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I had been raised by feminist parents, and more so, a father, who had been ‘bashed’ by the ‘well-wishers’ for giving much ‘freedom’ to his daughter. He bears the brunt of it even now.
Feminism has been an oft misunderstood term. To be honest, even I belonged to one of the naysayers and the doubting Thomases when it came to the F word, as I used to call it. Even my friends circle in FB associate it with men-mashing women, who have nothing else to do in life. And men? Heck, no! How can they be feminists?
Of course, being wiser, I realised that all along, I had been raised by feminist parents, and more so, a father, who had been ‘bashed’ by the ‘well-wishers’ for giving much ‘freedom’ to his daughter. He bears the brunt of it even now.
Appa didn’t stop me when I expressed my desire to pursue English literature. My relatives were aghast. What? No engineering? “Study what you want to! Not what the others tell you to,” was his comment. He was proud of my grades, and didn’t demur, when I decided to do a post-graduation.
Hell did, however, break loose, when I took a keen interest in learning German. Mind you, the cost of a semester was a princely 3000 rupees in those days. Appa had opted for VRS, and amma somehow managed to bring in some decent money, working as a Nursery teacher, just to ensure my education didn’t suffer. “It’s good to learn a foreign language. Go ahead and learn it. Who knows, you might even go abroad, and get a good job based on it!”
That was it. This reassurance from appa was enough. And I did well. I earned a scholarship to do my advanced level in Berlin, and I am now into my 14th year with my organization, where I joined as a German language expert.
Even now, when I look back, those unkind words of my family members ring in my ears. “Why are you spending your savings on this unnecessary activity? After all, she is going to marry one day. And if she wants to work, let her join a call centre. They pay good. Isn’t that good for her?” Appa had put his foot down firmly. “Wait for your calling. Don’t jump into a job just to earn money.”
Here, I have to mention a funny incident. I was preparing for my maiden trip to Germany. We had gone to his friend’s house on a lunch invitation. There, the uncle had brought out a bottle of beer. Appa is a teetotaler, but he went ahead and asked the friend to ‘fill a mug and give to my daughter.’ It was followed by two minutes of silence, as countless pairs of shocked eyes glared at him, wondering if he had lost his marbles. He explained that his daughter should taste beer, as Germans drink it daily. I had my first sip in front of my parents.
When it came to marriage, he never forced me. That was another bone of contention amongst my uncles and aunts. But he was always behind me, supporting me, defending me. And when I told him of the mutual decision I had taken with my husband never to have kids, he blessed me, and actually agreed with me. “Why do you need to bring kids into this world? So that they suffer in an earth that’s worsening day by day? Why should a person be so selfish?” That was it! The words of wisdom!
Nitpickings happen even now from extended family. I am not sanskaari enough. I don’t keep in touch with family. I am arrogant. I waste my hard-earned money in vacations (This, when we have just toured Tamil Nadu so far). I worry for appa. Why is he subject to all this at this age? He shakes his head, and sings, ‘Kuch to log kahenge, logo ka kaam hai kehna.” True! We can’t change people’s nature, but we can ignore them. And be happy in our cocoon. That’s what I have learnt from appa, the feminist of the Manapadam family.
A feminist father is a huge factor in a woman’s empowerment. It may be because daughters usually look up to their fathers, or in the Indian context because a father’s willingness to support and encourage a daughter to be an independent person makes a lot of difference in practical terms. For #FathersDay we bring to you a few such stories of #FeministFathers who stand by their daughters.
Image source: a still from the film Thappad
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