On Becoming A Dad

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Sometime in my very late 20s or perhaps even very early 30s, I came to the realization that most of my most critical life decisions had never truly been taken after considered deliberation, at least nothing remotely resembling the  “should I this or should I that” decision-paralysis that I find myself being afflicted by before every purchase of a fairly expensive consumer durable. I studied engineering, not because I particularly wanted to or felt it was a good fit for my skill sets, but because that’s what “all the good boys do” (There was medical also, but then I found cutting toads yucky). When it came time to do a PhD in the US, I again went with the flow. All my smart friends had taken the same decision and well, all of them couldn’t be wrong. Whether five-years of poorly-paid slogging away at impossible problems aligned well with how I defined the concept of “reward”, I never gave a second’s thought. Getting married at the age of twenty-five was also something very impulsive,  how impulsive  I realized a few years later when the rest of the curve caught up with me and I heard stories, perhaps apocryphal, of “arranged-marriage-tours”, meeting one prospective match for lunch and one for dinner, and Excel sheets with SWOT analysis of matrimonial candidates.

I did not regret some of the decisions taken without thought, and even the ones I did regret none gave me as much grief in retrospection as buying a Sony camcorder in 2000. But I did regret how cavalier and ill-considered the process that led to these life-critical decisions had been, how little of the way I am that had been factored in to the choice of the path to take.

And so I was determined not to repeat this mistake of mindlessly checking off a box in a checklist when the next big fork in the road came.

Which was when to have a child.

The pressure to have one had slowly been increasing for me and my wife, in the ominous 10-dot-balls-in-a-T20 way. What started out as precipitous conversations like “So-and-so just had a baby daughter, he got married three years after you did…remember?” that just happened to spring up when we were in the room soon graduated to straight hits down to the fence like “So when are you thinking about starting a family?” I have always been tempted to ask why is a married couple not already a “family” just I had been tempted once to retort to a “When will you two become three?” with a “Our religion does not allow two wives, aunty”. But then I have come to realize, through bitter experience,  that it is better to duck some bouncers than to try to hook them. But perhaps not all. Like the time I thought I had given a razor-sharp repartee to one half of a well-childed couple about my age (“Don’t you like children?”) with a “I love children and wives as long as they are other people’s”. I know I was being flip, perhaps even off-color, but the pressure was getting to me sometimes, the albums-full of new-born pictures of the guys I went to school with, and the facebook status updates. But more the pressure, the more determined I became.

To think this through.

Which is of course, fancy-speak for kicking the can further down the road. There was always time to start a “family”, we would tell each other. Next year. After the book is released. After this. After that.The core of this reticence was fear. Fear  that I would not be a good parent. Fear that I would not measure up. Fear that just like I had blamed most of my problems on my parents and on Nehru, my child would do the same and might, horror of horrors, even take Nehru out of that list. And perhaps, though it might be considered by some to be shamefully selfish to accept this,  fear of change, of changing a lifestyle that I have become accustomed rather pleasantly to—-of late mornings on weekends, being able to leave home when I like and return when I want, of “Walking Dead” marathons and the simple pleasure of scheduling my life around what I felt like doing.

Till the stage was reached time-wise when the question was approaching the stage of not “when” to have a child but if to have one.

And the moment the question was framed like this, the answer was crystal clear.

The fear of being a father was nothing compared to the fear of never being one.

And so I became a parent, on January 12th at 8 pm, a parent perhaps of the type I always dreaded, you know the one who sits besides you on a plane with his child with the “Adjust please or else you are a curmudgeon” attitude , the one who counts the “Likes” on his child’s pictures on Facebook, the one who looks at married-and-yet-without-child couples with a glance of quiet judgement, the one that scares parents-to-be with a knowing “Enjoy your sleep for the last time in your life”, the one that fraternizes socially only with couples that have children in the same age -group, the one that wears their daddy-status like a badge of pride.

