Fathers and daughters; in desi culture, it’s a weird yet beautiful relationship. It’s weird, because fathers have been the same men who have been brought up by the patriarchal culture which did not often tell them how to consider a woman at par with them, even their wives. It’s beautiful because when they take their daughters into their arms, that’s the moment they actually understand what it is like to truly fall in love. For better or worse, a man always falls in love once, and that one time is when he sees his daughter. A wife mostly comes after that. A man will fight the world for the rights of his daughters, even if he couldn’t understand it at the time when his wife asked for it. Are fathers feminists? One can’t probably say. It’s true that a father’s heart beats and breaks for his daughter, as per the situation, but feeling that does not make him a feminist, acting on that does, enabling his daughter does. A father, as the privileged gender in the society, has the power to push his daughter towards a space where she can speak for herself, and a father is also the person who can take her side and support her decision even when the entire society is against it. A mother can do that too, but given her position in the patriarchal world, her resolve often weakens and pushes the daughter to walk in sync with the culture. A father, on the other hand, can turn the story around. That’s when he becomes a feminist, holding his daughter’s hand when she is swimming against the tide. Amrita’s father beams with pride when he watches her dancing at the celebration party for her husband; it’s the gaze of a father who tells her she could have done so much had she pursued her passion. He’s a man who looks stunned when his daughter gets slapped in front of everyone. It’s a man who observes when everyone is concerned about Vikram’s anger but none thinks of Amu’s humiliation, and gets a fever when his daughter is suffering. He’s a man who apologises to his wife when she asks him why didn’t he ever support her dreams with the same fervour. He is a man who looks into the eyes of his daughter’s husband and tells him that the relevant thing to say is not “what’s done is done” rather, “why did it happen?”, and when his own son tries to misbehave with his fiancée, this father stands up and asks his son to either apologise or leave. Amrita’s father, a fan of poets, then pens a poem of freedom on her, and makes sure he stands like a rock behind her, as she fights for her self-respect.
But Amrita’s father also gives her the advice of a lifetime, that one can’t expect a happy result after doing something right.
Narottam Mishra smokes with his daughter Bitti Mishra, while his wife Sushila laments over how the daughter is a “bigdi hui ladki”. In one of the scenes when Sushila is particularly rude to her daughter, majorly because she as a woman knows what character assassination her daughter and her family will have to go through, Bitti gets upset and goes to the roof. When her father joins her there, she asks him why is it so tough to be a woman? Why don’t people question men? And her father simply says that this is how society works. While he doesn’t believe in it, he has to live in it. When he sees Bitti riding on a guy’s bike, he advises her to sit with both her legs on one side for comfort. In a small town like Barielly where anyone and everyone thinks its their business to interfere, Narottam Mishra shields Bitti and turns out to be the cutest feminist father there is!
On screen or off, feminist fathers are real and rare, but they exist, and they are the ones who remember their daughter’s favourite colour, even when the world forgets her individual identity.
Author ~ Arushi Dubey
Editor ~ Sai Reddy