The Indian Father

Every fathers’ day, you’ll see posts on Facebook saying how great a dad is. It’s no big deal; it’s just one day. Some people don’t mind just clicking the like button and moving on.

But I do.

Every time I come across a post like that, I feel annoyed. I don’t have any foreign friends, so here’s what my Indian friends post:

father and daughter

The capitalized ‘K’ and the simplified ‘p’ will vary, but — you get the idea. I take one look at these posts, and I’m like, “What the hell’s that supposed to mean?”

Is that supposed to impress your father? I know it won’t impress my father and lot others’ too — from what I’ve seen.

Here’s how a typical Indian, or rather South Indian father would react: “What do you mean ‘I will find my prince?’ Does that mean that the right to choose a good man to take care of you doesn’t rest with us anymore?” — Fathers’ diction sounds awfully funny in a blog post, but that’s how they say it. Particularly when it comes to ‘lifelong commitment.’

OK, I’m no princess, so I’ll leave the prince and king alone. Let’s talk normal daughter’s life and arguments with her father. Here’s a regular day’s conversation.

When I want to go out with my friends, I have two options:

  • Not tell my father, and feel guilty.
  • Get his permission and go happily.

Yes, I have to ask him. Even though I’m twenty, my parents are responsible for me until I get married, after which the husband will take over the position. (I know, what a whole load of crap!)

So, here’s me asking for permission.

“Pa, I want to go out with my friends.”

He’ll look up at me, real slow. Our eyes meet. He heaves a sigh, (nope. Not exaggerating) and then asks, “Do you really, absolutely, have to go? Besides, can’t you go on another day? It’s already late…”

By the time he finishes, he thinks that he’s convinced me not to go. And unless you want a big row and a lot of racket that’s bound to wake your neighbours, who will later advise you on how wrong it is to go out with friends after 5, you’d rather cancel the plan. Or just your plan; your friends will still go without you. Never mind that they lied to their parents, never mind that their parents are miraculously not like yours. You’re just not going.

It’s your life. Deal with it.

Here’s the hardest part: you can’t completely blame the fathers. Being a father of a girl isn’t easy. Not in a place like India. You have to take a lot of bullshit, and it’s hard not to conform to society.

Here, we still have a society that considers a girl child as a pain. No, they love to have a daughter. Most people even keep their girl babies nowadays; killing is slowly being forgotten. You’ll even see cases where parents hope for a girl child.

But girls are also an added responsibility. According to our society, a girl brings out the best in a father. He’ll take on responsibilities, and try to prove the differences between a father and a dad.

All these are just what the society expects of a man when he becomes a girl’s father.

The father doesn’t ask for these expectations. Neither does the daughter. But everyone expects that, because that’s what real gentlemen do. They pamper their daughters and help them in life. It starts with homework, goes on to the subject she chooses in high school, and finally ends with the person she marries. That’s how a father should act.

Society laughs at any father who lets his daughter experiment in life, or something like this: “How can you let your daughter go trekking alone with her friends? There’ll be boys, how can you be sure she’s safe?”

That’s enough for anyone to panic, and my father is a simple man. So wherever I go, he needs me to call him back once I’ve safely locked myself inside the house.

Safety is a big issue, and it isn’t just in fathers’ heads. It’s in the news as well. Girls abducted, harassed and raped randomly, throughout the country. No place is safe. Not Delhi, not Bangalore, not Chennai. If metropolitan cities are bad, then there’s no asking what’s going on in small towns and villages.

That’s why fathers are so overprotective. And it just breaches the father-daughter relationship. Any daughter will be disappointed with her father when he deprives her the freedom she deserves. Being a girl, and knowing the outside world isn’t safe enough, is just depressing.

So a father’s next best option would be to get her married off as soon as possible. As much painful as it is, fathers and society look at it as a way of ‘ridding the responsibility of taking care of a girl.’

Society to the aid. Again! “How much dowry can you afford for your daughter?”

Oh yeah, because sending a girl over to your house to serve your family is just isn’t good enough as gold.

A lot of fathers just convince themselves against the dowry argument. “It’s our tradition. Don’t think of it as dowry, think of it as a contingency plan. Your daughter can use this money when she urgently needs it.”

Poor fathers. They just give in to society’s pressures, and end up a disappointment, even to the daughters they gave up so much for.

Any non-Indian fathers out there? Tell us how life’s like for you. I’m curious.


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