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June 1995- My sister who lives in USA calls my father and wishes him a 'happy Fathers day'. Never having been exposed to such gestures before, he couldn't really fathom this greeting. I doubt if he even thanked her because after that hour-long-mandatory-weekly call, I recall my parents discussing it with all seriousness. Papa was quizzical and amused by it, he thought that probably his daughter was missing him sorely and hence that out-of-the-blue greeting. My mother enlightened him saying that she too got a ' happy mothers day' wish a month ago. After an elaborately mulled over discussion over the wishes, my parents concluded it to be an 'American thing'. Where kids don't have time for parents all round year , hence theyve designated 2 days as fathers day and mothers day. The motive could be to do their duty, assuage their guilt, or to make parents look forward to those particular days as time of family bonding. A few years down the line, India caught up big time with the aforementioned days.
Hallmark and Archies cards, memorabilia, token gifts made a killing in the initial days. Their success stories inspired hotshot players in the market to join the loot. Expensive gifts, dinners, holidays were put on offer. Basically anything and everything tried to establish an association with the purported days to lure the youngsters loaded with love, lucre and guilt, the latter when it came to their parents. Market explosion and consumerism coincided with the Green card boom.
The Generation Y and the Millenials took the flight out of their homes while still in teens or right after. Indian parents, buoyed by their offsprings' success stories, especially if it was in some far away land, couldn't really get the gist of what lay in store for them. Post retirement and/or in old age with diminishing health, they pull the strings to get the prodigal back. Slim chance of any success in that! Hence, these 'perfect days' for kids to show their generosity of heart comes into play.
Coming back to my father, we couldn't get him to accept, appreciate or endorse Fathers Day as something special. He felt, if one particular day in June is father's day, then, are all the 364 days of the year, non-father days? We argued with him furiously, labelling him a spoilsport and a bore.
At times, he laughed at our fixation with celebrating this day. No gifts(even otherwise he was anti gifts), no restaurant dinners and no hullabaloo on Fathers day, he made his rules. If we wanted any of these things, it would have to be in the regular course of things and not as Fathers day celebration. Gradually we respected his wishes and did things his way. He loved us to sit with him and hear him talk about his family, his school-college stories, the freedom struggle days and the tough time India faced then. He glowed while talking about his past. He wanted us to sit with him while he played harmonium and sang his favourite songs, in between asking us to join him in a few. As he told me later, that time spent together, was precious to him.
This article is not to condemn those who believe in making a big show of celebrating Fathers day. If it makes you and your father happy, please do so. But do not confine yourself to splurging on just 1 day. More than making just a few special occasions (birthdays, fathers day etc.) a celebratory affair, strive to give your time and attention to your father on a regular basis. He'll be happier sharing his anecdotes with you over a cuppa or wine, in a leisured manner on any random day. He would love to go over the old family albums and revisit the cherished memories any given time. Please do not make him wait for one particular day of a hot summer to get your pampering.
My father left us 6 years back after waging a tough battle with cancer. I may never be able to wish him on Fathers Day but I feel connected with him everyday in my heart through my memories of him, deeply loved and cherished.
I wish a very HAPPY FATHERS DAY to all the wonderful men in this world who spend half their lives being the backbone, provider and strength of their family of procreation, alongside the nurturer, the mother. Understated but never underestimated, the Father is the one you can lean on when the world tires you out with its weary ways.