I have always been my Daddy’s girl. So much so that all through my school life, the moment the bell rang at 6:30 pm, I would run downstairs to welcome Baba back. In the three minutes that took us to climb back to the first floor, I would finish narrating my day at school. Ma found a special mention in case I had received any scolding from her. At times she would get so annoyed by it that she would refer me as his ‘chamchi’. I lost Ma seven years back but till date, my father is my biggest support system.
Sr. T grew up in a joint family amidst his paternal grandparents, uncles, and aunts. He was shielded from any form of scolding by his grandparents. He shares the warmest relation with my mother-in-law. With my father-in-law, he shares a relationship full of respect including a comfortable distance in their involvement in each others’ daily life.
After Tuneer was born, the general perception was that he would eventually turn out to be Mamma’s boy. Shattering another stereotypical thought, Tuneer turned out to be a complete Daddy’s boy (not a very pleasant thing to admit, I must say!). Sr. T had picked up his four days old son for the first time when the newborn continued hiccuping for a straight twenty minutes. That day had sealed a life-long bond for the father-son duo.
Sr. T’s posting outside the city enables him to stay in Kolkata a day to two at the maximum. Every week, when he returns from his outstation posting, the two meet in a way akin to long-lost friends for a decade or more. In the entire duration of his stay, the boy refuses to let his father out of his sight even for a minute. Not that the father has any problem in such an arrangement.
In fact, the father is so indulgent that any effort to discipline him the boy is met with strong protests by both of them alike. Often, I am the less favored and unnecessarily strict parent between the two. The boy, despite his young age, is smart enough to understand his team of staunch supporters. Also, he has made it a point to understand the seniority hierarchy in the family just to ensure that he can complain about my scolding him to those elder than me (and doesn’t let go of any opportunity to encash on this).
Once we the application process for school admissions were on, it was also time to start preparing Tuneer for the interactions that followed. Until then, any attempt to even remotely bring up the topic about interviews was brushed under the carpet by his father and grandparents. The family went all co-operative though none of them really wanted to put undue pressure on the kid.
Not having an option, I chose to be the monster mom here as I took on the responsibility of teaching and questioning Tuneer. My life had started revolving around ‘what is your name’, ‘where do you stay’, ‘what is the color of your shirt’ and many more questions. The hyperactive state of my mind only had one question, “what if he fails to get through any school?”. I need to mention the enviable level of calmness displayed by Sr. T in such situations. Fear is a common factor that has acted as a bond among many parents. In Tuneer’s preschool, a few of the mothers grew close as we realized about sailing in the same boat with a probability of sinking anytime.
From experience, I realized that the room where parents sit with their kids for primary admission interviews comprises of four categories of people –
- The ‘I don’t really care’ parents – they are mostly very rich or have already got their kid admitted to a certain school
- The ‘there’s no end to learning’ kind of parents – here the parents will tell their child to revise one rhyme or ask one question the last-minute, even before entering the interview room.
- The ‘highly competitive’ parents – they keep observing every parent and child keenly, trying to estimate who is going to be a strong competitor for their child.
- The ‘scared and generally well-educated middle-class’ parents – they are the ones who know the importance of getting through a good school, also because they don’t have means for education through donation.
For the first two interviews, I was indeed the scared middle-class parent with a fear of failure, not just for Tuneer but also as a parent. Over time, I learned to take a chill pill. Because like Sr. T said after every interview, “If he doesn’t make it to the list, he can still go back to preschool for a year. He is just three.” At times, the man also had dangerous ideas of relocating to any country that established five years to be the age to start school for a child (Read U.S. and Japan)
Of course, I didn’t give in to such silly ideas. So whenever, Tuneer made a mistake during the interview, I would get worked up. But in eight years, Sr. T has learned to pick up cues so well that even before I could get to the boy, he would become the human shield or a chowkidar (relevant in the times of elections this year) for his son. The man refused to believe that there was any mistake. His automated response had become, “You have heard it wrong. Tuneer has given the right answer.” and then proceed to take us out for breakfast or snacks (food makes me melt immediately and no one knows it better than Sr. T). The Z+ security that this tiny boy is already getting from his father makes me wonder if it is time to seek lessons from the CIA to break through this security blanket.
While writing this post, a floodgate of emotions opened up. The eighties were not the time when equal parenting was even considered a topic worth talking about. Yet whenever I recollect my childhood, I find my father’s involvement in every single step of my life. As I look around today and see quite a few hands-on fathers in my own circle of friends and acquaintances, it feels good to know that we have taken the first few steps in letting the world know that parenting is about taking up equal responsibilities.
I had intended to write this post as a humorous account of Tuneer’s relationship with his Babai – his father and protector. But as the writing progressed, I didn’t want to let go of this opportunity to give a shout-out to all the awesome Dads out there. Fathers who give wings to their kids’ dreams, who stand tall in support of their daughters’ choices and who have no qualms in telling their sons about pink being just a color and it is okay for boys to cry.
Before I get any more emotional, let me conclude by saying that I will see you on Monday again with a hilarious post on G. In the meanwhile, you can check out my previous posts in this series here. Have a great weekend.