Book review: In the words of a father
Anupam Sibal’s book on parenting refrains from sermonising, and engages the reader with personal anecdotes on inculcating values in children.books Updated: Nov 28, 2015 14:50 IST
In God on the Streets of Gotham: What the Big Screen Batman can Teach Us about God and Ourselves, Paul Asay writes, “Forget Batman: when I really thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wanted to be my dad.” For pediatrician Anupam Sibal, Asay’s early sentiments would probably be testament to a father having discharged his parental duty well. In his first non-medical book Is Your Child Ready To Face The World? published by Penguin, Sibal draws upon his years of experience of interacting with parents and children, and his own experience as a father to help parents — especially fathers — reach out effectively to their children. “As for my personal experience as a parent, I always made it a point to try to get 15 minutes of undivided attention from our son, Devaang. I would try to get this time with him when he wanted to; that was the challenge I took on… It could not be a sermon; it had to be a two-way conversation with me nudging him to talk about some recent incident. I would then dip into my limited repertoire of stories and incidents, and find an example that would fit in with the mood. Each story was structured in a way that touched upon a value that I believed was important,” writes Sibal.
Is Your Child Ready to Face the World?
Dr Anupam Sibal; Penguin Books; Rs 299; PP184
In 18 chapters, the author gives readers a glimpse of his interactions with his son and the values that he has tried to pass on — humility, beating the odds, courage, handling pressure, making mistakes and accepting flaws, being a dreamer, finding one’s calling, compassion, making others happy, not giving up hope, determination, giving, gratitude, being the change, honesty, the importance of goals, that it’s never too late, and forgiveness. In each of the lessons that he has tried to impart to his son, there is a lesson for parents too. But what sums it all up, and should serve as an important guide, comes in the concluding lines: “I realised that if Devaang was to believe in the values I wanted to instil in him, I needed to walk the talk.” Sibal writes about the importance of why parents need to lead by example.
While there is no dearth of self-help books in the market, and certainly not on the subject of parenting, Sibal’s book is refreshing for its absence of sermonising. The author tries to engage his readers in the same way that he has been engaging with his son, and allows them to learn from his experience. The content is rich with anecdotes of his interactions with his son, his patients, and their families. Most of the dos and don’ts are summed up in the conclusion. The rest of the book talks about the manifestations of the values he feels are important. For example, while talking about the need to forgive, he doesn’t simply mention having given the example of Nelson Mandela to his son. He goes on to talk about Mandela’s life and how the leader had strengthened South African society. He talks of a young patient losing interest in life because he felt himself wronged and how forgiving those who hurt him, helped improve the quality of his own life.
While talking of dreams, he dwells on the lives of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Junior. While this might feel like a digression, the anecdotes help along the story-telling style adopted by the author. For the enterprising parent, they would add to his own stock of narratives to share with his children. The language is not exemplary. For example, while talking of Monty Roberts’ dream of owning a horse ranch and his teacher’s reaction to it, Sibal writes, “When he asked the teacher ‘on’ why he had received a F…” Sibal, however, earns brownie points for his honest admission that he provides only a father’s perspective, and finely balances his appreciation of a mother’s importance in a child’s life with the need for a father’s support. “Has my experiment with Devaang made a difference to his life? I have no idea how he will turn out. I do, however, have the satisfaction of having tried,” writes Sibal. That same satisfaction should remain with the author in having made an honest attempt in letting other parents profit from his experience.