My Father Prepared Me For LIFE, Not For ‘Marriage’ Like Most Indian Girls Are…

Today, I have seen the world all around me and I know and understand that not all daughters are as fortunate as me.

Some day-to-day conversations while growing up make a deep impact on us. This certainly did, for me; I still remember it very clearly in my mind.

“Amma, why don’t you iron my school uniform? All my friends’ mothers do it for them…” I demanded from my mother. Before my mother answered, my father called me aside and asked me “Why do you expect that your mother should do it?”

I must have been 13 years old. An age where peer group influence is very prominent.

“Because none of my friends do it. It is their mothers who do it” I repeated.

It was the early nineties. The sacrificial mother who toiled all day for her kids was glorified everywhere including in schools where children bragged about how their mother was the best because she did so much for them.

My mother chose to be a homemaker and did a lot for me and my brother but she and my father also made sure that we were not pampered and did our fair share of work.

“You are in upper school and old enough to do your own tasks. This expectation that your mother should do everything for you is wrong. Why should she, when you are fully capable of doing it?” my father asked in his gentle voice. He never raised his voice on his kids, but talked to us logically and in a friendly manner whenever any issues cropped up.

“But why can’t she do it? I have school work too…” I sulked.

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“Then learn to be independent and manage time. Everyone has only 24 hours… It is not your mother’s job to take care of you, when you can take care of yourself…” It was my sensible father again.

So, my brother and I not only ironed our clothes but also washed our plates, cleaned up after meal time and did small household tasks. But, I also had a tendency to laze around and skip work which made me angry that day.

I realise only now how my father had been ahead of his times

Looking back at this 30-year old conversation with today’s woke lens, I am surprised at how ahead of his time my father always has been.

I know that he took my mother’s side that day not just because she was his wife, but because he didn’t like or encourage entitled behaviour, even when it came from a daughter. He stressed on being humble and grounded and always lead by example. I remember this incident even to this day because, it sowed in my mind, the seeds of equality and respect; and also the fact that mothers don’t need to bend over backwards to accommodate their children’s needs.

I had a very gender-neutral upbringing. My father gave me immense freedom but also taught me about being responsible. He encouraged me to travel alone, learn driving, learn handling finances and also to think and take important decisions independently.

He invested in my education, and encouraged me to decide what career

He regularly shattered gender-stereotypes. I was the first girl in my family to take up a professional career and he whole-heartedly supported me.

In India, daughters are often seen as a liability. But he didn’t hesitate to take bank loan to fund my education. He supported my education in every way, yet when it came to deciding what professional course I should take up, he gave me complete freedom to choose. “If I choose on your behalf, you may not feel like giving it your one hundred percent. So I want this to be completely your decision” he told me with a smile.

As of today, I have seen the world all around me and I know and understand that not all daughters are as fortunate as me. Let me tell you another example from my life.

He prepared me for life, not for ‘marriage’ like most Indian girls

I wasn’t too keen to learn cooking and my parents never insisted on it. But one day, when my mother was in a bad mood, she reprimanded me, “What will you do after marriage if you don’t learn cooking?”

“Why are you linking cooking and marriage?” asked my father, who overheard our conversation asked her. “I agree she has to learn cooking, but not because she needs the skill after marriage but because it is a life skill required for survival,” my father told her gently. He continued “What if she never gets married? Then is there no need to learn cooking?”

I smiled hearing his words. He was still speaking to my mother.

“Don’t say anything that gives her the impression that marriage is hard and she should be prepared for it. It is not true. Marriage is a healthy give and take…”

“But shouldn’t she understand what is going to be expected of her at some point?” my mother voiced her concerns.

“It is not our duty to prepare her for marriage. It is our duty to prepare her for life ahead. You and I cannot foresee her future. But if we teach her basic life skills and give her confidence, she will survive anywhere…”

His words reverberate in my mind even now!! He has always had this crystal clear thinking and an impeccable sense of right and wrong.

He never took me or his power over me as a father, for granted

So I blindly trusted him with my marriage. He understood me better than I understood myself. But even then, he did not take me for granted.

“What are your expectations about your life partner? When do you want to get married, at what age?” he asked me directly. We still have a camaraderie of best friends and I can discuss anything freely and openly with him even now, so I had no hesitation back then discussing my marriage with him. I spoke at length about what my expectations were from marriage and my father respected my opinion and gave his inputs whenever needed.

I opted willingly for an arranged marriage and my “yes” and my happiness were of paramount importance to him. Even after marriage, I could easily discuss everything with him. From marital discord to toddler troubles, he has been always there for me.

How many girls in India get this kind of unconditional support system?

When I try to understand what makes him so kind, sensitive and empathetic, I realise that it is just that he has immense respect and understanding towards another human being which makes him shun discrimination of any kind. (Gender-based, caste-based, racial). He is also very grounded and has no ego issues. He does a lot of household work, and has no problem making a cup of coffee either for his daughter or his daughter-in-law. He knows how to cook and also to meticulously take care of his grandchildren.

I look all around me and realise that men like him are rare and fathers like him, even rarer. There is a lot of discussion about patriarchy and sexism in today’s world but my father has always lead a life that has defied both, silently, in his own way.

His motto in life has been very simple- to be a good human being. He has shown us, his children, that discrimination happens only when one human being does not treat another with respect, understanding and empathy.

“Don’t say anything to anyone that you don’t want to hear, don’t do anything that you don’t want others to do to you” he has always told me. I understand now that his wisdom comes from years of life-well-lived.

He has never let the societal biases cloud his thinking or social conditioning to impact his parenting. Even now, I constantly look up to him for inspiration, guidance and support.

For a daughter, could there ever be a better gift than a father like this?

Image source: a still from the series Dahaad

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About the Author

Soumya Bharathi

Writer| Poet| Self-published author| Oral Surgeon| A woman who believes that subtlety is strength, feminine is formidable, beauty is in benevolence and vulnerability is validation of strength of character. For more read www.soumyabharathi. read more...

13 Posts | 47,164 Views

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