Being Women

Beyond the Expected: How Appa Broke All Barriers

A father defies societal pressures, prioritizing his daughter's education and dreams. His love and progressive views continue to inspire her.

I was a gawky twenty-four-year-old, about to embark on a tour of Berlin. The thrill of completing my advanced course in German mingled with the ominous tingle of living in a foreign city for two months.

Amma and Appa, however, reposed their full faith in me.

Appa’s Unwavering Support

I still remember that afternoon. Amma’s colleague had invited us for lunch. After digging into the delectable Bengali spread, we retired to the living room for a round or two of adda.

The man of the house took out a chilled beer bottle from the fridge. My teetotaler Appa, refused his offer. As he sipped the Kingfisher, Appa addressed him, “If you don’t mind, can you fix a drink for my daughter?”

Four pairs of wide eyes turned in his direction. Recovering his composure, the host asked Appa, “Did I hear you right, sir?”

“Yes. My daughter is going to Berlin. I want her to enjoy her life to the fullest. I have heard that people over there drink lots of beer. I want her to get used to the taste.”

Breaking Free from Tradition

That was just another example of Appa wanting only the best for me. As a loss-making private firm employee who had opted for the Voluntary Retirement Scheme, his income didn’t amount to much. However, the meagre finances never posed an obstacle to my higher education and the subsequent pursuit of an expensive foreign-language course.

“Why can’t your daughter get a job in a call centre and support you?”

“It’s high time she got married.”

“Why can’t you save your money for her marriage?”

The taunts kept on piling, but Appa didn’t budge. When I broke the news of my scholarship to my parents, he was the happiest person on earth.

Feminism in Action

Appa never put pressure on me to marry. He waited until I decided it was time I looked for a partner. I will never forget those words of wisdom he imparted to me on the eve of my wedding.

“I know your fiance is a good guy. But here’s one thing: if at all he raises his hand at you, walk out. Remember, we are always there for you. A slap is never justifiable.”

Mind you, this was years before Tapsee Pannu talked about that life-altering thappad in her film.

Appa was raised in those times when feminism and patriarchy were just words in the dictionary. However, unbeknownst to him, he became a champion of equality and equity. His insistence on my getting a proper, higher education, his undying support as I relentlessly pursued my dreams, and his assurance of his support in case my marriage broke apart—these were acts of a feminist who never screamed the F word from the rooftop.

A Shared Vision for the Future

During my last trip to Kolkata, I expressed relief at how the neighbours had stopped pestering me for the good news. At the same time, I realised how the same people must have hounded him. When I broached the no-child agreement with my husband, he agreed vehemently. He also believed that bringing a child into this world was nothing short of cruelty, especially when global warming and inflation only go northward.

A Legacy of Love and Strength

His viewpoint might be debatable, but I’ll forever be grateful that Appa will always have my back, come what may. A widower for the past five years, he continues to lead his life with dignity, cooks tasty dishes, and looks after his health religiously. He might not leave behind wealth like an Ambani, but the legacy compensates for everything. I have huge shoes to fill. Am I intimidated? A bit. But I’m his daughter. And something tells me I will continue to uphold the values he stood for.


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