My father was so involved in his factory that he had little time for the kids. Often when a guest came and asked our father in which class we studied, he didn’t know. Instead, he would ask us. My mother struggled to bring up four children and to make ends meet. My heart went out to my mother and I helped her in whatever ways I could – buying vegetables, sorting, cleaning, chopping and lighting the angeethi. At night I shut and locked the doors and made the beds.
I passed out from IIT Kanpur and left a good job to pursue my passion for making science fun for children. When our daughter Dulari completed 3 years she got admission to St. Mary’s School, Pune. It was a prestigious 100-year-old school. But somehow she didn’t like her class teacher. She perhaps dreaded her bulky frame. Dulari made it clear she would not go to school. We welcomed her decision. So, every day I would take her with her tiffin box to the Empress Garden on my Luna. There used to be a small running stream at that time. Dulari collected leaves, twigs and seeds and would thoroughly enjoy herself for a couple of hours. Then she would eat her lunch and we would start our return journey home to Tingre Nagar. She would be very sleepy by then and I would tie her with a dupatta as she stood in the front. In 1988, my wife – Sunita got admission to JNU to do her PhD and we moved to Delhi. Dulari was 4 years old at that time. We spent 14 years there. Dulari was lucky to be admitted to an off-beat experimental school named Mirambika – started by two Dutch disciples of Sri Aurobindo. I ran the science club in school twice a week, in lieu of which the school waived Dulari’s fees. It was the most joyous place for her to be. No uniform, no homework, no course curriculum.
My wife Sunita always worked in a college and earned enough for the family. I was a househusband by choice and I loved it. Dulari would go every day to school and Sunita to college. They would return by 2 PM to find hot lunch cooked by me. The lunch was simple because that is what I could manage. Dulari spent 6 wonderful years in Mirambika. After that, she got admitted to Sardar Patel Vidyalaya. It was a very special school. Its progressive Principal Vibha Parthasarthy ensured that all boys learnt cooking and rangoli and all girls participated in all boy’s games. When she was very young I would discuss with Dulari about investments. Should we invest in Bank Fixed Deposits or buying debentures and shares?

Since Covid, millions of parents are working from home. Many men are reconnecting with their children. For the first time, they have a great opportunity to play, chat, read and do lots of activities with children. This will make them better human beings. They can also help in cooking, cleaning and other household chores to reduce the burden of their other half.

The gender stereotyping of parenting roles must go. Mothers can earn good money in offices and fathers can be very loving with kids and feed them. Both parents must participate equally in bringing up a happy and healthy child.

(Arvind Gupta is a toymaker. He shares his passion for books and toys on his website arvindguptatoys.com)

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