Fr Paul Lelen Haokip
In earlier times, a man would say, ‘my wife is pregnant.’ Now, with more inclusive words, a man says, ‘we are pregnant.’ An inclusive word like ‘we’ sounds authentic and more participatory in the process of pregnancy, childbearing and child-raising. International Fathers’ Day reminds the world about the participation of ‘fathers’ in raising families, forming children, and contributing to society and the world. This day does not merely praise ‘fathers’ but critically scrutinizes their role in societal growth – politically, religiously and socially.
In the context of India, the ‘so-called’ democratically elected Members of the Legislative Assembly are supposed to be lawmakers. I used the word ‘so-called’ to hint at incidents where some legislators are not elected freely and fairly. It is a good sign that more and more educated MLAs are filling up the honourable seats at the assembly halls. The danger lies in not-so-educated legislators who could be influenced by money, muscle power or ethnic lines. All the same, voters look up to MLAs as their political fathers (mothers) as they have sworn to uphold the constitution of India and work impartially for all people. With that trust, people approach them to address their concerns and bring peace and development to society. MLAs have a significant role to play as political fathers for the people of their constituencies and states they belong.
When Lal Bahdur Shastri was the Railway Minister, he told his mother that he works in railway. He once came to an event organized by Railway where his mother also came, asking that her son is in the railway. People asked, what is his name? She said, ‘Lal Bahadur Shahstri’. People thought she was lying. She insisted that her son has gone for work in the railway. People took her infront of Lal Bahadur Shastriji and asked, ‘Is this your son?’ She said, ‘Yes, this is my son’. People showed the minister, ‘Is this your mother?’ Then Shastriji called his mother and sat with her and after sometimes sent her home. So the reporters asked, ‘Why didn’t you give a speech in front of your mother?’ Shastriji said, ‘My mother does not know that I am a minister. If she comes to know, she will start recommending people and I will not be able to refuse … and she will also have arrogance.’ Everyone was shocked to hear the answer. We always look up to Shastriji as our ideal.
While the Catholic church uses the term ‘Father’ to address their priests, other Christian denominations use words like pastor, evangelist, reverend, etc., to address their religious heads. Whatever the form of address is, they are all religious fathers trying their best to care for the spiritual well-being of their members. Of course, it is high time to oversee the education, emotion, psychology and environmental well-being of the people under their mentorship. Shouting ‘Halleluiah, Praise the Lord, Amen’ alone will not work now in this fast-changing global inflation crisis and deteriorating ecology. God has to be found in the Bible and outside the Bible too. All created things on earth should be respected and nurtured. Humans should cease to think that we are the epitome of creation. Inclusive existence philosophy has to creep into our untaught minds and enlarge our idea of spirituality. Church leaders should expand themselves and teach peace, co-existence, environmental care, respect for all communities, and the true meaning of ‘spirituality’. Since ordinary people take what the church leaders say as gospel truth, it is pertinent to appoint theologically sound persons as church leaders.
Innumerable social leaders rise above ranks, are loved by people, and give themselves for people’s welfare (or section of people). Their area of popularity may depend on their influence and community spread. We have national, state, district, and village social leaders. Entrepreneurs, educators, artists, actors, lyricists, book writers, journalists, commentators, philanthropists, activists, and motivators can be called socially-oriented fathers (mothers). They either reflect on the past and present; or foresee the future and add their mastery touch to art, creativity, sciences, social sciences and the like. They are influential persons who can mould people’s minds towards a particular goal. A society that curbs its people’s creative and original thinking potentials is a new form of dictatorship. And we know what dictatorial regimes are experiencing in the world.
There will be various other forms of ‘fatherhood’ in our lives. To have educated, balanced, intellectually matured fathers, we must educate our sons today. Holistic education plays an important role here. Sectarian and cocooned types of education will give us an inverted notion of education. We need to study philosophies of the world, histories, and psychological positions of the world so we can be locally effective for our people. We need the existence of democracy where dissents are welcome for the holistic picture of a thing. We require a secularist worldview. We hope to see and experience overall societal growth through our ‘fathers’ wisdom.
(The author is a PhD research scholar, Department of Sociology and Social Work, Christ University, Bangalore, Karnataka, India. Email:paul email@example.com)