“See, I got a cup. You’ve got so many cups na? Now, I got mine”, declared my 6 year old daughter solemnly, with a serious demeanour, holding up the memento she’d received, emphatically challenging her dad. Recently she was also awarded a ‘Star of the Week’ certificate in her school, as an overall best performer during that week, but the memento was her first one of a kind that could be put up on display, alongside her dad’s trophies.
A classical dance student of a reputed Institute, for over six months now, she’s already participated in two stage performances. All kids are very well trained by their dance teacher, for each time they’re on stage they display a remarkable confidence and zeal. It’s difficult to miss their vibrancy and excitement that’s impactful. After the performance, as we proceeded towards the lunch area, congratulations from unknown audience kept pouring in. We couldn’t help check feelings of pride when we’d watched her fearlessly glide through the dance floor.
My husband too carries his own brand of savoir faire in certain extracurricular activities. Apart from his multiple financial qualifications, he’s been a university level chess-player (which he’d voluntarily quit years ago upon his mother’s advise, to pursue his professional qualifications), a skilled carrom and an interested cricket player. Chess has however remained his favourite stress-buster, at all times, for he needs no reason to enter the online game zone, anywhere, anytime of the day. Of late, he’d been participating and also winning some local tournaments including the ones held in his office and our daughter has been a witness to the excitements that flood the home, when those cups and medals arrive, a display of which has been lined up in our living room.
“See, I’ll get two more cups this year which I’ll give you”, he smilingly countered her.
He then turned towards me saying, “Looking at the way she’s motivated, I’m only getting more inspired to play and also make sure I win.”
“I will get a bigger cup next time”, the little one retorted defiantly.
After a while, as both of us (myself and daughter) were alone, loitering around, taking pics of her with the memento that was handed over to every participant, she threw me a question:
“Mamma, you want my cup or daddy’s cup?”
I was surprised at her question. Who wouldn’t want both the child and the spouse to keep winning?
“Of course, both.” I promptly replied.
“You want both?”, she squealed with laughter that beheld amazement.
“Ok which one you want me to choose?”, I tried her out in another way.
“Mamma, you take mine.”, she replied.
“Alright, I’ll take yours.” And with that I closed the matter to her satisfaction.
When I narrated this conversation to my hubby, he was astonished and happy as well, at the healthy competitive spirit she seemed to be developing.
“I’ll try to teach her chess, when she grows up a little bigger, though I really don’t know if she has the patience for it.”, he stated hopefully.
30 years back
We grew up in an era where art was least of the priorities and local classes, (forget any institute) were sparse.
Towards the end of secondary schooling I noticed how a class-mate, after undergoing training in classical music for several years, sang eminently. Inspired by her, I asked my parents to enrol me in a music class (I was never particularly interested in dance) which they immediately did. But I was soon to realise that with the challenge of the state board exams coming up next year, music pursuit was not going to be my cup of tea. I took a sensible decision to drop it and look at pursuing it in the future. Years passed. Though music always remained my passion I’d stepped back, for my priorities had got clearer as they are even today. I got to know later that my dad had also learnt music for a couple of years before marriage, during his twenties. Clearly, there’s no age bar to learning. Only one’s interest matters.
My dad was a paradox of several qualities. Having come from the old school of thoughts, he was quite an old-fashioned guy, with simple needs, adaptable, god-fearing and a spiritual minded person. Never really ambitious, he approached his life with a kind of strong common sense, confidence and resilience that largely composed of peace and acceptance of situations. He believed in living his life with decent attitudes, clean habits, keeping himself low-key, helping those in need wherever possible, staying open-minded, grounded and humble. As far as his children were concerned, he was a disciplinarian and strict to the core. As opposed to him, coming from the generation we did, we were quite forward in our thinking, though it was difficult to give a pass to some of the unsolicited spiritual doctrines (which at times sounded slightly patriarchal too) he would keep uttering.
I would oppose him when he would tell me “Girls getting highly educated often pose a problem to their husband and in-laws.” but would follow him, when he would ask me to recite the Vishnu Sahasranama, whenever I am tensed about my exam results, for meditation certainly reduced my stress. In effect, I’d end up following his ways without ever giving up my goals.
Often, I’d be miffed by his persistent advise on matters where he held a view different from mine, but how could I ever miss out the silent support that unfailingly stood, whenever I wanted it. Planning was never important to him whereas for me it was completely otherwise. He would respect and allow my need for freedom and space but the overprotection was never ruled out. After all, he was an emotional guy inside, though most of the times, he would keep his emotions wrapped up under the garb of sobriety.
At a time when families did not allow their daughters to wear jeans to college, he brought me my very first pair of jeans during an occasion of Diwali. I always knew that he was secretly proud of me, my accomplishments and the kind of child I was to them.
We would have long discourses on spirituality vs necessities of life. While I would tune in to his thoughts in many respects, I would also not step back from convincing him into the modern age needs and ways and for that matter, my own priorities, however far off they were, from my dad’s ideologies. He would understand and harmonise, though at times it was quite a process to make him do so.
Household chores in our home were never gender specific, for with a working mom and two children, dad had to pitch in to cook whenever mom had not returned from her office. He would bathe us when we were children, teach us our lessons and oh! how diligently he’d do the laundries as well!!! As they say, actions speak louder than words. Irrespective of the tenets, the roles he donned within the house became integral to our upbringing, while setting our expectations of a man. At an age, as small as my daughter, I remember, once when some relatives happened to visit us, I went across to my dad, telling him without a qualm, “Appa, I’m hungry”, especially when my mom stood next to him. For us, it meant nothing as that was something we were habituated to. But it was my uncle who began laughing hard, making leg-pulling comments, “For the first time in life, I see children telling their dad they’re hungry, when usually it’s the mom whom they go to.”
Today when I compare myself with my dad, I feel, without spelling it out, I am probably carrying many strengths and limitations that are just him. Albeit a little late, I did not miss out in my realisation that it was never ambition or money but peace and settlement that I’d always sought. Family and children have ever remained our priorities, for which we could get down to any level. Like him, I am grounded and understanding, albeit blessed with more foresight and thoughtfulness. Despite all my accomplishments, I have the innate ability to adapt, stay positive, face situations head-on, accept life for whatever it is and find my joy out of the simple things around me. Looking back, for all this, I find none other than my dad to credit, who has knowingly or unknowingly imparted these qualities through various of his advises, at different points of time.
Despite whatever retaliations, I know my daughter too, is unknowingly going to follow the beaten path, for it’s hard to miss, how much she’s influenced and inspired by her dad’s accomplishments. I now realise that defiance is a battle of the wits where we daughters do not want to submerge our individuality into subservience but at the same time would loyalty ever take a backseat? Because we are nothing but loyal followers of our parents in many ways. We arrive as a part of their world but end up making each other our worlds. Dads, on the other hand are amazed, secretly appreciate and even genuinely change, getting more inspired by our fiery spirits, despite whatever ideologies they come with.
I somehow feel that like me, my daughter’s going to be more of her dad than me and either way, I’d feel the same pride for her, as my parents have always felt for me and which is where lies our satisfaction.