stand at the blackboard, daddy,
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot
But no less a devil for that, no not
Any less the black man who
my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.
Sylvia Plath ~
Okay, so most
girls don't compare their fathers to Hitler and write long, hatefully
obsessive poems about them. However, there is no denying that a father
does play a very special role in his daughter's life.
The story of my
first encounter with my father has become something of a family joke.
When the nurse brought me out of the Operation Theatre, a tiny C-section
baby wrapped in a bundle, I was said to have scanned the corridor
full of expectant relatives. My yet-unfocused eyes alighted on my
beaming father, whereas one of them closed in a wink. As the area
burst into uproarious laughter, my father winked back, saying "That's
Daddy's little girl."
the way it's been ever since. My father's been the one to sing me
to sleep when I was a tiny tot. He was the one who sized up the bullies
of my kindergarten years. Over the years, he's been my Tarzan, Santa
Claus, Tooth Fairy, walking bank; personal chauffeur and personal
masseuse all rolled into one. He's the person who accompanies me to
all the exam halls, giving me all the encouragement I needed. In fact,
if you readers enjoy my writing, you can thank him, because he's the
one who's been pushing me into writing for the paper all along.
and daughters have a special relationship all their own, one that
is different from the one enjoyed by boys and their dads. Some girls
when asked about the role of fathers in their lives, said that their
fathers were the ones who spoilt them, while 'Ma wields the khunti'.
For others, the fathers are the disciplinarians who manage, by their
strict and imposing presence, to make their daughters toe the line
and always put their best feet forward. Whichever the case, the father-daughter
relationship has relaxed considerably in our times, as compared to
the way things might have been for our grandmothers, and our lives
are that much richer for it. As women step out into the professional
world, demanding of their partners equal contribution in the house,
men are being forced to play a more active role in raising the kids,
and as a result, children are able to bond with their fathers as was
impossible before. Of course, this is a wide generalization on my
part, but for the most part, fathers today enjoy a more informal relationship
with their children, and both parties can only benefit from this.
one goes through Nandita Das' interviews, and in most of them, she
mentions how her father has always been one of the prime sources of
her strength, allowing her the freedom to pursue her interests, often
pushing her on when she needed that extra boost. Then there are the
Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, who were coached towards the spotlight
by their father. Of course, everyone knows about Laila Ali, who has
just picked up daddy Muhammad Ali's boxing gloves, and is making a
name for herself in the sports world. Natalie Cole, in her "Unforgettable"
duet with her late father, Nat King Cole, is another example of a
girl stepping into her father's shoes. Then there are some touching
real-life father-daughter relationships like that of Benny Cheung
who fought tooth and nail to save his daughter from going blind. The
story, called "A Father's Love" appeared in the Reader's
Digest, in the July 2000 issue. For a fictional father-daughter relationship
that warms the heart, the relationship between Marner and the young
Eppie in Silas Marner is a glowing example.
so maybe life with daddy isn't all roses, but that's just life in
general. Ever since I stepped into my adolescent years, and started
forming opinions of my own, the kid gloves came out, and the battles
began, as I began, in my own way, to challenge my father's authority,
and believe me, he didn't take it lying down. I have a friend who's
studying medicine primarily because, as she says 'this is one area
where he cannot have the final say'. This phase sets in during the
teen years. There's less of that understated struggle for male supremacy
that fathers and sons go through. In the case of girls, it is more
a stand to prove their independence. Fathers, who are struck by their
own version of the 'empty nest syndrome', will try to delay this as
much as possible. Of course, the girl is a lady now, and will resent
being 'treated like a baby'. In most cases, this is just a rite of
passage, and no hard feelings are carried on to the later years in
isn't always the case, though. The relationship between Louisa and
Gradgrind in Charles Dickens' "Hard Times" is a literary
example of a father-daughter relationship gone wrong. That, however,
was the result of miscommunication, and not the lack of any love on
either side. In real life, the relationship may go sour, both when
the father is too authoritative, or indifferent to his daughter's
needs, or perhaps too protective. Particularly in our Subcontinent,
which has a history of female infanticide and other forms of discrimination
against female children, the girl child, her wishes and her rights,
are often ignored, especially in rural areas. Remember Bidhushekhar
and his daughter Bindu in Sunil Gangopaddhay's "Shei Shomoy"?
The father not only stopped his daughter's education, he also denied
her a happy, fulfilling life in every way that mattered. Hopefully,
with the spread of education, things are changing for the better.
At the end of
the day, there's no denying that the bonds that bind a father and
daughter are truly beautiful. Through thick and thin, come hell or
high water, our dads are there for us. They are the ones that stay
up worrying with the light on till the girls, be they twelve or twenty-one,
call it a day and come home. And they will continue to do so, whether,
we need them to or not…that's the beauty of it all.
Sabrina F Ahmad
Models: Ariana Khan and Akhtaruzzaman Khan
Gazi Sharmin and Gazi Shahabuddin Ahmed
Photo: Zahedul I Khan