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The cool dads of today are a far cry from the remote and (sometimes) scary fathers of yesteryear. Here’s a look at modern day dads, gearing up for their fair share of parenting.
Remember Amrish Puri in DDLJ as a strict authoritarian father who expects his daughters to nod along and conform to his norms, just or unjust? In this 90s blockbuster, the veteran actor played the father’s character to the hilt, fitting in perfectly to the mould set exclusively for fathers. However, to the present generation, Baldev Singh, the always fuming Papaji with the bulging eyes seems like a rare breed.
Fast forward to modern day fathers, both on and off screen, it is not uncommon to see fathers who are as much involved as the mothers. That tight lipped, rarely smiling man who commanded respect out of fear has become someone who is approachable, friendly, caring and with whom one can discuss everything, well almost everything, Indian fathers have come a long way. Gone are the days when the father was seen pacing up and down outside the labour room. Now he is right inside the labour room holding his wife’s hand, lending support to her both physically and emotionally.
In fact, the role of the father doesn’t begin at the time of the child’s birth; it starts much before the baby is born and continues thereafter. The concept of prenatal classes for both the parents-to-be is gradually gaining popularity even in India. The introduction of paternity leave for new fathers is a testimony to the role a father plays in the life of his child. If a mother requires leave to recoup from the childbirth and to tend to the new born, the father too needs to be around not only to help the mother but also to bond with their bundle of joy and understand that parenting is not the mother’s responsibility alone.
When I was in school, my father proudly claimed that he didn’t even know in which class his daughters were studying. It was no big deal as it was not expected of him. Three decades later, my husband keeps himself abreast of our teenage sons’ performance in school, both academic and extracurricular. He knows about most of their friends, even girlfriends, the teachers and everything else. “For my own self, I want to know what is happening in the lives of our sons. That’s it and nothing else,” states my better half.
The stereotypical roles where father fends for the family and mother raises the kids are fast merging. New age fathers are equal partners in the upbringing of children. Changing diapers, attending PTAs, cooking and even talking about menstruation with young daughters (as depicted in the short film, Aree Baba), is no longer the domain of mothers alone. The fathers are up for anything for their children.
“I am a hands-on father. When Tanisha, my eight year old daughter wakes up, she expects me to carry her from the bed and right from brushing her teeth to helping her bath, I am her most preferred attender. I cherish doing all these chores for her. Last month, when my wife was away to a rejuvenation therapy centre for a week, I took off to be with my daughter. The flexibility that my profession allows helps me to have a work life balance,” says Haris A. W., a management consultant and visiting faculty.
This evolution in the role of fathers was expected sooner or later as more number of women are entering the work force making it only natural that fathers would have no choice but to get involved in home affairs. “I like to do things for my son out of choice,” Sooraj, a young father corrects me. “My wife is a home maker and my aged parents live with us so there is no compulsion for me to make my six year old son eat, change his clothes, play with him, drop him to the bus stop. There is always someone or the other available to take charge of the little one but I make use of my time at home to bond with him and the best way of bonding is to do things together. This way I know he will always stay close to me. I usually come home late so I make it a point to spend one hour every morning with him.”
Raising kids is a high pressure job and the father’s role in the family doesn’t begin and end with procreation and providing for the family. He is a provider no doubt but he is a friend, philosopher, mentor, playmate, secret keeper all rolled into one. A mother is equally capable of earning to send her kids to good schools and provide them with all material comforts and even inculcate discipline but she can’t be a father. Bollywood can take the lead by celebrating fathers the way it has been celebrating mothers to bring home the thought that for a holistic development of a child, father needs to be play a proactive role in the life of the child. The popular dialogue from Amitabh Bachchan starrer Deewar, Mere Paas Maa Hai needs to be tweaked to Mere Paas Baap Hai.
The bond between a father and a child is very special and the mother needn’t function as a bridge between them. In today’s competitive and high pressure world, there is an even greater need to have the father equally involved in the development of kids. Studies prove that the children of involved fathers tend to do better in life socially and emotionally and they also have higher chances of experiencing success in their career. It is only logical that positive father involvement decreases a child’s behavioural problems to an extent as the responsibility of raising children is shared by both the parents and they add different values in the lives of children.
For men, priorities do change when children come but it is always possible for fathers to balance and spend quality time with kids. Don’t we always find time for things we consider important?
“My dad and I share a close bond even if we don’t see each other for a month or so because of his travels. We share common interests like movies, business and good food. I can go to him for advice because of how much he’s accomplished and his rich experience. We try to chat as often as we can. There is always that flow which can ride over any hurdle or any challenge and it keeps us both interested in each other’s lives,” says Sanchit Khera, a 28 years old digital marketing professional from Mumbai. “But it can’t be generalized. I have so many friends who find their dads very unapproachable. The image of fathers is still the same as we see in DDLJ. Fathers like Anupam Kher who sends his son to explore the world because he has failed are still rare and far between but of course the scenario is definitely changing.”
New age cool dads can do everything- from changing diapers to supervising homework, attending PTAs, taking the children to play dates, playing with them, bonding over a glass of beer, discussing their friends, girlfriends and everything else. Surrogacy has made it possible for them to become biological fathers without having the need to have a mother. The likes of Karan Johar and Tusshar Kapoor are the trend setters of a brand new image of a father. New age fathers can do anything except giving birth to the babies. But the way science is advancing, in future, that too might be a reality. After all who can tell the future!
First published here.