Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 13, Tuesday, September 21, 2004




bonds that bind…

You 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

Bit 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."

That's 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.

Fathers 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.

If 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.

Okay, 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 the relationship.

This 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.

By Sabrina F Ahmad
Models: Ariana Khan and Akhtaruzzaman Khan
Gazi Sharmin
and Gazi Shahabuddin Ahmed
Photo: Zahedul I Khan



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