Privilege of being a dad

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Sam George is the executive director of Parivar International, a non-profit initiative to address the needs of youth and families of Asian Indian origin in North America.  Sam is the author of the book “Understanding the Coconut Generation” (www.CoconutGeneration.com). He can be reached at sam@coconutgeneration.com

By Sam George

I hope you had meaningful Father’s Day celebration. Of course it is the western tradition that marks days commemorating fathers and mothers. Eastern cultures are known for honor given to dads, though they may remain aloof from their progenies. But, there are great examples of father and child relationships from history that are worth emulating.

Just last week, I was browsing again through the classic, Glimpses of World History written by the first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. It is comprised of a series of letters he wrote from prison to his young daughter Indira Priya-darshini (later Indira Gandhi). No matter what our political affiliations or what policies he crafted, I find the letters a commendable deed of a great father.

The book is a panoramic sweep of the history of humankind. It is a collection of 196 letters on world history written from various prisons in British India between 1930-1933 and published in 1934. It covers the rise and fall of great empires and civilizations from Greece and Rome to China and West Asia; great figures such as Ashoka, Genghis Khan, and Lenin; wars and revolutions, democracies and dictatorships.

Imagine that amidst the busyness of the national freedom struggle of India, when confined to a prison cell, a father finds a teaching moment for his daughter. He painstakingly wrote letter after letter where he had no recourse to reference books or a library but only his personal notes. He wrote letters on her birthday and other special occasions to let her know that Dad was thinking about her.

The book starts off with a letter he sends to his daughter on her birthday. He says he is sad about not being able to send her any “material” gift from prison, so he would try to give her something he can “afford”, a series of letters from his heart. What a great way for a father to connect with his young child. The book not only holds vast amounts of historical facts, but many tender moments between a father and daughter.

Nehru tells stories from human history and cultures of the world. He wanted his daughter Priyadarshini to know why people did what they did, which was only possible through knowing the history of the whole world. He wanted to expand the world of his daughter beyond her immediate surroundings to the vast expanse of world. He was stretching her tender mind and heart.

The letters are written in informal language and several personal references are sprinkled throughout. They reflect Nehru’s worldview and his grasp of history. Dads need not be professional historians or widely read. They can simply retell stories about their childhood or what they read in their school years. One need not have a perfect command of language, have all the facts accurately, or aim for publishable material. Remember, the objective of fatherhood is to connect with your child and prepare her for the world before her.

Dads, take your children to a museum or walk through the annals of world history in a book. Go on a road trip or watch a historic movie with your kids. We have the benefit of learning  from those who had gone before us and helping our children find a strong footing. Remember, those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are bound to repeat them!

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