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When my daughter went to her playschool; I witnessed something that could well be a lesson to scores of contemporary men. For the first month after a child starts his/her education; it was a norm at this playschool that the parent’s could wait on in the school. These children would attend school for only 2 hours and the parents could wait for this duration in the school itself. There were 6 children who started school at the same time as Shivani. There were 5 mothers and 1 father who accompanied these children for the first month.
We 5 ladies used to be extremely amused to see this gentleman who would sit in the waiting area with his laptop while he attended to several official calls. Out of the 5 women there; I was the only one with whom he occasionally had conversations with. Even these conversations were limited to the children’s activities on when the next presentation was or what stationery the children were supposed to carry the next day? I once very jokingly mentioned to him that he was someone over whom all we womenfolk were going gaga over. He very candidly told me that he was someone who was well established in his career and could afford to work from home for this entire one month. The girl’s mother had just taken up this job 3 months back and there was no way that she would get so much relaxation at her workplace. He got me introduced to his wife; who has now a very dear friend of mine. She often jokes that she is so accustomed to hearing compliments about her wonderful husband that she occasionally gets jealous of him.
Though this particular gentleman was one who had several other mothers and me fascinated; there are several other more such men. My own brother-in-law is one. When his son was younger; he would come back home each day during lunch time to feed the boy and put him to sleep. My brother-in-law in a very senior position at his institution; but that did not deter him from tending to his fatherly duties. Though they had their own house; they gave the house on rent and chose to live in an apartment on rent; very close to his college. This was done so that he could care for his son whenever the need arose. When the boy grew a little elder, readying him for school was the father’s sole responsibility. Apart from packing his lunch box, which my mother-in-law did; my brother-in-law did everything else. Brushing his son’s teeth, bathing him, readying up his school bag and the last minute preparations for the tests were all dealt with by my brother-in-law. The setup at my in-laws side is pretty patriarchal but this did not dissuade by brother-in-law one bit.
There are several other cases that I see these days on a routine basis. There is one gentleman who solely takes up the responsibility of taking care of the daughter while the wife is overseas pursuing her education. There is another gentleman whose purview of activities includes washing the child’s sports shoes and school bag. Yet there is another father who waits for his son in the school premises while the son learns to skate; before the start of normal school. The father changes the son’s clothes, feeds him breakfast and sends him off for his classes.
At one end of the spectrum; I see many couples battling with relationship issues and at the other end I see men who try to show their presence in their wives’ and children’s lives. In India, the men who play an active and supportive role in their household are held in very high esteem. But, shouldn’t this be the convention everywhere. After all the kids are their own too and also the home is their's too; then why should masculinity come in the way while they discharge their domestic duties? Should only a man who stifles and oppresses his family be considered to be the ultimate man?