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Sunday, May 23, 2010

About old posts, fathers, and other things

There was a post I put up more than three years ago titled How my world has changed, and I have got very few satisfactory (informative, thought-provoking…) comments on it yet, though it aimed to stimulate thinking in various different directions. Now that I have so many readers, I ask them once more: do please visit it, and reflect, and let me have the benefit of your reactions - after you have gone carefully through the comments already there.

As anyone who knows me (or at least has been following this blog closely for some time) will realize, fatherhood, and more broadly, parenting, is an issue that is perennially close to my heart. I also keep lamenting that of late so many parents – even if they know their real responsibilities, which is not a common thing in this country – delegate them by and large to servants, schools and tutors, imagining that spending money lavishly on their children is all they need to do. Worse still, countless children are growing up before my eyes thinking that that is indeed true, and the best parents are those who either scold all the time or indulge their every material whim – sometimes both together ( I have met a great many like that myself)!

Contrast this with the attitude of Barack Obama, whom I deeply admire as a father (look it up on the Net).  It so happens that this man is also the current President of the United States. Unlike so many fathers I know, he doesn’t claim he is too busy to take an active, sympathetic, helpful part in the growing up of his children; instead, he publicly laments that he has been an ‘imperfect’ father. And, writing from the White House, he also asserts that good parenting is fundamental to making a better society: we cannot hope for good results by foisting our failures as parents on either schools or the police or the church or the Net. Also, note that not once does he say that being a good parent means merely providing a comfortable and irresponsible childhood to his wards and ensuring that they ‘study hard’ in order to get a job. At the same time he (following in the breathtaking tradition supposedly set by Lincoln. As any sensible reader will understand, it doesn't matter one whit, of course, whether it was really Lincoln himself who wrote that letter) asserts that the task is infinitely more difficult, because the real goals are so infinitely harder to reach!

I should like some of my readers to assure me, after having read this post (and the links) very carefully, that their fathers did their job really well. A good father doesn't sermonize, snoop and boss; nor does he hold himself aloof: he is a friend who teaches by example - solving sums, telling stories, cleaning the toilet, playing games with his child. He doesn't molly-coddle, but he is always there when his child needs him. He has some genuine ideals (meaning those which he won't instantly desert the moment they get him into trouble). And he practises anything that he preaches, whether it is hard work or punctuality or not spreading malicious gossip. Remember also that they clearly said in the Aamir Khan starrer Rang de basanti that the least children can do is to find out how their fathers made their money before they decide whether to be proud or ashamed of such fathers! Leaking question papers for example, and awarding 'grace' marks for a consideration - is that okay as long as it pays for the childrens' frequent trips to the restaurant? Or prescribing quite unnecessary tests as a doctor, because the clinics pay commission on them? Or asking for 'cut money' in return for sanctioning building projects, as public engineers and administrators habitually do? Or simply sleeping at work, as so many dads do in this country? Why don't the kids go and look at them in the office sometimes?

Meanwhile, I am trying as a constant daily practice to ensure that I can respect and live up to such standards for my own daughter, because I have taught her already to be very critical of everybody, daddy included, and not to be ignorantly and easily proud…


Suvro Chatterjee said...

No comments in four days. Struck a lot of people uncomfortably dumb, have I? Ha ha!

And if some people fume at my 'holier than thou' attitude, I plead guilty as accused: I have tried to stay cleaner (if that's the same thing as being holy!) than most people I know, I have paid a heavy price for it, and I am indeed proud that I have proved it can be done even in this day and age, if only one has a bit of something called moral fibre... why should all those who lack it get angry at being regarded as inferior beings, especially seeing that I reserve all my contempt for those who desperately desire my admiration for their so-called 'success'? Why should success be so easy, and so cheap?

Rajdeep said...

Now your blog looks great and it is soothing to the eyes. Thanks for putting a background for the script. Now it is easier to read. And blue is a good choice. After all, The Blue Planet documentary is used in some countries as a substitute for anesthesia.

You had introduced the movie Rang de Basanti a few years back. I liked it after watching it last year.

Parenting is an interesting subject, but since I am not a parent, I would refrain from commenting. It is good to learn about parenting.

apu said...

I know this is a bit of an old post, but I found it pretty interesting, so thought I'd leave a note here. Do agree that if the President of the US can make time for his daughters, anyone can. Gone are the days when fathers did not even know what class their children studied in. I am fortunate to have a dad who was (and is) far more involved in my life than what I have seen with many of my contemporaries - and involved not in a 'telling you what to do' kind of way but truly involved.

