Men taking paternity leave is still a conventionally alien topic in the Indian mainstream. Here, mothers are still seen as primary caregivers of the child two parents have together conceived. This imbalance in the parental relationship forms the foundational base of several other gender structures that impact a family, household, and society at large.
But if marriage should be a relationship of equals, then shouldn't parenthood comprise equal responsibility too?
Though a concept still uncommon, paternity leave is gaining ground in the country, boosted by some prominent public figures who have chosen to take off from work to assist their wives during months of pregnancy and the child's upbringing. Here are some such celebrity men:
1. Ram Mohan Naidu Kinjarapu
Ram Mohan Naidu Kinjarapu, a politician and member of parliament from the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), has sought nine days of paternity leave ahead of his wife's delivery date. As per reports, Kinjarapu requested leave from the ongoing Budget Session saying he was inclined to be "an equal contributor in the care and progress of our child... I am eager to stay by her side during the last phase of our pregnancy, and for a few days post the coming of the baby."
Kinjarapu's paternity leave request is one not frequently heard of in a field as competitive as politics, where round-the-clock public scrutiny holds many leaders ransom to toxic gender norms. With a young father as Kinjarapu valuing time spent beside his pregnant wife, it sets a healthy precedent for his contemporaries in politics as well as those citizens who look up to him.
2. Kapil Sharma
Comedian Kapil Sharma, host of his own television show The Kapil Sharma Show, is also one in a line of to-be fathers taking paternity leave. As per The Tribune, there are reports of his show going off-air temporarily in lieu of Sharma taking a break from work to be with his wife Ginni Chatrath, who is expecting the couple's second child. They are parents to a daughter named Anayra.
"Kapil decided to take the break now so that he could spend time with his family and the newborn," a source was quoted saying. The actor, responding to a fan on Twitter, also reiterated his decision to take paternity leave. See his tweet below:
Bcoz I need be there at home with my wife to welcome our second baby 😍🧿 https://t.co/wdy8Drv355— Kapil Sharma (@KapilSharmaK9) January 28, 2021
3. Virat Kohli
Significant conversation around the need to normalise paternity leave emerged last year when Indian cricket team captain Virat Kohli's decision to take paternity leave went public. His wife and actor Anushka Sharma was due to deliver their first baby in January this year. Kohli's decision to take leave to be with Sharma during her pregnancy was especially groundbreaking since it came in the middle of a Test series with Australia.
Men Taking Paternity Leave - Why We Need to Normalise this.
With the Indian team suffering a miserable defeat in the first Test, fans of the game had crowded social media with aspersions, accusations, and anger directed at Kohli for choosing his wife over cricket (even country, some inferred). Despite the massive trolling that surrounded the couple pre-empting a bad win for the men in blue, India claimed an extraordinary victory at the Test. This win, though historic for other reasons too, also sent out a strong message in favour of paternity leave and the shattering the negative value attached to it.
Views expressed are the author's own.