Soumya Bharti

Guest Blogger 

I remember vividly, the very first time I ever had a pizza in my life. This was in the early 90s when globalization had not percolated our streets and our idea of eating out was a Bhel Puri or a Pani Puri at a local chat shop. Pizza Hut had opened its very first outlet in India, in Bangalore, a couple of years back. But being raised in a typical middle-class South Indian home, pizzas were for us, food eaten by Americans (us being completely ignorant of its Italian origins) in those amazing TV shows that were telecast on cable TV. I do not know when and how I developed a wish to eat a pizza, but as a gawky teenager growing up on a staple diet of American television, I remember telling my father one fine day that I wanted to just have a bite of the delicious looking pizza to see how it tastes. Our bonding was more like friends and less like father-daughter and with the camaraderie we shared, I conversed with him about everything under the sun including my wildest dreams; he had just smiled back then.

A couple of months later, when I had passed my board exams being one of the toppers of my school, that evening, my father got me a surprise back home. Packed in the rectangular cardboard box, was our aspirational food- a pizza from Pizza hut!! Of course, my brother and I were elated, and we dug in greedily (but our unaccustomed palates refused the new weird taste) as my father looked quietly at his happy children…

He put our wishes ahead of his comfort and beliefs

Now that I am a parent, looking back at that moment, I realise the magnanimity of my father’s gesture and the affection that fueled it. That was probably the only time my father has stepped into a pizza hut, to buy something that may have been very heavy on his pocket (and probably against his ideologies) at that point of time, only to fulfill his daughter’s wish. My brother and I would think many times before asking him anything because we knew he would go out of his way to fulfill our wishes and dreams.

When I look back at my growing up years, it is innumerable unforgettable moments like this that make me realise that my father has set a very high, almost impossible-to-scale benchmark as a parent. Trying to follow his footsteps has not only been daunting but also an eye opener.

He encouraged independent thinking

[Image by – Jonathan Borba on Unsplash]

Another moment crystal clear in my mind is when he and I were seated in the counseling hall after my entrance; with so many options to choose from, I was totally confused about which professional path to take and as usual, was looking up to him for guidance.  But he refused to even offer suggestions, as he wanted me to take decisions by thinking independently.

He told me that he will never tell me what to do but will support whatever path I chose; the only advice he gave was that I should put my heart and soul into any profession that I ended up choosing and must not regret my decisions later in life.

He never held us back, allowed us to make mistakes

He has always been like this; imparting just enough wisdom but giving me all the freedom of choice. And that freedom has also included the leeway to make mistakes. For example, there were times when I expressed hesitation in carrying my fees to school or college in a bus (overcrowded public transport) fearing I might lose it. “If you lose the money, you will gain experience to not lose it again” would be his answer. If I expressed concern in filling out an important application form for the fear of writing something wrong, he would not do it for me; instead, he would guide me and help me in doing it on my own; he never believed in being an overprotective parent, because he knew it wouldn’t help us, his children in the long run.

I realise now, after all these years, that the kind of freedom I was given, is still a distant dream for many girls in middle class Indian households.

He treats his children as individuals, respects their opinions

Why am I talking about freedom in the context of father’s love? That is because I comprehend now as a parent, being overprotective comes naturally. It takes tremendous restraint and understanding of a different level to let your child make mistakes and help them learn from them. It also requires extraordinary perception on any parent’s part to be very sensitive towards a child’s feelings and emotions. And that sensitivity can only come from deep affection and respect towards children as individuals, with opinions and ideas of their own.

He has shown great sensitivity to his children’s emotions

In my father’s case, this sensitivity was very evident in all stages of my growing up years including my marriage too. Even in an arranged marriage set up, he took my approval before searching for a groom. Not only that, but he also sat me down and talked to me in great detail, asking, trying to understand and respond to my ideas about marriage and life partner. Only then did he go ahead with alliances. Even after I said yes to my future husband, a week before my marriage, he again initiated an important conversation. Was I happy? he wanted to know. “Your happiness is of utmost importance to me, nothing else matters” he declared in no uncertain terms. My respect for him increased manifold with the extraordinary sensitivity and understanding he showed in the context of my marriage.

He has been my pillar of support

[image by –  Steven Van Loy on Unsplash]

It comes as no surprise that he has always been my support system, and this has continued even after marriage, in spite of the distance. He has been like a counselor to me, lending a patient ear and once in a while sharing priceless wisdom, whether I have been troubled with toddler tantrums, or misunderstandings with family or marital discord. Even now, he is the first person I confide in, when faced with any adversity.

He has even lent a helping hand in raising my children playing his role of a grandfather to perfection. When I had to relocate to a different city for a period of two years for my post-graduation, my parents relocated with me offering to take care of my 3-year-old as I chased my dreams. My father played a very big role in taking care of my son almost single-handedly, doing everything from bathing him, dressing him up, feeding him to playing with him and taking him out. In short, he has mothered my child better than I would, in my absence.

My father has shown me how powerful in parental love can be

Throughout my life, my father has shown me that parenting is not as simple as watering plants. It’s never just about care and nourishment. It is more like being the roots that give strength and help you stay firmly on ground even while allowing your children to bloom in all their glory. It takes enormous amount of patience and understanding to be that kind of a constant support, and of course demands unconditional love…

This is the thing about parental love that I have learnt from my father. That however it is expressed, whether it is expressed at all or not, love of parents has to be that unseen force empowering the children to face challenges, in understanding life better and finding their bliss. He has shown me the power of this kind of all-encompassing love by leading by example. And even now, he continues doing so, for which he will forever be my hero…

[Banner Image by – Limor Zellermayer on Unsplash]

About the Author:

Soumya Bharathi is an author, blogger and poet based in Bangalore. An Oral Surgeon by training, she is currently pursuing her passion of writing, full-time. Her short stories have been selected for various anthologies. She is also a self-published author. Her first book is a collection of short stories titled “Life blooms in Myriad ways” and her second is a poetry book titled “From the heart of a homemaker”.

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