Kiran Narayan is a real-estate entrepreneur and the father of an only daughter. He shares his experiences on fathering a daughter in a world full of prejudices, his decision to have only one child, and his thoughts as he gave his daughter away in marriage. When Deepthi was born, just two and a half years after I got married, she was like a little blessing for our family.
Deepthi was cherubic and charming, and her feeding and sleeping routine worked like clockwork each day. She seldom awoke from her slumber; she was a blissful little baby. And in that cloud of besotted parenthood, I don’t think I realised when she grew up. Of course, when I look back, I recollect each phase of her life, right from her time in preschool, to her years in school, and then onto college. She excelled academically, securing her spot in the top 5 of her class, every year. And yet, each phase melted into the next, and before I knew it, she had turned into a beautiful young lady.
When Deepthi was growing up, my wife and I inculcated values in her, but we never pressured her to do anything she didn’t want to. We taught her to respect her elders, to be polite and to follow a curfew. She listened and learned.
It was in 2014, when I lost my wife to cancer, that Deepthi and I relied on each other for comfort the most. She encouraged me, and I, her. I always say that daughters are more dependable than sons, and in the days following my wife’s passing, those words were epitomised by my daughter. In the next few years, my mother became the backbone of our family, bringing up my daughter and nurturing her with a mother’s love.
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Sometimes, I get asked why my wife and I stopped at one child. The answer is simple. We were content in our world, just the three of us, and we felt no need to expand our family. You see, we lived in a joint family during Deepthi’s formative years, and her cousins were, and still are, like siblings to her. She didn’t feel the absence of a brother or sister. Nor did she feel the need.
Sometimes, in jest, she would ask us how our family would have turned out if we’d added another child to our brood. My wife and I would jokingly respond that we would have picked teams, favouring one child each and spoiling them rotten.
I like to think that I’m broad-minded, having given Deepthi certain liberties. I remember a specific incident when she approached me sheepishly one day asking if she could go out for a beer with her friends. I smiled, and replied that she could, but told her to be careful and know where to draw the line. And she did. Even today, I encourage her to meet people, to build a network. After all, conversations broaden one’s outlook.
I never missed having a son, because I never identified my child as being any less capable of anything by virtue of her gender. I have always considered her my child, not my daughter. I imposed the same rules and restrictions on her as I would have with a son. Gender has always been incidental.
Deepthi got married a few months ago, and God knows it was hard seeing her go to a new home. I think every girl’s father experiences a sudden vacuum when his daughter leaves his home to step into another one, and I was no exception. I feel that if my wife were alive, she would have found it harder to deal with the empty nest because daughters and mothers share a unique bond.
Today, Deepthi lives in Zambia, with her husband. She is slowly settling into her newfound land. And as she creates a new life for herself over there, with a new routine, new friends and a new life partner, she knows that her father’s home has a place reserved for her. That will always stay.
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