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CELEBRATING FATHERHOOD

Mad about dad

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There's nothing more putty than a dad in his daughter"s hands. Many women are able to age gracefully only at the sight of their macho, moody, monosyllabic husbands being taken for a ride by these homegrown damsels in distress. The most alpha of men begin to mumble and shuffle feet like it's the Gestapo at their door when facing their daughters.

Man stands tall, will dart into wars and won't dance, cry or even say ouch - but only till he has his kids. Then it is that time of the month for the rest of his life, when estrogen kicks in big time. No commitment issues when it comes to their moms and daughters;he will happily play ATM-ATM with them all his life. In between the sun and the moon of maa and beti, respectively, are sisters, if any, shining like stars of various wattage.

What do dads do? That is apart from furnishing the requisite X or Y chromosome - mind you, in a very conducive environment. Well, they earn. In days of yore, all was clear. Women swept the courtyard and knitted little booties by the kitchen fire while men went out. Just out. They were busy being the backbones of the household, bulking the bank balance and growing moustaches. The quintessential breadwinner. But this is a bit diluted now - with women out and about, and mommies brandishing briefcases and bank accounts of their own.

However, men are still genetically programmed to provide. Take that away and watch them blink owlishly, unclear about what is expected of them. Have you, for example, watched them the first two months post-retirement ? If they can't gulp down their breakfast, pick up their dabba and leave home by nine AM, they are a real nowhere man.

Moms are less blurry and not too fussy when it comes to life's purpose. They adjust quickly to unlimited free time. With no baby to burp or child to pick up from school, they are happy to twiddle their thumbs. In the brief hiatus between babies and grandkids, they can really let their hair down. Too old to return to the workforce but too young to die, they do their own thing. Men? They are stuck in a rut. Off to work and back again, dull old Jacks, all work and no play.

Most of daddying involves monitoring of wife who, for some reason, is just not up to bringing up the kids, especially not like his mom had. He will make desultory checks into hygiene levels at home, the degree of nutrition in meals, marks obtained by the children and go tch-tch. That is when he decides to be more hands-on, expecting major opposition from wife and finding none.

New-age guys are enthusiastic about the baby, having watched their own fathers stand by with nothing to say while growing up. Modern man wants to stop and smell the roses, even diapers. Wanting desperately to connect, they attempt every mode, real and virtual, to bond with the kids. This is a big leap for mankind but a small, even embarrassing, step for kid-kind. There is no 'unfriending' of said man from offspring's Facebook account as he is never 'friended' in the first place. Mothers, of course, are used to being dumped by tots but men who thought they only had to extend a hand just stand there blinking at this lack of response from their flesh and blood. Even Bollywood dads are no longer saying, 'Yeh shaadi nahi ho sakti'. They are all busy nodding, wanting only to be BFFs with their brats.

Maternity is a matter of certainty but fatherhood is blind faith. Which is why when they see a baby, most people coo that it is a spitting image of its dad. And the Harishchandra types who say the baby is ditto its mom get no response. Then a polite rebuttal from the mother: either 'You haven't seen my husband!'or 'You haven't looked at my husband hard enough'.

Dad, dada, father, papa, pa, pitaji, appa, baba, babu-ji are all synonyms for security blankets, which is why women think they are paying the ultimate compliment to a man when they say: 'You are so much like my dad!'David Beckham recently said his only daughter Harper would be locked up like Rapunzel in a tower so that no boys get to her. Circa 2030 one can just imagine Miss Beckham rolling her eyes at paterfamilias.

Agreed, papas all over the planet are taken for granted. There is a brief phase in the early stages of extreme infancy when their darling divas see them as Superman and the rest of their lives the former supermen try hard to hang on to that cape. The girls know how to play this one. At first they are mad about dad. Then they are mad at dad.

Daddies everywhere, don't despair. There is an entire day - all 24 hours of it - dedicated exclusively to you. Daddy Day, mid-June, you can, if you drop enough hints about at home, expect perhaps one percent lesser rudeness from the kids. Maybe they will even nod at you. Or respectfully meet your eyes. And not just mumble something about borrowing your car or banging it if already borrowed.

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