Indian dad compliments to their children are hard to come by. And even when one does, however sparingly, these words of blessing are more often than not so economical that the child ends up in curious self-doubt. Wait, did I even achieve something or did I hallucinate it all?
But that's how many desi fathers are. Their on-brand tough love seeps out shyly, conservatively. A slight head nod of approval, one quick side-hug, a pat on the back, a grunt of pleasure, downplayed praise. In short, as Megha Rajagopalan puts it, an "understated Indian dad reaction."
An Indian-origin journalist, Rajagopalan on Friday received the Pulitzer for leading an incisive series of investigative reports on the internment camps at China's Xinjiang - construction networks that have raised global concerns of human rights violations. Rajagopalan, with her team, uncovered 260 such camps over long months of work and reporting, efforts which were recognised in full by the world's top journalism honour.
The extravagance of Pulitzer recognition was calmly humbled by her dad whose celebration was, well, typically dad-like. "Congratulations Megha. Mom just forwarded me... Pulitzer Prize. Well done."
Without context, one wouldn't have known: Did Megha win an award or did Megha just finally clean her room?
Understated Indian dad reaction pic.twitter.com/bdE7I0Kaq2— Megha Rajagopalan (@meghara) June 11, 2021
Indian Dad Compliments: They Tell Us They Love Us Without Telling Us They Love Us
The lack of excited exclamations, the cool demeanour, minimal emotion - netizens concluded it could mean only one thing. Rajagopalan's father is waiting on a Nobel. Pulitzer, what?
Her tweet prompted an outpouring of relatable memories and cheeky jibes from netizens all too familiar with tough dad &t=7s">parenting. We rounded up some hilarious reactions for you:
“You’ve really rebounded from that B in 9th grade Biology”— Bill (@Wmos77) June 11, 2021
Hahahaha, oh that made me laugh, does he send 'bad' if he doesn't like one?— KarlCrump (@KarlCrump1) June 12, 2021
Haha! Lovely— Munipenny (@munipenny) June 12, 2021
And that's really all how fatherly affection goes in desi households. They may love their children, but to show it is to blow it. So any pride they harbour is kept under wraps on regular days - resting, proofing, waiting for a distant cousin or a nosy neighbour to ask what their children are upto these days. It is then that pride balloons, puffing their chests out in endless vindication of every victory you earned.
It comes from a complex place, this pause in emotion. Fathers, brothers, men, they have been conditioned into ways of false masculinity standards that demand sturdiness, strength, coldness. Feeling is for the weak, they are taught as insistently as women are taught it is for them.
A lot of times breaking that ice becomes tough and then distance grows. Not just among daughters, but sons too. If not break it, then why not slowly try to melt that ice away?
It may not always be easy, since fathers, for all their endearing emotional conservatism, may sometimes end up deflating that energy:
told my dad i got a new job and this is his response? 🥰 pic.twitter.com/8rROnxI3wH— neha (@ughneha) June 7, 2021
But try. There's probably a lot of latent euphoria within them waiting to erupt like this someday:
so i told my parents we were making a video for extra credit but what they actually read was my first acceptance into optometry school pic.twitter.com/zjTbcWnuXn— ਗ (@jeeeverz) May 19, 2021
Views expressed are the author's own.