Papa, Abba, Baba, Pitaji, Appa – call them what you will – fathers are a difficult species to understand. Of the dualistic – mom-dad – influence in our lives, fathers are often the more serious half.
Think of dad and it invokes – fear, nervousness and in most cases, frustration.
When I began to pen down this article for Father’s Day, I thought of how my father has been a friend, a confidant and my rock. How he quietly sacrificed so much for my education and happiness. And though, even I faced the same amount of anxiety and frustration when my views clashed with my Baba, I know now how it has shaped my life, my nature.
This train of thought led me to talk to five other extraordinary fathers who broke norms, swapped roles, and stood up against society for their children.
Here are a few priceless pieces of advice these fathers are willing to share with their kids.
Manoj Kumar Gupta – The Father Who Smashed Gender Norms With Three Words
“In my opinion, humans are an embodiment of errors. The best policy is to accept and learn from your mistakes and move ahead in life. I always regretted not studying further. I do not want my kids to repeat the same mistake. I have tried to ensure that both my daughter and my son get the best possible education. I want them to be educated and well-established in life, and carry on the trend with their own kids,” says Gupta.
Recently, Ludhiana-based businessman Manoj Kumar Gupta earned nationwide accolades after he broke the gender stereotype by christening his pharmacy as ‘Gupta and Daughters’, a welcome change from the age-old practice of mentioning only ‘Sons’ in a business venture.
The father of Akansha and Roshan, Gupta claims to be deeply inspired by the ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ mission and decided to go ahead with his idea of ‘Gupta & Daughters’, despite facing some hindrance from relatives and friends. However, his action has been lauded far and wide across India.
Lahar Joshi – The Father Who Stayed Home For His Kids
“I want my kids to learn the importance of saving from a young age. I was quite a spendthrift in my younger years, and I have learnt this lesson the hard way. I want my children to learn to make a conscious effort to save everything – be it money or relationships,” says Lahar Joshi. He adds that he also wants his children to enjoy their school and college years, before the responsibilities and problems of adulthood set in.
“Today’s kids are under an enormous amount of pressure. But I want my kids to grow up with the freedom and fun that I enjoyed in my growing years. They should not be bogged down by academic pressure or anything.”
Father to four-year-old twin sons Ryu and Thorin, Lahar Joshi is another trailblazer who challenged patriarchy by being a stay-at-home parent. While his wife resumed her professional life, Lahar quit his cushy job to look after the babies and manage the house. And that included everything – from changing diapers to cooking and cleaning – tasks usually consigned to women.
In a society stapled with strict gender roles, Lahar Joshi is a true role model.
Rajesh Shah – The Father Who Doubled Up As The Mother
“Over attachment with anyone binds you and makes it too difficult to move on. I want to pass on my selfless love [to my kids] but also want to teach them to be independent and free from attachments, become self-sufficient,” muses Rajesh Shah, when asked about the mistake he did not want his children to repeat.
The Ahmedabad-based widower father raised a son and a daughter single-handedly after their mother passed away from liver cirrhosis. Battling a heartbreak, Shah continued to execute his responsibilities diligently – without ever letting his children feel the absence of a mother in their lives. His poignant story of stepping into the dual shoes and shouldering the duties of both the parents continues to inspire many.
“Perhaps mom’s place can never be replaced, but our father did everything he could to never let us feel that absence. It didn’t have to be like that but he chose us over his own grief. Everything we are today, it is because of that,” shares his daughter Shaili.
Mahesh Jadhav – The Father To Children Whom Nobody Wanted
“I do not want my kids to repeat the same mistake their biological parents made,” says Mahesh Jadhav, who has adopted 55 HIV-positive children abandoned by their parents. “My kids are completely aware of their condition,” says the doting 33-year-old who wants them to live their life to the fullest despite the ailment. “I want them to be responsible in their own lives, and help spread awareness in the society as well.”
It began when at 21, Mahesh Jadhav from Karnataka came across Rupesh, a four-year-old child with HIV, who was ostracised and abandoned by his family. After endless failed attempts to find him a caring home, Mahesh decided to adopt him himself. Observing the drastic change in Rupesh’s health under his care and love, Mahesh decided to become a father to more kids like Rupesh. By the end of the year, he had adopted 55 HIV-positive kids.
Today, he manages ‘Mahesh Foundation’ – a loving abode for these children who are growing up with proper education, healthcare and all necessary facilities. Mahesh has even opened a school for his kids and others like him who were shunned by educational institutions over their HIV-positive status.
Bathirasamy – The Father Who Battled All Odds To Fulfil His Son’s Dream
“I never had the opportunity to access education. My parents worked hard to fill our stomachs, which was the main priority. Education was not important. Though I earn only enough to bring food to the table, I would never let my son forgo education. I have done a lot and I would do anything to support my son’s education because his future should not be the same as mine,” asserts Bathirasamy, who persevered through a series of struggles to help his son pursue higher education, and earn a PhD in Economics.
For 28 long years, he has worked at countless odd jobs – from waiting tables to washing utensils – saving every penny to educate his only child Viji, after his firstborn daughter passed away at the age of five. Respecting his father’s honour, Viji B has proudly earned a Doctorate and is presently working as a professor.
It was indeed inspiring to talk to these dads. And by the end of my interviews, I came to the realisation that – “Learning from mistakes” – was the common answer binding these amazing fathers.
It is true that our fathers are caught between two worlds – the norms that they grew up with and the current “smashing-stereotypes” generation. I believe all they need is some time to adjust, and they come around, in fact, they go forward and do better.
We have to understand that fathers are humans too, they make mistakes and luckily, most learn from them.
This Father’s Day, talk to your father.
Find out what his dreams were, how he felt when he saw us making our mistakes, what troubles him? It’s time for us to connect with the silent protectors in our lives, watching our every step, loving us just as much as our mothers do in their own quiet way.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)