Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Father's Day - The Flip Side...

Last Father’s Day, I had written a sentimental, rather meandering `letter’ to my kids under the title `Father’s Day Musings’. Of all my posts, this received the largest feedback – mostly from my friends and course mates, people like me, in the same boat, who empathized deeply. Been there, done that..

People whom I didn’t even know wrote in, one saying that it had moved him and his wife to tears as they read it together. For those who missed it, or would like to give it a re-visit (as I just did), it is available at

This post is a bit different. It’s not about kids, but about us dads, on the wrong side of sixty, old, grumpy and cantankerous. That ring a bell somewhere?

Vinita Dawra Nangia’s blog (`How Not To Become An Old Grumpy’) in last Sunday’s `Times of India’ talks of the IMS, `Irritable Male Syndrome’, that afflicts every man once he crosses 60.

Men naturally become grumpy, Vinita contends, because it’s in their DNA! Quoting the American psychotherapist Jed Diamond, she assures us that IMS is as prevalent, and actually much deadlier than the female PMS!

To me, it was a double whammy. Being a Puri, and therefore already a hopeless case of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), to now be saddled with IMS in addition was scary, to say the least.

I decided to check. Who better to ask than my first born.

“Do you think,” I asked Puja, “that I’ve become grumpy as I’ve grown older?” I emphasized the word in as nasty an intone I could manage, while trying to sound noncommittal.

“Not at all, Pa” she assured me sweetly, and before my Cheshire Cat grin could spread any wider, she added “You’ve always been grumpy!”

Vinita’s reasoning is simple. When working, men are, or think they are, in control. Once they retire into ignominy, that sense of control is lost. Ergo, they become grumpy. Bristling hedgehogs, radiating irritability and impossible to handle as they grow older!

And how do your kids deal with the new you? Not a problem in my case, as Puja so delicately brought out. Or wait - how did we deal with our fathers?

Take the case of course mate Pramod Kulkarni and his better half Ashvini. They had both their fathers living with them for, I kid you not, almost 25 years. Well past their eighties, the `oldies’ must have made the proverbial `odd couple’, and, one would have thought, driven Pramod and Ashvini up the wall! 25 years, phew!

“We played good cop, bad cop” Pramod explained. “While Ashvini pampered them, I was the strict disciplinarian!”

Both passed away in quick succession recently, and Pramod and Ashvini were devastated.

“Is there no sense of freedom, or relief?” I asked Ashvini tentatively.

 “Not at all, it was so lovely!” she gushed, “It was just like raising children all over again!”

I don’t know much about paap-punya, but I’m sure Pramod and Ashvini have earned enough punya to assure them a great place in the hereafter.

Puja lives half way across the world. We miss her bubbly presence. She talks to us daily using Face Time (Thank you, Steve Jobs!). Her American friends are appalled. They barely speak to their parents, if at all.

Thank God for Indian tradition!


  1. Read both. Good write-ups! Liked last year's for its straight-from-the-heart-honesty. This year, would have liked you to introspect more on the first half. Do you or do you not relate with IMS for yourself and your friends? Interesting example of your friends who had their fathers staying with them for 25 years!! They deserve an award!!

  2. Ashvini Kulkarni's Comment..

    Reading your blog opened up the floodgates of memories, of my fathers ( Yes, fathers, as there was no in-law or out- law). May their souls rest in peace. In their almost 25 years of togetherness in my life, I have seen them transition from being mine , and of course Pramod's too, pillar of strength and support to becoming completely dependent and helpless due to old age. I feel completely blessed having been a daughter to them.

  3. Pramod Kulkarni's Comment

    Our parents spare no efforts in giving us the best of everything in prime of their youth. A few of us are blessed enough to put in their small bit to make their lives a little more tolerable when the old age and the poor health takes the toll with passing years. There is joy in doing so. And Harish, when someone like you observes it and puts across in words the joy is doubled. I deeply appreciate what you wrote.