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The Privilege Of A Father Who Scandalised Relatives With His ‘Permissiveness’

Posted: June 17, 2021

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We are 3 sisters, and our father brought us all up to be independent and capable of making our own decisions. Never were we forced into anything.

My brother was born when I was eight years old. You would think that as an only son born after three sisters he would be made much of; but the truth is quite the opposite. He ended up being bossed around by his elder sisters.

In many ways my parents are quite traditional and old fashioned at heart. Ours was a typical 90s middle class family and as a ‘typical Indian middle class family’ privilege was not a word we associated with ourselves and yet as I look back I realize my life was full of privilege.

Encouraged to speak up about everything

My father was insistent on the fact that his daughters should never feel shy and so from a very young age we were encouraged to participate in all kinds of contests and no matter what the result we were always praised.

He would often discuss current affairs with us to make us aware of the world around us. (Granted that the discussions were very one sided.) We were always encouraged to read, to speak up, and to build our own opinions; a habit which continues till today.

Only girls in our family who lived in hostels

We lived in a small town and once our schooling was finished we were sent off to hostels to pursue our education. Till date we are the only girls in our family who have lived in hostels. Many of our relatives were scandalized but my father didn’t care.

We were brought up to be independent. I didn’t realize how independent until I was in a hostel myself and saw how girls would wait for their brothers or cousins or their father to come and pick them. Not for us though, my father thought we were perfectly capable of travelling by ourselves even though our train left at 2:00 am and this mind you in an era where there were no mobile phones!

No pressure to marry

It was understood that we would study what we wanted, for as long as we wanted. Even when I decided I would go against the trend and study commerce at a time when no one opted for it, my father did not force me to change my decision. He did try to persuade me but accepted my decision as final.

We never faced any pressure to get married. It was understood that this was the time to build a career for ourselves and marriage would only come later. Both my sisters are doctors so for them it made sense but according to people, me with my lowly BCom was obviously expected to get married off quickly.  The few proposals that came were sent packing with the words ‘my daughter is still studying!’

Indeed out of all three sisters I was the oldest when I got married because it took me some time to decide on my career but there was never any pressure on me. I only realized how rare this was when my brother was doing his engineering and my mother started pestering him to think of marriage in his final year because ‘good proposals are hard to get’. It was we sisters who had to insist that he be allowed to complete his studies in peace. (My brother often mutters how our family is upside down!)

His daughters’ biggest cheerleader

Even now, my father is one of my biggest cheerleaders, no matter how small my achievement he will be the first to praise me and takes great pride in the career of all three of his daughters.

I have often heard girls say with great pride that their father brought them up as his sons. I cannot say that for my father; we were very much his daughters but he just never let us know that society considered sons better than daughters!

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: Jonnelle Yankovich on Unsplash

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Asfiya Rahman, a management graduate, is a teacher by occupation and a writer by inclination.

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