For International Father’s Day, I shared this little message from the heart with my father, who is a wonderful parent but who I’ve lost that deep connection with as I’ve gotten older. Fathers and daughters have a complicated relationship anywhere, but especially so in the oppressive, patriarchal society of India. Thank you dada.
My father is an Indian man with a wide smile. He wouldn’t know what feminism is but at home he makes the best chapatis and he made one every single morning for my mom. When I have clothes that need to be mended, it is my father I turn to. He will like to jokingly remind us that my mom was the one who went to sewing classes but he’s still the one left darning the holes. Maybe it’s because my dad was the only man at home surrounded by the demands and exclamations of three women, that he so unreproachingly took on this role of equal parent.
It’s funny because the Indian system is very patriarchal. It is an oppressive system that squashes the dreams and laughter of women. It is something I am very aware of. And yet at age 30, I realized that while both my parents are cleanliness freaks, my father must hold some sort of record at finding things to clean that you wouldn’t have thought required cleaning. Think Monica from FRIENDS level of compulsion. I think, not fondly, of those summer vacations in India where mop in tow, we’d be woken up in the morning and told to clean the whole house including the mosquito nets on all the windows. Today as an adult though, I can’t wait for my dad to come visit and give my apartment a spring cleaning it will never forget.
When I was a young girl, it was my father who built me a little play house on our balcony. He was also the one who expertly tied my hair in a fountain top and dressed me in my array of frocks. Maybe the reason I can’t accept my partners to do less housework is because my father ended up being a quiet, continuous role model to what equality at home looks like.
My father doesn’t call himself a feminist, but in all the ways that matter, he showed me that men could just as easily love, clean, mend and cook with kindness, a huge smile and devotion.