The third Sunday of June is celebrated as Father’s day in most parts of the world. Father’s Day was first proposed in 1909 to complement the Mother’s Day celebrations. India follows the United States and celebrates Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June every year, while in other countries including Portugal, Spain, Croatia, and Italy, Father’s Day is celebrated on 19th March. Whichever may the date of celebration be, the prime aim of observing this day is to celebrate and honor fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the role of the father in the family and in the society in large.
While stories about fathers of eminent personalities have always been discussed and celebrated, it is also necessary to talk about the struggles of a common father. Though it is essential to narrate the inspiring stories of fathers of successful people, it is vital to recognize the hardship of every other common father as well, who sacrifices their happiness for the wellbeing of their family.
Here, we bring to you the stories of a few fathers from amongst our lives. These stories belong to ordinary fathers, and though these stories have been loved by many, they have not been celebrated yet. The stories of the common fathers, their struggles, and their support to their families not just financially but also emotionally, need to be told in order to commemorate the common father.
Vanita’s father had spent almost everything that he had earned in his entire life in her marriage. Starting with fulfilling the exorbitant demands of the groom’s family, arranging a lavish feast for the guests, the costly attires, and jewellery to arranging the expensive return gifts, it cost him almost all his savings. He happily incurred all the costs of the marriage to make sure the experience would be pleasant for his daughter. He did so without any regrets. However, three months after the marriage, Vanita came back home complaining that her husband was a drug addict who tortured her physically and mentally every day. She came to know about this from the very first day after her marriage but kept quiet for the sake of the reputation of her family. When the physical assault became unbearable for her, she left her husband and came back home. While everybody around them blamed Vanita, close relatives pointed fingers at her and friends asked her to return to her husband, her father stood by her decision firmly. Vanita’s father had his own share of fear and worries related to the future of his daughter. He was broken down emotionally by the ill-treatment of relatives and society. Though he was continuously bombarded with unsolicited suggestions and opinions, at no point was he taken over by the patriarchal ideas of the society, which blamed his daughter for not being submissive to her abusive husband to save her marriage.
He stood firmly with his daughter throughout the entire process of the legal proceedings against her husband, till she came out victorious.
Akshit wanted to qualify the IIT-JEE entrance and his father made every possible effort to provide him the best training to achieve his dream. Though Akshit’s father earned a meager salary working as a salesman in an apparel store, he made sure to provide Akshit the best education possible. He worked double time, borrowed money from friends and relatives, and made sure that Akshit received coaching from the finest institution of the city. Though Akshit was a very bright student, of a sudden he had started performing badly in the class tests. He isolated himself, staying aloof from everyone. Finally, at the end of the year, he failed in all the exams. Akshit’s father was devastated. His dreams were shattered and he became a laughing stock among his friends and relatives. However, instead of losing his temper and taking out his frustration on Akshit, he tried to understand him. He realized that it was not just his mistake. He was equally responsible for leaving his son to suffer alone when he must have needed his support the most. Even though many relatives blamed Akshit’s mother for failing to keep an eye out for him, his father believed that it was the responsibility of both the parents and not only that of the mother’s. Slowly he came closer to Akshit and established a long-lost friendly connection with his son again. After talking to him, he came to know that various factors, such as cut-throat competition, the burden of everyone’s expectations, and the fear of failing were responsible for pushing Akshit into depression. He remained by Akshit’s side giving him the mental support that he wanted, took him to seek professional advice and counselled him regularly until Akshit successfully battled his depression and emerged stronger.
Akshit’s father had to fight two battles simultaneously to get back his son. He had to fight against his son’s depression and also against the society which considered mental health issues as a social stigma.
When Pratik openly declared that he was gay on his social media accounts, all hell broke loose. Though he had always been bullied, it was now the turn of his family to take the brunt. In no time all their friends and relatives isolated themselves from Pratik’s family. Pratik’s father was also shocked. He was broken down by his son’s revelation. Having stood by orthodox and regressive societal norms so far, it was impossible for him to accept his son’s homosexuality which he had till then believed to be either a sin or a mental disorder. However, instead of shunning Pratik, he tried to educate himself. He went through numerous materials related to the LGBTQ community, read queer literature, and even consulted a few professionals. With time and effort, he realized that homosexuality was absolutely normal. It was his sexual orientation and did not make him any less capable in any other aspect in life. It was only then that he went and talked to his son. He was shocked and saddened to hear Pratik’s poignant ordeal and the torture that he had always been put through on account of his sexuality. He understood the importance of Pratik to get accepted by his family first.
Hugging his son tightly, Pratik’s father promised him to remain by his side always in his fight against the regressive mindset of the society in order to reclaim his identity.
Though fathers have always been known as pivotal support in their family, they have also been highly misunderstood and misinterpreted. Patriarchal social structures have affected men as much as they have affected women, if not more. The society holds a very stereotypical image of a tough and strict father. His vulnerability is rarely talked about. The emotional side, the fear, and the anxiety of a father have always been ignored. Though his struggle with the outside world to earn a livelihood for his family has always been portrayed, the battles that he fights within himself, the heartbreaks, the disappointments and the mental trauma that he goes through from time to time due to societal pressures and stereotypical norms imposed on him, have always remained in dark. Patriarchy has reduced the father to being just the earner for the family for ages. His involvement and emotional attachment with his children have always been nullified.
The presence and involvement of the father are of equal importance for the child’s development as that of the mother, the importance of which cannot be ignored.
This father’s day while commemorating fatherhood, let us free fathers from the stereotyped image that the society has held about them for centuries. Let us break down the chain of patriarchy, and allow our fathers to come out of the artificiality of a hard exterior and show their vulnerability openly. It is important to talk about the emotional involvement of the father in the family as much as about their financial contributions. It is also high time now to talk about the mental issues pertaining to the responsibilities of the family that fathers go through and to make the society more receptive of and sensitive to the emotional presence of the father in the family.