Dear dads…

The idea is not to ignore the feelings of mothers or belittle their role. The pangs, pleasures and pains that parenting presents are shared. This is just a male perspective of a father’s relationship with daughters. Call it a personal point of view.

Swathi’s gruesome murder is the most recent provocation. So is the suicide of a girl in Salem after her morphed pictures were posted by some mischief monger on Facebook and her repeated plaints to police yielded zero sympathy and succour. In the first case the father drops his daughter at the railway station little knowing that his daily routine will end that day. In the second, the father lets his distressed daughter off his watch for just a short while and she ceases to exist.

Gone are the days when children grew and were groomed under the protective shades of the parents and the larger family. But while today’s young birds fly from the nest at the first op, of which there is no dearth in this career-driven modern world, the protective instincts of the parents actually escalate. Here, out of sight makes parents go out of their minds. However, such anxieties find expression in different ways in a mother and father. And of course, intersect too.

Son is not secondary; in any case, doting mothers more than compensate. Again, mother-daughter relationship is something I prefer to keep off. However, from personal experience and observation, I can say this much, though not with absolute authority. A mother’s concern manifests as counsel on matters ‘cultural’ and the risks associated with venturing out in what is still unfortunately a ‘man’s world’. Feminists agitate for what should be, but mothers recognise what is and advise accordingly. Even so-called modern moms strike a note of caution to their out-going daughters. That is as politically correct as I can get.

A preference for male child is paraded as an established truth. Only God knows the factors that drove this sweeping conclusion. Suffice to say most fathers would disagree. To dads, daughter(s) are dearer and darlings. Thankfully, few brothers would object to this special treatment to a sister. When a child is born, a father is born. But the birth of a daughter is a harbinger of happiness of a special kind to a father that no words can articulate. His emotional connect with the daughter starts the moment the umbilical cord with the mother is severed. And as she blooms, his fondness for her flowers into a beautiful obsession.

There can be bad husbands, but hardly any bad dad. Unless of course his innocent, loved child brings home a loved one of her own. Even those fathers eventually melt and relent, such is the magic and power that a daughter commands. In her affectionate presence, rationality and reason have no place in him.A son can be dismissed with a nonchalant slight. But a dad can’t muster the guts to look the daughter in the eye to say no. In fact, he is bowled the moment he looks. And, yes, the daughter knows it though I am not suggesting she is using it. This is a primal and historic phenomenon, true of past monarchs as of present men.

Fathers of millenials and millenial fathers are a new breed though of the same brand. While an illusory veil of reticence and respect separated dad-daughter duo in the past, such coy comfort has now been replaced by a cosy, casual and carefree comradeship. Father is the first friend, in need and sundry deeds. These ‘youthful’ fathers, products of a tech driven, consumerist and ambitious gen themselves, dream bigger for their daughters. Unlike past dads who sought out a well-settled groom, current dads prioritise on educating and empowering their daughters. At the least, they submit to their daughters’ request or quest to learn and earn on their own.

To this end, a father’s protective instinct manifests as physical guardianship and financial provisioning, both being male bastions in most households even now. A father gets very frustrated today if he is not able to fuel or feed his daughter’s educational needs. But the worst is when he finds himself impotent in protecting her from bodily harm.

After every suicide, rape or murder of a girl, her father dies umpteen times, in private and in open. He cannot expose his grieving household women to piercing police enquiry or painful public scrutiny. The clueless father can neither ignore the surfeit of speculations as he himself wants answers. But the lasting damage is the haunting guilt that now also looms over every father: Am I placing my precious kid in danger by sending her to study or work at ungodly hours; or to distant places? Am I sinning by wanting my vulnerable child to lead life on her own terms? Am I being too liberal for the vile times we live in? Such fears, feelings and fatalist doubts are real bad for women and society.

This is again an escape. I do not want to add to the daily dose of distressing, debasing debates. I just wanted to empathise with a fellow father to whom his daughter must also have been a fabulous friend!

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Jawahar T R