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April 4, 2013

Old Notes on Saumya Bhattacharya's 'Dad's the Word : The Perils and Pleasures of Fatherhood'

Author : Soumya Bhattacharya 
Publisher : Westland 

Rating : 2.5 / 5 

“You don’t know suffering until you have children. You don’t know joy. You don’t know boredom, you don’t know — period,” says Philip Roth in The Anatomy Lesson. Soumya Bhattacharya’s book, Dad’s The Word: The Perils And Pleasures Of Fatherhood, not only quotes Roth but is rooted in the belief that becoming a father changes you forever.

Dad’s The Word does not profess to be a book on parenting, a treatise about fathering or any sort of go-to guide. It is simply a languorous unravelling of Bhattacharya’s most intensely private thoughts, fears and observations about being a father and more specifically, an entirely personal recounting of being his daughter’s father.

The author is not shy of self-exploration with his daughter as co-traveller, student and teacher on this great journey. How do you explain money and financial matters (why we don’t live in a bigger house with more things) to a child who is growing up in the country’s financial capital? How do you ban television-viewing when there isn’t a ‘great outdoors’ for your child to explore? Is it ok to give your nine-year-old an occasional sip of beer and wine? How do you explain the death of a pet? How do you justify your refusal to quit smoking?

The book is easy to read. It reflects on the whole parenting issues without making a heavy production out of it. It answers questions, leaves behind more questions and is prepared to face whatever situation that arrives in parenting. Therefore in one way parenting makes one bold, daring and responsible. To be able to think on their feet and to be able to answer convincingly, questions that are difficult to answer and learn to even evade the uncomfortable ones. 

The problem with the book is that pontificates a little too much, inundated with too much information about English writers and their classic works, in turn making the prose turgid. He also does not delve at all among the most important facet of Parenting - Sibling rivalry. No fatherhood can be complete without dealing with this important and exclusive theme. Read it for some of the insightful portions as the book is cut from his weekly columns. But as the writer says, "Anyone could have written this book". In the hindsight, after reading the book, may be yes!

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