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Every Little Girl’s First Hero is Always Her Father. This Stereotype is True, At Least in My Case

Every Little Girl’s First Hero is Always Her Father. This Stereotype is True, At Least in My Case

  • On this Father’s Day, I am happy to admit that whatever I am today, I owe a lot to my beloved Appa.

It is hard to imagine that someone can have that much of an impact on another person. Truth be told my father did. Not just on me but on both my brothers as well. 

Imagine this was the 1980’s, in Chennai, India. Even in an urban city, we did not have access to a lot of luxuries, that we take for granted now.

My father taught us how to read and learn to appreciate books of all genres from humor to fiction to philosophy, and many different authors from Mark Twain to Wodehouse to Emerson. Storytelling was his super talent, we listened to wonderful and magical stories from a faraway world, every night before going to bed. Also as children, we were always exposed to discussions about sports, politics, and history. 

He also had an uncanny knack for getting good, used books and wonderful magazines like the Scientific American and Readers Digest from a small-time, pavement shop in Mylapore. We didn’t know then, but later on, this became quite an iconic landmark in Chennai, called the Alwar book shop, existing since 1939.

He also believed that childhood memories should be pleasant and magical. But, once we hit 18 years, he started treating us as adults and restrained giving any advice. He truly believed that we should discover life our own hard way, make mistakes and brave the up and down learning experiences. 

We did not have that much money at our disposal as a middle-class family, but my father purchased a television just to introduce us to good shows. The all-American iconic comedy shows like, “I Love Lucy,” Laurel & Hardy, and Charlie Chaplin were all digested, even though the accents were sometimes hard to get.  

We even rented video cassette players to play movies, in our summer pastime. And, we also used to take long bus trips to the city, to watch good English movies in a theatre, Carnatic music concerts, and circus shows. 

My father believed a lot in travel, and that “it broadens the mind”— in his exact words. My parents took a lot of pain in taking us all the way to the Golden Temple in Amritsar and a tour of Kashmir (top photo), way back in 1982 when it was a rare phenomenon for a South Indian family to venture that far. To the extent, I became a sort of a school hero, when my teacher asked me to talk about the trip in our class. A shining moment, that I can never forget.

Another passion my father had was that he was a music lover. He taught us to identify Carnatic music ragas and introduced us to Mohammed Rafi, and Lata Mangeshkar songs (even though he did not know Hindi at all). Sports was always a big celebration at home — cricket, hockey, football, tennis, and most of all Olympic Games. He also introduced us to basic Yoga asanas at home. 

Surprisingly, when I look back now, my father insisted so much on us gaining knowledge but never cared about our school report cards. I was a very average student, with no-so-great grades. Not even once he even bothered to talk about it. This attitude is what helped me a lot later when I homeschooled my daughter with special needs. Learned from my own life that the concept of teaching is more about imparting the concepts well rather than focusing on testing the outcome.

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Most importantly, personally, my dad was always my cheerleader. In his eyes, I could never do anything wrong. When a parent gives you that confidence, a child can only soar and fly with their wings high. He also encouraged me to speak my mind, be honest with myself, and never accept things as they seem or hesitate to question any authority.

To him, if I argued with him with logic and facts, it was a sign of progress and good use of my brain. He also believed the art of life is to be completely self-reliant and his favorite quote was that one should be a “rough-weather” pilot during personal crises (the analogy comes from having a flying license but he did not take up aeronautics). And, how sometimes humor can be the only medicine to keep you from going insane. 

I did not realize until much later when life threw way too many lemons, how powerful those words can be, especially for a shy, timid girl growing up in the traditional, orthodox society of 1980s India.

And, when he was diagnosed with brain cancer 16 years ago, his last words to me, literally were – “I know it will be hard for you to move on and accept that I will not be around. Promise me, no matter what happens in life that you will be happy, even when I am gone.”

On this Father’s Day, whatever I am today, I owe a lot to you, Appa.

Jayashree Srikanth lived in the United States for 16 years, then moved to Bangalore with her husband and two daughters. She is a proud homeschooler of a special needs kid, who has a successful art career and has won several awards including carrying the torch for the Rio Paralympics, in 2015. Her younger daughter graduated from UCLA and is now working for a healthcare startup in Chicago.

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The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
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