By Raju Mandhyan
BEYOND just helping me out a bit with math, science, or English grammar during my youth, Dad rarely ever sat me down and said, “Today, we will spend time learning values,” or “Son, let me tell you all about how businesses work.”
But if ever I had a question about things he’d try his best to explain it in the most kindest and patient way. I once asked him about the meaning of a Hindi word, “phuhar” while holding a book of the same title. He glanced at the book which had a Mills and Boon kind of a cover image and hesitated for a second but answered, “fountain” and went about his work. I felt cheated by his brief response, I wanted to know more and I wanted him to share his thoughts on the book since it was in a script I was struggling with. Years later, I did manage to read the book, I understood his hesitation and curtness at that moment. The book and its contents were much more suited for a slightly more grown up an audience at that time, in conservative India.
At that time, I thought Dad was being conservative but over the years I realized that he wanted the wisdom of things to dawn upon me rather than him downloading stuff that he thought was right and proper.
Today, as I think back to that moment and thousands of other similar exchanges with Dad, I realize many were little teaching moments that stuck to me big time and many of them are coming handy as I continue to play the role of a father to my kids. Many a times I feel like jumping in and highlight what is right and proper but I hold back, get patient and creative in my approach and then as time passes I see the light that they get to see on their own. It is a great feeling this feeling of living out fatherhood gently and creatively for which I must thank my own Dad. George Herbert was right, “One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.”
On this Fathers’ Day, the thoughts that I feel like sharing with fellow fathers or fathers to be are a few but inspired by the life and fathering style of my own Dad.
First and foremost, be there for them. Yes, just be. You don’t need to know how to solve the Pythagoras Theorem for them. You don’t need to be able to scale up mountains in a single leap and, most of all, you also do not need to have a very handy credit card available to them all the time. They just want you around sitting there or be seen putzing around with your car or being a lean-in-pillow when they need one. Just be. Just be around and it is also okay if you are shaped round.
Second, make a sincere effort to fill a real need when it arises.
When a child needs an answer to perplexing question it is the effort that is taken which matters and not the correctness of the answer. Children know that they are an extension of you and you and extension of them…so, yes, they need all parts to function when action is needed to be taken.
Years later, they will remember your efforts and laugh happily at the results. My Dad was great at drawing and writing stuff but terrible at tightening up the nuts and bolts of my bicycle but he tried and I loved him for that.
Third, give them space, sometimes a lot of space. Yes, space enough to scrape their knees and elbows and also to bring home your car with the windshield smashed in. It is okay. Accidents are accidents and many a times, life and business failures are also accidents. Share cautionary wisdom, offer support but never loose your cool when you think they are not driving in the right lane or getting caught up in tricky life situations. You know what Kahlil Gibran said, “They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you, they belong not to you.”
I know it is hard but always make an effort to think back to the times when you were their age.
My daughter is in her mid-twenties and the tangled world of real business is just unraveling for her slowly. I am of the age where I can simply and easily unravel business shenanigans for her but I hold back thinking back to the day of how Dad held back, once, from talking about the contents of a book called Phuhar.
All said and done, my belief is that of all the purposes in life the mission of being a parent and being the father is one of the highest purposes in life.
Man wasn’t just placed on the earth to build buildings and bridges or gather gold and silver but to live out the gift of life well, to enjoy it and then to hand it over to the next generation so they can do the same.
Fatherhood, in this game of life, is being the captain of a team, a team that is bond with love and cherishment of each other and life itself.
Happy Fathers’ Day!