As the doctor handed me little Anahita  [For those interested, this is what the word signifies, the first alphabet of Anahita is from my name, her last three from my wife’s and one of her shrines is in Shehr-e-Ray or City of Rays], I was even more bewildered than the little ball of human-hood that looked back at me. True to form, me being me, a kaleidoscope of images arranged and re-arranged themselves in my pop-culture addled brain, of Alok Nath’s tremulous “Beti ghar ki laxmi hotee hain Radheshyamji”, of the opening bars of “Krishna Krishna” as twin-Anil-Kapoors are born in “Kishen Kanhaiyya”, and a gender-neutral rendition of Gunda’s famous “Pita pe Poot, Baap pe ghoda, Kuch nahi to thoda thoda…”  as I found myself saying, standing in that twilight zone of happiness, fear and hope :

“So many stories I have to tell you. And so many things you need to teach me. “

anahita

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121 thoughts on “On Becoming A Dad

  1. as always, this too comes straight from your heart Arnab – absolute honest words .. quite an endearing read !!
    God Bless the “family” & just keep rocking !!
    Cheers !!
    – Udaye

  2. Congrats and best wishes for your kid… so many things to learn for her and you will be a part of that journey reliving those wonderful days of childhood :)

    What a journey it has been for us(your blog followers) for ~10 years and now you are a Dad ! And we have grown older and perhaps wiser with you. Some say one tends to become more conservative as one’s family grows. Let’s see :)

    • Many Congratulations !! She is absolutely adorable !! I just had a baby a few months back and I could totally identify with your view on “social pressure” …

      I hope you know that you have readers like me who have been reading your blogs for over five years, read both your books and have recommended to many… but seldom comment on your blog.. :) Thank you for writing !!! it brings immense joy to us..

      and loved this comment if they have seen Gunda hilarious !!… quoting from your blog… “there are only two types of people in this world, one who have seen Gunda and the others who will see Gunda”

  3. Congratulations to your wife and you, Arnab. Little Anahita looks very adorable. May God bless her at all times. Enjoy fatherhood:)

  4. Arnab… congratulations to you and your wife… and the grand parents! That is one beautiful child you have been rewarded with. I am sure you are already wondering what the heck you have been doing all these years without her. I can relate to all the stories and feelings you expressed prior to having a child. Believe me, I have gone through every one of those phases until I had my daughter. Take it from a bit more experienced dad… your life is going to continuously change as Anahita grows up… but only for the better. All the added responsibilities and sleepless nights that people scare you about are nothing compared to how you will be continuously rewarded by your daughter… sometimes simply by just the way she will smile. The only complaint I have against my daughter is the speed with which she has been growing up. The brat is already 15 :-( So savor every moment. Happy parenthood to both you and your wife. Welcome Anahita!
    BTW one of my nieces share your daughter’s name. It is a beautiful name.

  5. Many many congratulations!!!
    Since you managed to blog this piece down… I totally think she is a wonder sweet little angel who will always give her father his ‘time and space’ to carry out his favorite stuff in life!

  6. Heartiest Congratulations on becoming a father. Little Anahita looks very cute….And best of luck for this new journey of fatherhood

  7. Congratulations. I am still at the 7 dot-ball stage.. pressure has been building (internal and external) but have been firm till now that we are not going to take the plunge.. good luck and hope sleepless nights don’t mean less frequent posts!

  8. children are SO wont to do all the things you DON’T want them to.
    so, i guess your little ball of joy will be bawling on the plane , both to and fro.
    and another yet-to-be-dad will write a scathing comment on HIS blog.

    welcome to the world of parenthood, where victories are so few that each one, however trivial, are tom-tommed all the way to Betelgeuse IV.

    er, did i ever mention that MY daughter won the third prize for solo singing in a field of four? or that she has been awarded the rashtrapati puruskkar for guides?

    see, how desperate parents are?!?!!!

  9. Wow – congratulations! Hope Anahita brings you bliss in the years to come, and makes you proud with every passing moment. – Sudipta

  10. Congrats on becoming a dad and an excellent piece. Hope this helps those that are still sitting on the fence (or boundary rope).

  11. Awesomeness all around!! Wish you guys all the very best. Everything you’re scared of will come to pass while you haven’t even dreamt of the things that will make you happy. Enjoy the ride!!

  12. I think you need to reconsider your stance on gun laws if they are liberal … In 15 years you will be wanting a shotgun to be hanging from the front door as a warning :P Heartiest congratulations

  13. Congrats GB….I am commenting for the first time..Been Reading ur blog for a long time..this is a really great news.

  14. Congrats Arnab, and Mrs. Ray (assuming she doesnt take offense to adopting the husband’s surname!) ;) Jokes apart, this one deserves a standing ovation (in advance). Apparently, this is going to be the toughest and the fun-nest pitch to bat on. And bat you will! Cheers to that.

