An Ode to Fathers

My second column here is dedicated to fathers. I mean specifically to address them after Father’s Day, the perfect Hallmark and Archie occasion to cash in on sentiment (‘Father, you are my guiding light through the dark ..”, with  a pair of glasses and a fountain pen on the cover). As much as I dislike factory-manufactured emotions and ‘dedicated’ days, it’s a shame to realise that if it wasn’t for Father’s Day, we’d have few occasions to celebrate our dads.
Which is weird, because we have plenty of them to celebrate mothers. So many things stand as a testament to the love between mums and their kids. Madonna and Child, a dozen Mother and Child paintings by the likes of Van Gogh, Picasso and Da Vinci, and Julia Roberts’ ‘Step mom’ are a testament to a mother’s love throughout the ages.

Yet no one really gives dads their dues often enough. Which doesn’t mean that we don’t love our fathers, we just don’t say it often enough. Or know how to say it. The stereotypical dad is stern, works long hours and issues commands which the soft-spoken mom tries intervene in favour of her offspring. However, I don’t think that Hindi movies should stereotype our dads, especially when we’re so proud of exclaiming that real life and reel life are nothing alike.

It was never easy to decipher dads, because I feel that all good mothers are essentially the same. However, fathers get to be different, the ‘villain’ dad, the indulgent dad, the fun dad and the pushy dad. Yet I do believe that all good dads have great intentions for their kids. Mothers may be more demonstrative about their affection, but I believe that fathers represent more in their children’s lives than just a pair of glasses, a fountain pen and the occasional warning about doing better in life.

Perhaps that’s what Mrs. John Dodd was thinking when she proposed the idea of Father’s Day in 1909, to honour her own, William Smart, who raised six kids as a single parent after her mother died in childbirth. It was in 1966, before American President Lyndon Johnson made it an official day in the third week of June.  And it’s allowed all the greeting card companies to now make it an opportunity to spend money to buy ready-made feelings. I think that every father needs more than one day a year to be thanked and to be told that their love and sacrifice for their families is appreciated, that the time spent away from us doesn’t make them less close to us and that though we may not show it, we love them and respect them.

So, my column this week is dedicated to all the great dads, embodied in reality and the movies. To the George Banks dad of ‘Father of the Bride’ fame, protective of his only daughter yet ultimately resigned to the fact that she’s all grown up. To the ‘Wake Up Sid’-like dad who is tough on his kids only because he wants them to live up to their potential. To the dad like mine, who lives and works out of the country for half the year so that his children may have the best of everything he want them to have. And to all great dads, who stand testament to the fact that emotions not shown are rarely emotions not felt.

Vrinda Manocha

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