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A father is a daughter’s first love and hero. Two Indian women share their beautiful father-daughter relationship with us.
By Hima Bindu
Remember the Dhara cooking oil ad of the “My Daddy Strongest” fame?
I have used the phrase a zillion times in my childhood. There was no work in the house, big or small, that my dad wouldn’t do. Right from changing tube lights to fixing leaky water taps to cementing the backyard, you name it and he has done it. He would walk a couple of kilometres each way to his work, every single day. Since he used to work as a lecturer, he would stand for hours on end. He would get the monthly groceries on his bicycle. He would play cricket and badminton with us. This was probably why it was not until my 8th grade that I realized that he has polio in one leg! And that, too, when I overheard one of my friends ask her mother why my dad walks with a limp.
Dad never made a big deal of the fact that he has polio. He has never asked for any special treatment because of his disability. He knew his limitations and accordingly set his goals in life. He grew up, not feeling sorry for himself, but by doing his best in life.
The way he carried himself has made a deep impact on my brother and me. We don’t treat differently-abled people ‘differently’; we don’t express sympathy or jump to help them. We know that there is nothing that they cannot achieve if they set their minds to it. Dad has taught us how to focus on ability rather than dwell on disability.
Dad is a man of few words. He is the peace-maker in the family. He is more a friend to us than a parent. When faced with any difficult situation in life, we know he will always be there to guide us in his gentle manner. There is no topic under the sun that is barred from dining table discussions.
I don’t remember a moment when he has treated me any different from my brother. And both of us, equally, are a source of his pride.
When dad moved from teaching to administration in his profession, he was always under pressure to do ‘underhand’ tasks. But he never budged and he would get transferred frequently to far-flung places. This did not deter him from standing up for his principles.
I grew up at a time when “Care For The Girl Child” campaigns were gaining ground in India. I don’t remember a moment when he has treated me any different from my brother. And both of us, equally, are a source of his pride. Even now, while most fathers of his generation flinch from staying at their daughters’ house, he is cool with it. And this is what I admire about him the most!
Now, at 67, he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Those hands, that could set right all the troubles in our lives, shake; they cannot hold steady the much-loved cup of coffee. The person, who used to walk 3-4 kilometres a day effortlessly, now finds it difficult to carry himself in the house. But he still is as steady as the northern star, as unwavering in his faith in himself as I have always known him to be. As witty as ever, his favourite joke now is that it is easier for him than my mother to prepare milk-shake for his grand-children!
From him, I have learnt that it is more important to have emotional strength than physical fitness. And life is about making the best of what you have. Yes, he still is “My Daddy Strongest”, my hero!
By Barnita De
My father was born into a middle class Bengali family in suburban Kolkata in 1930s. He was the fourth son of his parents. He lost his mother at the age of three, during the birth of his younger brother. My father was brought up by his father – a strict authoritarian, his elder brothers and a distant aunt. He did not have a pampered upbringing. His basic necessities were catered to but no one was there to show real affection. They also had phases of financial difficulties. On growing up, he realized that his dream of a higher education would have been distant, had his eldest brother not chipped in. My father was a proud mechanical engineer from the Bengal Engineering College.
Coming from such a background, he had amazing ideals and beliefs. He gave more importance to work ethics than the mechanisms of how to please seniors. He retired as a Deputy General Manager while his contemporaries achieved higher positions. Always a disciplined and the morally upright person, he was very clear about right and wrong. He would never bribe anyone; work always had to be done the “right” way – even if the right way was long-winded. Right from childhood he inculcated these values in us.
What amazed us (more so now) was his attitude towards his daughters. We were two sisters and both were the apple of his eye. He simply treasured us. He wanted us to be educated and independent – marriage could come later. He considered standing up for our rights to be important. We grew up to be independent women, with self confidence and pride in our values.
We were two sisters and both were the apple of his eye. He simply treasured us. He wanted us to be educated and independent – marriage could come later.
Maybe he knew the future because we would need all of that when the cruel hands of fate snatched him away from us. My sister had just started working while I was still in university. He was diagnosed with cancer and within 3 months, all was over. From a life unimaginable without him, we were only three of us – all women. Society does not look gently towards such women-only families. It considers them vulnerable and easy prey. And that gave us the impetus, to stand up and show that we are not the “abala naaris”.
We where clear that my mother will not perform any of the horrible rituals that some women are asked to perform. Being daughters we would not deny our father the complete final rites. My sister performed all of it, politely turning down requests from the rest of the family to let a male member perform. We were educated and we would be earning a living; others had no right to dictate to us. We did have our run-ins with members of our extended family, but that was OK. We did not burn any bridges but unwanted advice and gestures were refused.
It has been 17 years since my father passed away. Each and every thing he taught us and imbibed in us is very much present. Whenever I feel emotionally weak, I think of him and ask him to give me confidence. It works! I remember when we had first moved to this city; I used to be apprehensive of driving in this chaotic traffic. One day I took the plunge – just thinking that my father was in the back seat gave me enough confidence to drive in peak traffic!
I also have two daughters. I only hope and pray that I too will be able to inculcate the same values in them and make them strong, independent women.
My father – my idol and my hero. If I can be a fraction of what he was, I will be proud to be my father’s daughter.
*Photo credits: Carin & Wonders777.
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