I had a feminist father, but because he was an introvert who did not express his feelings, and had a very forbidding exterior, I had not realized my privilege then.
You don’t need a day to remember someone, especially your parents. But sometimes these celebrations like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day may help bring back old memories.
I grew up in the 70s, 80s and 90s. It was a period of minimalism with a pinch of strictness. Things then were not as easy as they are today. The head of the family had a lot of dominance over the family. Everything you decided needed a final approval from the father. And his decision was always final, just like the Lakshman Rekha in the Ramayana. There was no scope for discussion, and you had no choice but to do what you were told to!
I had two sisters. Even if you go by the majority of 4:1, the women never dared to overpower the single man in the house. This was how things around me functioned 30-40 years ago. With an introverted, serious and short-tempered nature, he was tough to understand.
I realize now that my father’s strict nature helped us have a grounded childhood. We did not demand expensive clothes or luxuries. We were happy with a new colour pencil, a pencil box, and some new books. I feel that a child doesn’t understand these materialistic things until you expose them to these.
On the other hand, there are always other things in your life which can never be replaced. Freedom of thought, freedom to experiment, freedom to embrace failure, and freedom from expectations!
After so many years, what I remember the most is my freedom of thought, and how my decisions were never a hurdle to him. Although it was a time when women were confined to their homes and driving was an alien act, he gifted me a two-wheeler vehicle on my 18th birthday. He arranged for money from his old insurance policy, and made sure that I started my journey with the new.
Riding a two-wheeler in Delhi during the 90s was fun and gave me a sense of freedom. I was an exception who was let free to enjoy freedom in all sense. Day or night, I would drive, either for guitar classes or extra classes or just for fun, with no fear of any sort. And the kind of freedom I had was seldom shared by others.
I am a parent now and can analyse those things closely. How different was it? Going against social norms to cater to every possible thing for your children. I admit you cannot realise those things unless you are on the same page. The stage of parenting where you need to let your offspring blossom!
In today’s world when there is a lot of uproar about feminism, equality and freedom for women, I can say that I had lived these words much before they became buzzwords on the internet. I never knew I had a feminist father who was always there for us through thick and thin. We were set free to live our lives, achieve our own goals, and find happiness in our ways. There never was a Girls v/s Boys comparison at any point in time. We never had any restrictions related to gender. My father’s limited communication and reserved nature was never a hurdle between us.
Though we never hugged each other, and he was not like the hands-on dads of today’s generation, the power of his love was always connected to us, through his profound silence and comforting inner voice, “Go ahead, I am always with you at all times”.
Over the course of our lives and experiences, emotional support from our families helps us stand our ground. It is validating and empowering.
I always remember him as the strong pillar of my life and the compassionate way I was nurtured. Being a parent to two kids, I ensure that the rules that applied to my childhood are followed by them. I hope to instill in them the understanding of the freedom that has been given to them, and the ability to learn positive life lessons.
Even though 30 years are enough for a bigger change, and parenting has come a long way, I have learnt and experienced why it is important to give emotional support, and the right of freedom to every child. All these words like mental health, emotional quotient, feminism were not in everyone’s dictionary three decades ago, but their presence cannot be denied in all respects!
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