However, one grouse I have is that I still see many fathers who are all involved when it comes to 'intellectual' or fun aspects such as teaching the child, playing with her etc but are only too willing to hand over the boring parts of the job such as making the child eat or cleaning up, to the mom!

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Ah, but the way males are brought up in this country, Apu, taught to sneer at manual work of any kind and be proud of their incompetence, that is not likely to happen anytime soon!... and whom would you blame for that but females in the shape of doting mothers?

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Somebody just wrote to say he doesn't believe that a person who sleeps at work cannot be a good father. Remembering that I said a major part of a parent's work is setting good examples (and never preaching what he does not practise), and that good parenting is fundamental to making a good society, what do my other readers think about this observation?

Shilpi said...

What?! Somebody actually said that? I can't help laughing. For some reason this reminds me of that little incident where the woman in the clothes store not only tried those clothes that were not meant for her but also kept yelling about having loads of black money! Jeez.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Two proverbs will suffice here - truth is stranger than fiction, and it takes all kinds to make a world!

By the way, nobody has yet responded to the request in the first paragraph of this post.

Suvro Sarkar said...

Dear Sir, had missed this post before. But better late than never. You touched a chord here. I think I've been lucky enough to have parents who have done their job exceedingly well in setting an example. I hope when it is my time, I will be able to follow their example as well. I know it is a very difficult task and I am already quite apprehensive about it all.

I actually have a post dedicated to my father:


and I can proudly say that I've never seen my father veer from his ideals, and as a result, also seen him suffer the indignity of seeing lesser scruplous mortals getting promoted at work much earlier than him. I've also had the opportunity of going and looking at him in office every day for two months (when I was doing a summer internship at the steel plant), and the love and adoration I received from the technical staff and foremen on the factory floors by virtue of being "Sarkar-dar chhele" convinced me that you need not be the Executive Director of the company to be successful, as long as you have done your job honestly and with integrity.

Thanks for the post, Sir. While I am concerned that many fathers in our generation will turn out to be lousy, what about the new age mothers?


Suvro Chatterjee said...

My deepest regards to your father, Suvro, that his son can bravely write like that about him after reading my post. Notice how few have done the same! I hope and pray that my daughter can do likewise for me a few decades down the line: there can be few higher ambitions.

And as for the mothers-to-be, from what I see of my female pupils growing into adulthood, the less said the better. It is not an accident that so many of my old boys are stepping into their thirties without getting married.

Rashmi Datta said...

Dear Sir,
Parenting is a subject extremely close to my heart too and I constantly ponder over it.I too believe that good parenting is fundamental to turning children into honest,hardworking,confident,kind and able men and women which consequently makes a better society. And bringing up children by setting good examples is the only way to do it.That makes parenting an arduous task where each and every action of the parent affects the child in one way or the other.
But,from what I see,parenting in India is known to very few,even as a term.Most married couples turn into parents either by accident or because of societal pressure or just because everyone does so.As true motherhood or fatherhood never really appeals to them,they take pleasure and satisfaction in showing off their children to their friends,relatives,colleauges and anyone who would care to listen to them-"my daughter is born extremely fair" or " my son has beautiful green eyes" or "my child tops in his school"/"studies in IIT "/"works abroad"... and the list continues. Alas,I have heard so few parents saying that they are proud of their children because they are honest or kind or don't follow the herd blindly.I have suffered this pain myself.
Parents also seem to look at their children as 'my-unfulfilled-dreams-fulfillers'. I have heard some of the most ridiculous reasons for which kids are made to study a particular course - one of Sayan's students wanted to become a doctor because his father run a nursing home while another person I know was forced to take up arts because no one in her family ever did! Children at this point have two choices-either buckle under their parents' expectations and forever suffer inwardly (which ultimately distracts them to noise, cars and mobiles ,pornography and drugs) or fight back, adhering to one's passions and live a satisfied life but in the process lose the 'trust' of their parents.I personally believe only lazy,dishonest and weak people choose the former option .People who choose the latter are however left with a scarred childhood and initially suffer from bouts of depression.This however does not seem to bother the 'loving and affectionate' parents even a bit.
As for the person who thought sleeping in the office could not make one a bad father,it is no surprise that I see such few kids who are ready to work hard and be honest and sincere towards their job.They learn ,from their first teachers (parents), to take shortcuts and then either lie or give lame excuses.
Sir,the effort you have been ceaselessly giving for the past thirteen years to be an ideal father shows in your daughter's blog very clearly.She is not only intellegent and is able to identify the right from the wrong but also debates and handles criticism better than people much older than her. She also seems to inherit the gift to expresses herself beautifully from you.I have always wondered how you could do this in these awful times.May your tribe increase comes the prayer from the depths my heart.