Dr. R. Kishore Kumar is the Founder-Chairman, Senior Neonatologist and inspiration behind Cloudnine. His experience as a neonatologist across the world led him to spark the idea for a world-class woman and child care facility in India. Together with other co-founders, he set up Cloudnine in 2007. Having spent a large part of his career in England and Australia, he shares his story of becoming a father to children Karan and Adithi, encouraging them to become global citizens, and making sure they stayed true to their roots.
I was the fourth child to my parents. And because I was the youngest, I suspect that I was a tad more pampered than my siblings. My grandparents weren’t affluent, and yet they poured everything they had into raising their children, rationing their resources to give my dad the best upbringing. My grandfather had led a middle-class life, holding an ordinary job to provide for his family. But my father chose to take a different route, becoming an entrepreneur by spreading his risk across multiple ventures. In turn, my siblings and I had a privileged childhood, but knowing how hard my grandfather and my father had worked to build their lives, kept us grounded.
In my parents’ generation, it was customary for children to get married by 19 and start a family by 21. It was expected, even. My parents, however, were firm that their children should be independent, both financially and emotionally, before taking the marital plunge. They allowed me to spread my wings, settle down in another country and establish my medical career, before I even thought about marriage. And when I finally did marry, my wife and I decided that we would take our time to start a family. We began our marital journey in England, where we made our own rules and decisions. We learnt many new things together without the usual dynamics of an extended family, a process that drew us closer and made us stronger. We wanted to be anchored in our marriage before adding children to the equation. Three and a half years after we married, we were blessed with our son, and six years after that, with our daughter.
During my childhood, my father would take us on a holiday every year, memories I look back on ever so fondly. This one little window during the year bound our family together, and my siblings and I would look forward to this annual tradition eagerly, counting down to it with bated breath. I suppose the ritual stuck with me into adulthood, because when I had children myself, I ensured that half-yearly family holidays were earmarked in everybody’s calendar. I would keep one holiday dedicated to traveling within India, learning about the culture and heritage of various states. The other holiday would take us to another part of the world. Through the years, our vacations have provided a window for the four of us to spend more quality time together and replace our otherwise-daily hubbub with quiet and conversations. The rest of the year, the dinner table draws us all together, and we ensure that we eat at least one meal together as a family. There isn’t a single day that I don’t interact with my children, regardless of which part of the world I am in.
I had carved my niche as a neonatologist in England by the time I got married. I think my experience there shaped my perspective and I approached fatherhood differently to how I may have otherwise. My son was born in England and my daughter in Australia, and both of them were exposed to a melting pot of cultures and traditions during their childhood. I wanted my children to be global citizens, embracing new cultures while honouring their roots. My wife and I strove to strike a balance, and I think the fact that both our children have such a strong sense of self today, is testimony to our efforts.
We decided to move back to India 10 years ago, when Karan was in 6th grade and Adithi was in 1st grade. After some initial skirmishes, both settled down quite well because I always told them that they had the best of both the worlds and to enjoy the present. They had a whole lifetime ahead of them to fulfil their dreams and fly towards their destinies. That held them in good stead.
If I told you that I share the same relationship with my daughter as I do with my son, I’d be lying. For the first fourteen years of my daughter’s life there was no difference in their upbringing. But now that my daughter is in her teens, my wife and I always think twice when we hear of a late-night party she has been invited to, or a trip that she is thinking of taking. We didn’t worry as much with our son. Of course, our daughter knows that we often do a double-take on her decisions because we are worried about her. We want her to be safe, never victimised or discriminated. Naturally, I feel more protective towards her than I do towards my son. For matters other than safety, the rules for both my children have always been the same.
There used to be times when I would worry that I’d perhaps given my children too much of the world, but my son proved me wrong when he left for university abroad five years ago. Over the years, he has blossomed as an individual and is currently studying to be a doctor. People often assume that his career pursuits are tethered to the fact that we have Cloudnine, but that isn’t true at all. I have always given my children the liberty to do whatever they want to. Cloudnine was and is my dream, and I wouldn’t want to impose anything on my children that could curtail their dreams. My daughter plans to pursue her education abroad, too, and while I worry about her, I know that she will flourish when she takes the final leap, two years from now.
I think I’m a democratic version of my own father, when it comes to parenting skills. I’m spontaneous like him, but I let my children in on many decisions that we take as a family. I’m grateful that I could show my children the world and still have them remember their identity. To know that they’ll carry that with them wherever they go, I think I’ve fulfilled my role as a father.