Humour: From patriarchs to pals, fathers have come a long way!
On the eve of Mother’s Day, I received an “urgent” message from a work client. “Can you come up with a thought for a Father’s Day greeting?” Actively ignoring the missive at that unearthly hour, I typed with a politeness I did not feel: “Can we please have this chat tomorrow?” the next morning. That would give me a whole day to ponder the significant matter of Father’s Day, still a month away at that point. To channel Shakespeare, Tagore and Oprah in wise but youthful words for millennials looking to gift their hipster dads swank gifts. I eagerly await the sudden flash of inspiration that will reveal this phrase to me on the eve of June 16.
One has to admit it used to be easier in the days that you could get a pen, a timepiece or cuff links to express your admiration for the “head of the household”. Gifting-wise, I mean. These days, dads have started to shake off their dadliness – the next door neighbour of manliness. Many can even pass off as chilled out, regular folk! It’s unfair to celebrate men who contribute to housework, childrearing or other activities that are traditionally considered a woman’s domain, so I won’t. But it’s wonderful to see this long-feared species trading the strong, silent image for a warmer, friendlier, more accessible personality.
Even our films have caught up with the change. Badhaai Ho (2018) gave us the not just endearing but positively lovable Gajraj Rao, reciting poetry – that most underrated aphrodisiac – to his wife in bed. Even before him, we had Manav Kaul’s character in Tumhari Sulu (2017), serenading his irrepressible wife, making up for the failings of a countless oppressive screen husbands before him. In Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (2019), Anil Kapoor’s patriarch not only learned how to embrace his daughter’s lesbian identity, but also his own culinary dreams.
All in all, Bollywood seems to be getting over its daddy issues with a touch of lightness and joy.
Marriage in the time of apps
Earlier this year, there was a big furore over the new international Gillette ad campaign, with the brand confronting the reality of toxic masculinity. Now advertising is not generally known to upset the status quo – except when it’s using trending causes to sell more products. So an introspective look at manliness was more than a section of the audience could take. Closer home, we have begun to cast women in leading roles in commercials that sell insurance and gadgets, home-delivery and property apps.
All this points in a progressive direction for both genders, albeit through the route of big business. But since we’re all so quick to blame advertising when its messaging is problematic, it’s only fair to applaud the messaging it gets right. These days, marital wars centre around husbands sneaking in a laddoo through a delivery app when the wife’s not looking, a significant step forward for the institution overall. (Marriage, not e-commerce.)
From Wodehouse’s bumbling gentlemen to Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s gentle men, there’s much in culture, both literary and popular, to counter the menacing image of the imposing father with the rigid ideals. The baby-feeding, everyday cooking, birthday party-organising dad is common enough now for us not to make a big deal over it (apologies to the dads who’re being glared at right now for not checking even one item on this list). But the 30-something generation is rooted in memories of the awe-inspiring, authoritarian figures of fathers and grandfathers who have populated their childhoods. It’s good to see these new parents breaking out of the old mould, one nappy change at a time.
I don’t claim to represent my generation, but all around me, I see caring dads, coming around to the ways in which their kids’ lives deviate from their own. Far from the inflexible, disgruntled “Wait till I tell daddy!” stereotype, these are nurturing, accessible parents. They’re embarrassing their kids on Facebook, adoring them on WhatsApp, pushing them to pay their life insurance premiums on email and even saying “I love you” on the phone! Here’s to the bumbling, doting, accepting, gloating fathers. May your tribe increase.
From HT Brunch, June 16, 2019
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