December 8, 2010
Last October when I was in Mumbai, Oni (my brother), Rachna (my sister-in-law), and I were up one night chatting about our parenting styles and other life issues. Usually Rachna and I go on talking while Oni dozes off in the middle of the conversation.
This time, somehow, Oni had become the center of the discussion. Rachna and I were pushing him on a multitude of issues ranging from not showing emotions to parenting. Oni was being his evasive best, but finally he snapped. “Being a dad is not about baking cookies for your daughter.”
I knew that comment was directed at me. I was hurt as that shot was uncalled for. I wanted to go after him for the comment, but then decided that I loved him too much to pursue this any further. I just let the statement go.
But the statement did not simply vanish. I did not forget and I have been thinking about it a lot since then. I do not know what Oni meant by the statement or why it was said, but as I thought hard, I realized that being a father cannot be judged by a few random actions. It made me go back to the basics of parenthood I learned during the journey of Raising a Father. Being a father takes a lifelong ongoing commitment to be present. The manifestation of being present could be baking cookies, driving your daughter to sports events, taking pictures as your daughter performs, or cooking for your daughter’s study group after they finish an immersion into the world of mathematics.
I finally came to peace with the statement when I realized that my relationship with Raka is only for us to savor, for us to evolve, and for no one else to judge. Raka and I have striven hard to continue to be close, especially through Raka’s transition to a teen and now a near adult, and also through my insecurities in relationships and my uncertainty of how to be a better dad.
We are enjoying every moment together, who could ask for more?