you any lesser than mom. What is it, then?
My homemaker mother has had such a powerful presence in my life, attending school parents meetings, taking me to the many hobby classes, checking my homework, yelling at me for every little thing, that you, always busy at work, seemed like a side hero in my movie. But the truth is that you are the supporting hero, without whom we wouldn’t be a close-knit family, you, me, mom and your son Bhavik or I wouldn’t be the person I am.
I am not undermining mom’s sacrifices, but you didn’t make any less either. You sacrificed the comfort of home, working 14-15-hour long days in scorching sun to feed us and pay for our fees and take us on trips. It sure took a toll on you. Your skin turned black, your stomach issues increased and retirement took a toll on your mental well-being as well. But you never complained, not once.
You never went into the dramatic frenzy of – “Don’t call me dad, I am not your father” or “Nobody values or respects me in this household”. You just did it all, quietly, behind the camera, never once asking for any credit.
But, sometimes, it’s important to ask for your due, to ask for that hug, to be vulnerable. But not being able to do so is not your fault. It’s your upbringing. Mom still remembers how you would be reprimanded by your elders if you cradled us or helped mom in putting us to sleep.
Now that I am a pet parent and see my husband with our furry baby, I realise that men too have a maternal side, but you, born in the early 60s were conditioned to be the strict, disciplined and distant father who shouldn’t hug his children.
But in your own way, you have challenged patriarchy and oppressive beliefs time and again. Take for instance, the saga of my name. You were ridiculed for wanting me to name Riddhi, your elder child. “If you name your daughter Riddhi, Siddhi, another girl child will follow,” they said (In Indian mythology, sisters Riddhi and Siddhi were married to elephant god, Ganesha). But you put your foot down because you were happy to have another girl child and I was finally christened Riddhi, a name I am very proud of. It is one of the many reasons that makes you my forever hero.
It was you who ignored society’s criticisms and let me pursue my hobby, dancing. It was who you encouraged Bhavik and me to attend every extra-curricular class, right from swimming, to skating and horse riding, and it was you who sent us for every school outing and trekking and ran behind us for hours teaching us how to cycle. And let me not forget how you were my rock when I got divorced. In the pain and shame and the agony of a wrecked marriage, and that too a love marriage, both, mom and Bhavik would have said things to me that they didn’t meant to. But you have always been by strongest ally, come what may.
As I write this, I realise that many busy fathers such as you have been fighting, struggling, sacrificing every day to give their children a good life, to teach them how to get back up after they fall, to be brave and courageous. And we have followed through because we know that our father, though underrated, is by their side and quietly rooting for us.
I also urge all the fathers to steal the spotlight once in a while, to hug their children, tell them that they are loved and demand for a grand Father’s Day celebration because you deserve it no less than a mother.