Father’s Day in 2022 is being celebrated today on June 19th and the day marks a fresh perspective to the bond that we have with our father as our friend and our mentor. Coming shortly after a waning of the intense days of the pandemic this edition of Father’s Day brings a focus on a few memories. I am compelled to begin with reference to a powerful scripture from the Bible written by St John who recalls Jesus say, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9. Fatherhood is a life of love even if in its expression it covers a spectrum of manifest behaviour and emotion.
The idea of Father’s Day as a commemoration, originates in the efforts of Sonora Smart Dodd in 1910. She was American Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart’s daughter from Spokane, Washington. Sonora’s mother died while giving birth to her sixth child. William Smart raised the six children with Sonora playing a major role in caring for her siblings. Around that time Mother’s Day had been established as an annual commemoration. Listening to a talk about Mother’s Day, Sonora was inspired to bring recognition to the unsung role of fathers such as William. She convinced the Spokane Ministerial Alliance and even the local YMCA to have a day to honour the fathers all around the world. This was fixed not on Smart’s birthday, June 5th, as Sonora wanted but the third Sunday of June each year. By the 1970s, Father’s Day was on the official US Calendar.
On a personal note Father’s Day 2022 brings nostalgia with early childhood memories with my then “Google on Wheels”, Odakkal Master from Kondotty, Malappuram District, Kerala (South India). I was just two years old, and he would take me on the bicycle and talk to me about a vast canvas of things. There was nothing that I couldn’t ask him or pop up with no warning. It was quicker than referencing a dictionary or encyclopaedia. Just a High School graduate, my father had undergone basic training as a teacher at Seva Gram in Wardha after initial training at Ramanattukara in Kozhikode. In legacy terms the teacher DNA has been well inherited. My happy place is a class room with students regardless of their age. I remain a learner for life. The teaching bug has bitten my son Joshua who is determined to make an impact in the field of training. The girls are creative encouragers.
As part of a blended family I parent or have the role of being a father to four amazing, often crazy and yet adorable darlings in their 20s. In my professional space too I get to mentor few brilliant and competent young people who are part of my team at the Johnson Odakkal Initiatives. For 15 weeks in the first half of the year I had the joy of teaching and parenting 207 first year law graduates, leaving me with an experience that is treasured. Last September I superannuated from the Indian Navy and two pictures in that retirement week make me feel so rich and honoured. The team at Maritime History Society (my last navy unit) and young friends who gathered at home later encouraged me in a great way.
This reflection does not declare that I got everything right in terms of my physical fatherhood or in my professional mentoring space. In my parenting zone I have sadly at times been an absentee father, an angry father and even an arrogant father. The same challenges rose in my role as a parent mentor. Yet I have been so privileged and fortunate that my kids allowed me to have the joy of being their father. Many young people gave me the freedom to mould them to growth and a future. The journey continues as a living legacy!
My own father went on his final journey some six years ago. There have also been a few significant men who have been spiritual and intellectual fathers to me. I need not name them. They who provided fatherly inputs enhance me as a person of faith to understand how awesome my Father God in heaven is to me.
To the readers of this reflection allow me to say that there are no perfect fathers except the Father in Heaven. Yet the heart of a father is to see the child walk firm and further than the father himself did. In some cases the reflection and journey may be accompanied with pain. My word and prayer is that each one of us will carry a gender neutral heart as a father to those entrusted to our care. In our Indian ethos, the teacher or Guru / गुरु was revered as a father and served in that manner. The King as the one having the mandate of governance reflects the Param Pita / परम पिता (Supreme Father).
Happy Father’s Day 2022!