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Coming soon: Memoir of a 21st century dad

Over the past five years, India has been changing incredibly rapidly. Today’s children, natural inhabitants of a digital world, are growing up faster, becoming more mature, worldly wise and knowledgeable than their predecessors ever were. Soumya Bhattacharya writes.

india Updated: Apr 17, 2011 01:23 IST

Over the past five years, India has been changing incredibly rapidly. Today’s children, natural inhabitants of a digital world, are growing up faster, becoming more mature, worldly wise and knowledgeable than their predecessors ever were. Their world is unrecognisable from the one in which we grew up. Consequently, our experience of dealing with our children, the nature of parenting itself, is vastly different from that of our parents.

Through the writing of this column, I wanted to document some of these changes. There is nothing like writing to really understand what you feel about a certain matter, and through the writing of Dad’s the word, I wanted to work out my response to several issues.

Given that the format I used was that of the memoir (I was talking, almost every week, of my experience as a father), it was very personal. But personal and particular experiences in memoirs often resonate with those of others’; people read the stuff and say, yes, yes, something like that happened to me too.

Many of your emails over the past two-and-a-half years — I am grateful for each one — suggested that you did see yourselves in this column, and felt many of the experiences described in it to be similar to your own. Memoir, though, is a double-edged sword. The intimate nature of the narrative requires one to put oneself on the line. That would not have been the case had this column been an objective, impersonal assessment of the nature of contemporary fatherhood.

Honesty is important here, and to be honest, one needs to be revealing, and vulnerable to revealing too much — or, at least, more than one perhaps should have. This becomes trickier when the subject of the column does not read it herself. After the novelty of her being written about wore off, our girl has not kept up with this column. But people she knows have, and often they tell her things about her life that she didn’t know they knew.

Oishi will be ten-years-old five months from now. It is time, I think, to consider whether it is fair to apprise other people of things about her that she doesn’t know they know.

I am taking a break (the whole family is taking a break), and with it, so will this column. Writing it has been fun. But when writing it is a fraction of the quantum of work one’s day job entails, it can become, on occasions, very demanding.

So the break, under different skies, with a different rhythm to our days, will do us all good. In the foreseeable future, there is likely to be a book, a memoir, about the perils and pleasures of 21st century fatherhood based on this column.

And when Dad’s the word returns in July, I shall be able to report what the discussion and consideration about it yielded during the break.