Parental Guide To ‘Freedom’ And ‘Risk’


parental guidance

Post the gang-rape in Mumbai, a friend observed ‘thank God, I don’t have daughters’. But Jaideep Ghosh has, and he wouldn’t have it any way.

The plus of having a teenaged child is that you get tech savvy in double-quick time. But as a parent of a teenager, you also need to be able to gauge between what is too much interference, or not.

So when I got savvy to Whatsapp, I keep tabs on my daughter. But most of the time it’s to check when was the last time she was online. If the time span is anything more than two hours, I send her a message.

I am a father of daughter who commutes in to the North Campus of Delhi University from the NCR, alone. She travels the entire breadth of the city, through some of the not-so-great neighbourhoods, and beyond. I worry. But I will be damned if I tell her not to.

But while there is no question that people’s freedoms and rights are sacrosanct, some of the reactions to the Mumbai gang-rape, or any other offence, leave me a little frustrated and a little angry.

Our politicians have never been paragons of sensitivity, so their reactions are not to be jumped on with any great gusto.

At the same time, the reactions of the so-called ‘liberals’ scares me. You cannot condone, if not downright encourage, putting women in situations where they would be at risk.

I tell my daughter to be careful, not because I am trying to impinge on her liberties. I would equally tell a son to wear a helmet if he was on a bike. And I would tell them both to be back home by a reasonable time (though the interpretation of ‘reasonable’ has always been different for parents and children).

Irrespective of which country you are in, the initiative is always with the criminal. There is no system by which the police can pre-empt a crime, without prior knowledge. That is also what makes terrorist strikes so successful.

This distinction is pretty clear for me – I won’t let anyone compromise my child’s pursuit of success and happiness. At the same time, I would not accept any hysterical banshee proclamations that ‘freedom’ translates into taking unnecessary risks.

That applies particularly given the fact that we live in a society which largely, at best, just tolerates women. Men cannot handle being bettered by women, or even equalled. Take a look at how men drivers react to being passed by women. That is a classic example. So, given half a chance, they will try to force this ‘superiority’. Don’t give them that chance.

I worry. I am always keeping track of where my daughter is. She has been brought up in the rather unforgiving environs of Delhi, but that bravado and attitude can be a double-edged weapon.

But that doesn’t mean she will sit at home. She will do whatever she wants to do, but as a sensible 20-year-old, she knows where she has to draw a line. This ‘drawing a line’ seems to be an issue with many women. To them I say, get real.

That said, I wouldn’t trade having a daughter with anything else. I would wish her a happy life, as to all women. But be a little careful out there.

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