“Life is not about falling down. It’s about rising with grace.”
That’s the advice gymnast Dipa Karmakar’s father, Dulal Karmakar, gave her before she left to represent India at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Dulal’s quote hovers in the top right corner of an image, against a yellow background. On the left is an illustration of Dipa in her gymnastic garb, donning a tiara. This is just one of many illustrations that shed light on inspiring father-daughter duos, as part of My Father Illustrations, a Facebook page (10k followers), by Singapore-based artist Debasmita Dasgupta (36).
“The series celebrates fathers who stand up for their daughters,” says Dasgupta. My Father Illustrations is a project under ArtsPositive — a non-profit organisation in India that looks at art as a medium to generate awareness about social issues — and features stories inspired by common women and their fathers in addition to ones of popular women such as Karmakar.
Based on true events
The idea for My Father Illustrations first came to Dasgupta in 2013, just after she attended a TED talk by Shabana Basij-Rasikh, a humanitarian and founder of School of Leadership, Afghanistan. During the talk, Basij quoted her father who encouraged her to seek education and knowledge.
“I illustrated Shabana’s story and posted it on Facebook. She was so touched that she forwarded it to her students. That’s when I started getting emails from Afghan men thanking me for showcasing them in a positive light,” says Dasgupta.
Dagupta’s father, Pradip, too, played a role. Growing up in Kolkata, Dasgupta accompanied her father, a theatre actor and director, to rehearsals, and recalls being inspired when he would encourage actors to perform acts with a strong social message. “That is where my foundation of art comes from,” she says.
What’s remarkable about the series is that despite its sentimental approach, it also takes a feminist stand: there is more to a father-daughter duo than the former spoiling or pampering the latter. It holds a mirror to a society that traditionally believes a daughter primarily needs to be protected.
“In many countries, girls are vulnerable due to a lack of education, economic disempowerment and gender bias. The number of girls facing atrocities run in millions. As a decision-maker in a patriarchal society, it is important to note that a father can, in fact, truly make a difference: celebrate the girl’s birth, help complete her education, invest in her further studies, and protect her from abuse,” says Dasgupta.
To highlight the father’s role in a daughter’s upbringing, Dasgupta has shared a series of real, heart-warming stories through her graphic series. Case in point: the story of Reshma (real name withheld), a girl from a village in West Bengal who was trafficked and sold to a brothel in Mumbai. She was rescued by her father, Rezwan Kazi (real name withheld), who is currently fighting a legal battle for justice.
“He always says, ‘Reshma had a beautiful smile and I will stand by her until I see her smiling again’. I hope my illustration of this story maximises the incident’s reach, so more fathers get inspired after seeing Rezwan’s confidence,” says Dasgupta.
View all the My Father illustration series here.