There is just something so beautiful about the big father complimenting the tiny girl. Bigness and tininess together at last – yet the bigness would never hurt the tininess! It respects and nourishes it—even when tiny is tiny no more. (Not my lines, but oh so apt…)
Dad – the first man in a girl’s life. The one who sets the standards for her life-long relationships with the rest of mankind, who swings her or lets her down like none other. As yet another International Women’s Day passes us by, perhaps it is worth pondering over what Daddy can do for his girl. Beyond the fairy-tale associations of being ‘Dad’s little princess’.
Mine certainly did. But even in this early moment of grief – for I lost Dad only recently – I do realise how blessed I was – and still am.
Dad celebrated me for the little person I was from the word go. By celebration, I don’t mean the frilly frocks he insisted I be kitted in (complete with ribbons and bows) or the bear hugs, the candy and the dolls (though I got plenty of those). He celebrated me by investing in me his faith and his time. Even in those countless moments that I was less than good.
Through angst-ridden adolescence and the earliest years of adulthood, through exams and competition; fun-time and far-from-fun times… Amidst all this, he taught me respect and boundaries. Towards myself and the rest of the world. Not by words – for that was not his way – but by example. An army officer and sportsman, there was much to observe and imbibe from him.
For a man who rarely complained, it’s amazing how firm he was about me not ‘taking bullshit’ from anyone. That said, he would proceed to the mandatory (and not-so-enjoyable) lecture about not letting my tongue run away with me.
However, this is not just about Dad and me. This is about countless Daddies and their respective little girls. Let no one tell you otherwise: being loved by Dad is the greatest empowerment for a female child. Just as being rejected or relegated to second choice, is the deepest cut.
For every gal pal of mine cherished by her old man, there’s another who has a lingering wound for not being the son she was supposed to have been in the first place. For every girl who was told that she could be anything or anyone she wanted, there are unfortunately five who are told subtly, or otherwise, to shut up and put up. All the better to ‘train her’ for the woman she’s supposed to be.
Which brings me to the point: As PM Modi’s Beti Bachao campaign acquires wings against the chaotic backdrop of a society in transit, it is basic to recruit every father for the cause. For you can’t talk of protecting your daughter without fathers being involved. Every step of the way.
A father is someone who raises not just a son in his image but helps his daughter sketch her own. Through support at times, discipline at others and love throughout. By saving not just for her wedding, but her education too. By valuing her not just through words but his silence as well. By showing the way to fair and respectful treatment and not by cosseting her or ‘fulfilling her every whim’ but by convincing her that she is strong enough to fulfil her own dreams.
Nature decrees that a father cherish his kids, sons and daughters alike. It is society that argues otherwise. If we can allow nature to triumph and let Dads revel in their daughters just the way it was meant to be, the Beti Bachao campaign will surely succeed.
How we can do it is not the focus of this piece. What is, this: Empowerment begets Empowerment. For every Dad that raises a thinking daughter, raises the bar for other men, and society in general.
Rest in peace, Dad. I love you forever.