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Soumya Bhattacharya’s Dad’s The Word is a self-indulgent personal account of fatherhood, joining the league of parenting books from India.
By Rohini Haldea
Reviewing books is something that I usually stay away from and ploughing through Soumya Bhattacharya’s Dad’s The Word reminded me exactly why. Firstly, reading time and space is at a premium in my current situation and I like to save it up for books that I can really savour and enjoy and this book definitely did not fall into this category. Which brings me to my second point of discomfort with reviewing books – the necessity of being brutally honest about the ones I don’t like, on a public forum where an author could chance upon it and have his feelings hurt, especially on something as incredibly personal as his memoirs of fatherhood.
I was looking forward to reading Dad’s The Word. Talking, reading and writing about the experience of motherhood has become fairly commonplace and there are books galore that cover almost every aspect of parenting, from breastfeeding to discipline and everything in between. But it is rare to hear a father’s voice talking about the journey of raising his kids and the odd daddy blog that I have come across has been American. So I was hoping for this book to offer a refreshing perspective.
To start with, I was somewhat disappointed to find that the book was essentially a compilation of a column the author used to write in a national newspaper. And maybe if I had had the pleasure of reading the column every week hot off the press as it were, I might have enjoyed it more than I enjoyed it as a collection in a book. Instead, I found the column-turned-chapters too short to be engaging and the jumps between chapters disconcertingly jerky.
When I read a book about parenting, I expect to be able to see flashes of insight in there about the parenting process that seem universal and yet uniquely expressed – which make me identify with the author’s words and find parallels to my own experiences and emotions. On this count, I found this book sorely lacking but that could be either because I am a parent from the wrong gender to be reading this book or maybe because the numerous sports analogies and incidents don’t do anything for me.
I am not saying that I have to agree with a parenting book to enjoy it. A case in point would be Amy Chua’s controversial Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother. I did not agree with most of what she wrote but it was an enjoyable read nonetheless because it got me thinking, even if just to disagree with her. Bhattacharya’s mini-chapters, on the other hand, don’t dwell on any subject or incident long enough to build any kind of pace or provide adequate material as food for thought.
Some of the columns (sorry, chapters) also came across as somewhat pretentious to me. I felt in some places, the point the author was trying to make was less about insights or accounts of parenting and more about highlighting his taste for Japanese art cinema, classical literature or high art, amongst other things.
The book did have its redeeming moments though. There are disarming flashes of an involved, devoted father who clearly adores his daughter and is fascinated with the minutiae of her childhood. I also admired his successful attempts to get his daughter to share his interests (sports, for one) rather than compartmentalise their lives. There are also refreshing bits of honesty when he lets the reader see him through the eyes of his daughter, especially her disappointment at his inability to give up smoking or when she feels she has outsmarted him.
Overall, I have to say, I did not enjoy the book despite my initial fancy for reading about the parenting experience from the other side of the gender fence. They might have worked as a column, or blog posts but as a compilation in a book to be read at a single stretch, it left me wanting. The search for an engaging book on the fatherhood experience continues.
Publishers: Westland Books
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