  15. Congo GB! :)
    Btw “Our religion does not allow two wives, aunty” – you could have unleashed your Hindutva… :P

  16. Hi GB!!
    Congratulations, is the least I can say.

    For I find myself in exactly the same position as you were — possibly worse (40+, married nearly 5 years), and unlike you, an obscure middle class “resource”. The same predicaments, the same pressures, the same hints from friends, family and everybody else ….

    Nevertheless, you’ve phrased the situation appositely …”The fear of being a father was nothing compared to the fear of never being one.” And this shows the path.

    Congratulations once again … and to little Anahita: Hello sweetie, a big welcome from all of us. I hope the world is worthy of people like you.

  17. I am OCD and hate to break patterns, so…..

    “Am I first, can I get an Ipad?”

    BTW- congratulations brother, and I wish all the health and happiness in the world to little Anahita ….when i heard that you had a baby, it felt like one of my cousins had a baby…

  18. Very nicely worded. Indeed, I felt as if you were narrating my story. Heartiest Congratulations! May Anahita continue to fill your hearts with joys

  19. > {my child would do the same and might, horror of horrors, even take Nehru out of that list}

    daughters r a little more forgiving than sons … celebrate that u have a daughter who would (with luck) take you out of the list and maybe blame only Nehru (and if u r lucky only her mom)

    congrats !

  20. Welcome to the Fold Arnab. For someone who has travelled a similar path(late child, etc.) it was fun reading your point of view. I do hope that those years of late night training has created the base for what is to come now.

  21. Heartiest congratulations Arnab :-) you have no idea how much this post resonated with me. I am probably at the 6-7th dot ball stage (to borrow your cricketing metaphor) and would soon need to take this plunge. Thanks for this.

  22. Heartiest congratulations Arnab! Wish Anahita a lifetime of good health and happiness! And welcome to the “Fathers of Daughters” club :) I became one 2 months back and there are so many firsts that it is bewildering.

  23. Congratulations Arnab! So you’re a proud father of a sweet girl. Fifteen years from now, you’re going to be the butt of private jokes within her male friends, and you’d be proud of that. But you’d be heartbroken when you find that one dumbass who’d claim that he loves her more than you do.

  24. Firstoff..bigtime congrats…everything changed

    Hmmm…Stork seems to working overtime..anyway this blog could not have been timed any better for my case too…prepares me for impending sleeplessness too…yawwwn

  25. Congrats, Arnab…and your description of how the biggest decisions in life were taken vs the analysis-paralysis that accompanies the smallest of decisions is so spot on….

  26. First up, many many congratulations Arnab! She is really adorable.. :-)

    ” Fear that just like I had blamed most of my problems on my parents and on Nehru, my child would do the same and might, horror of horrors, even take Nehru out of that list” – If not Nehru, everyone has a “bapu” to blame – pun intended.. :)

  27. Congratulations. She is beautiful, and your post is apt.

    Children test and stretch your patience, creativity, and wisdom. They are rude, intrusive, needy and ungrateful. Yet, through the tumultous years of chld-rearing, a bond is formed that defies words, and lasts lifetimes.

    Chidren complete us.

  28. yesterday i took my son to play school he is two and half yrs,at the get teacher standing there he sayed something to her i know teacher not understood nor me,and he went inside grabing bag and water bottel in his hand without showing any emotion,a strange sadness filled in my body i first time felt that my son is grewup.

  29. Great Arnab, and a nice post announcing the new arrival. I do hope that Anahita gives you enough time to keep writing these wonderful blogs and cinema reviews, although they don”t make classics like “”Gunda”” anymore.

  30. This definitely ranks as one of your best posts ever..some absolutely gem like analogies throughout the writeup..The bouncers, hooks, aunty, facebook pic uploads and status messages of being a dad and the Pride factor of few too..all of which I could relate thoroughly as I belong to the same age group, painfully procrastinating the hopefully inevitable..

  31. Dear Arnab,
    Congratulations on the birth of your little bundle of joy. I am sure you are too exhausted and thrilled at the same time. Anahita is a very cute name for a lovely baby, especially with the deep symbolism of Saraswati’s Avestan (proto-Vedic) name.

    What makes this joyous occasion even more momentous is that your daughter was born on January 12, 2013 – the exact date of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. This is no small coincidence, as Bengal, India and the World are in dire need of another Vivekananda today who would show us a brave, new world.

  32. Pingback: hello, 2014 | staying.cool

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