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How My Grandfather & Father Taught Me Feminism Through Their Lives

As Father’s Day 2024 approaches, I find myself reflecting deeply on the extraordinary men who have shaped my life—my grandfather and my father.

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Oshi Saxena
New Update
Father's Day 2024

My story begins with the gentle embrace of my grandfather, a man whose influence shaped not just my childhood but the very essence of who I am today. Father's Day 2024 feels like the perfect moment to honour the men who have profoundly impacted my life—my grandfather, my father, and the beautiful, seamless way they taught me the principles of feminism through their actions and their love.

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Celebrating The Legacy Of Love, Respect And Feminism

From a young age, I knew my father wouldn't be around all the time. His profession took him away, and so I lived with my maternal grandparents and my mother. Initially, I questioned why my father couldn't be there, but with time and the boundless love of my grandfather, I stopped seeking what was not available. My grandfather, at the age of 84, was a healthy, happy man who loved me endlessly. He was a leader in the truest sense, handling household duties and solving problems for our neighbours.

Grandpa's love knew no bounds. He would fiercely protect me, even getting into arguments with his daughter—my mother—just to shield me from her wrath after I did something foolish. Slowly, he became the father figure in my life, and my father, visiting once a month, became more of a guest.

When my grandmother got paralyzed at 86, I was barely in the third grade. The world around me changed instantly. I saw almost everyone breaking down, except my grandfather. He was the pillar, taking it upon himself to care for her. For three years, during the day, it was just the three of us—my grandmother, my grandfather, and me. I saw him bathe her, feed her, take her out to sit in the society garden and feed her favourite guavas and berries with a pinch of black salt. He meticulously managed her medicines, rushing to the market to get what she needed without making a big deal out of it.

To an eight-year-old, this was natural—there was no gender involved. A man taking care of his wife was simple and easy to understand. It wasn't until I went away for studies that I realized how rare it was. My grandfather lovingly called my grandmother 'Munshiji' or 'Ma'am' because she was his senior and a retired district education officer while he was a retired principal. The respect he showed her brought so much joy, even in her darkest days. It taught me the importance of respect in a relationship.

Their love story was equally inspiring. One day, when I asked my grandfather how they got married, I was surprised to learn it was a love marriage back in the 1950s. My grandfather instantly liked my grandmother, not for her looks but for her education and personality. He wanted an independent and educated partner, and he saw my grandmother as the perfect match. They got married, had four children, faced ups and downs, but remained together always. From him, I learned the importance of independence.

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He had a rule in his house: every woman must be independent, earn for herself, and receive the best education possible. Education and financial independence give women the power to lead their own lives and make their own choices. He instilled this in his daughters. My mother recalls an example from when she got her first job. She informed her father, expecting him to drop her off like other fathers did. Instead, he encouraged her to go alone, saying she needed to learn to be independent. He did have one of his loyal workers keep an eye on her, just in case, but without her knowing. This incident became one of her greatest life lessons and made my mother one of the most fearless women I know.

During my grandmother's last days, my grandfather  stood by her side, refusing to leave even for a second. The last person my grandmother responded to before slipping into a coma was my grandfather when he lovingly called her name. After she passed away, he did what many men do—hid his emotions and pretended to be engrossed with logistics. But at night, I saw him sobbing like a baby, missing his lifelong companion. It was just the two of us then. Though he was a shadow of his former self, he never lost his independence. With me, he was a kid, indulging in junk food, playing games, and teaching me history. He attended my PT meetings with the thrill and excitement of collecting my grade sheet.

My father, when he visited, respected our bond and did not intrude. In fact, he took care of my grandfather, feeding him and sometimes massaging his feet. I started to like my father because he cared for my father figure. Yet, there was always a distance because I felt he wasn't there when I needed him.

The turning point came during my 10th grade, when I had to go to Kota to prepare for NEET. My grandfather didn't want me to leave, but he asked if it was important. When I said yes, he let me go with tears in his eyes. Though we stayed in touch, it wasn't the same. His teachings of independence helped me survive in a new city, transforming me from a brat into a more understanding and kind person.

When I told him I wanted to pursue journalism instead of medicine, he didn't blink an eye. He told me to do what made me happy. When I expressed fear of disappointing my parents, he said, "We humans are bound to make mistakes only to correct them later. Mistakes are necessary; otherwise, life will be bland like hospital khichdi," and we laughed over it.

Years passed, and he grew weaker but remained independent. In my first year of college, I visited home for Durga Puja and learned that my grandfather was sick. When I called him, he cheerfully offered to pick me up from the station. I laughed, knowing he wasn't well. I reached home, and everything seemed fine, but I knew something was wrong. That night, I went to check on him. Usually, I sneaked into his room at night to steal food, but this time was different. He knew I was there, and I told him to sleep. The next morning, we had tea together, playfully fought as we always did, and everything seemed normal.

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Suddenly, he wanted to lie down, and we thought it was routine. But his breathing became rapid, and we decided to take him to the hospital. As he left, I felt an overwhelming sense that he wouldn't come back. I prayed desperately during the 15 minutes at the hospital, hoping he would be okay. But when my mother hugged me and told me to go see him, I knew the truth. I held his pinky finger, hoping for a response, but there was none. My world crashed down.

I knew I had lost him—lost everything. In that moment, my childhood officially ended. I wasn't ready, but who is? I gathered myself to be there for my mother, who was trying to hold herself together. I remembered my grandmother's passing and knew she needed me. When my grandfather went for his last rites, I tapped his bald head one last time, hoping to see him again.

The first person I cried in front of was my father. He came and hugged me, knowing I was broken and needed him. Since then, our relationship has changed. I started to see him in a different light. I realized our parents are also humans, making choices for our benefit. My father travelled endlessly for work to provide a better life for us, knowing I was in safe hands with my grandfather.

Now, I see all the qualities I loved in my grandfather in my father. The man, who once felt like a stranger, became a source of strength. He loves my mother endlessly, respects her choices, and happily takes scolding for doing things incorrectly. During COVID-19, when my mother got hurt, he was there for her, just like my grandfather was for my grandmother. When he got sick and knew my mother's retirement was near, he asked her to go for her farewell, respecting her professional commitment over his own needs.

With me, he has confidence that I can achieve anything, saying, "Oshi toh sambhal legi" (Oshi will manage). He celebrates every achievement of mine and stands by every choice I make. I remember feeling miserable without my grandfather, but now I realize he is still with me, in the form I needed, in my father. And I couldn't feel more lucky and happy.

Happy Father’s Day to the extraordinary men in my life—my father and my grandfather. Your love and teachings are my guiding light, today and always.

Fathers Day 2024 Father's Day Feminist fathers
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