Fathers and Sons – A Perspective of Life, Love and Harmony


Dr Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

Ravi P Bhatia10 Nov 2016 – It is a well known belief although slightly untrue on occasions, that daughters are close to their mothers and sons to their fathers. True or not, there is however no doubt that there is a close relationship between the children and their parents. In this essay I shall try to explore this relationship of fathers and their sons which may be positive or be on shaky grounds especially in today’s discourse.

Many novelists and poets have considered this relationship. One of the earlier novels that dealt with this was the novel Fathers and Sons written by the Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev in 1862 which strongly exposes the increasing divide between two generations of Russians. The young man Yevgeny Bazarov is a nihilist who is unhappy with the old order and rejects it in no uncertain terms. Cultural critics feel that this is due to the differences he (Turgenev) observed in the Russian society between people — the liberals and the so called nihilists. Turgenev according to them has faithfully reproduced the schism in his book which many believe is one of the first modern novels.

In a sad and morose manner, Tugenev wrote “Death’s an old story, but new for each person.”

The Hebrew text Talamud compiled before the 8th Century, A.D. is a collection of laws that Jews are expected to observe. It has an interesting quote on the relationship between a father and son,

“When you teach your son, you teach your son’s son.”

There are other aphorisms written by different people on this intimate relationship:

No love is greater than that of a father for his son;
He who can be a good son will be a good father.

On the other hand, William Shakespeare wrote,

When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry”.

The American rock band the Beach Boys in their album Smile, had expressed the relationship in a pithy statement that has now become quite popular Child Is the Father of the Man.

In contemporary times also many people have witnessed the intimacy between a father and son and expressed it in various ways.

We know in India that sometimes the sons are very cruel to their fathers. We know  the fact that they often do not care for the father when the father has become old and helpless. Many a time they want to quickly inherit the property of their father and try to get rid of him either by killing or forcing him to sign some papers in favour of the son.

In history we find a few examples of cruelty of sons for their fathers. One such case is that of Aurangzeb (1618-1707) who imprisoned his father – Mogul emperor Shah Jahan (in 1658 till his death in 1666) so that he could in fact become the new emperor of India. Earlier Aurangzeb had got his older brother Dara Shikoh killed so that he could become the next emperor after his father died. Dara Shikoh was a scholar of Sanskrit and Persian and had translated some important epics of Sanskrit into the Persian language.

Many men want their sons to take to the same profession that they are involved in. That is why a businessman wants his son to become a businessman when he grows older; similarly medical doctors or engineers or scientists expect their sons to follow in their footsteps. Politicians are no exception. John F Kennedy became president of USA in 1961; his father Joseph Kennedy was US Ambassador to UK during 1938-40. The most notable father son duo in US politics is undoubtedly the George Bush Sr and Jr who became the 41st and 43rd US Presidents respectively.

Like many other educated persons who lived in Lahore and adjoining areas when India was divided into two nations in 1947, my father knew the Urdu script apart from English that he taught in a College there. After Pakistan was formed my family moved to Ferozepur (in India) and subsequently to Delhi. I received my school education in Delhi and learnt English and Hindi. Although spoken Urdu and Hindi are very similar to each other the scripts are different. Urdu is written in the Arabic script and Hindi in Devnagari.

My father taught me the Urdu script and I taught him the Devnagari script. Is it not a fascinating fact about both of us teaching each other?

Another exciting story of a friend of mine whose family also moved to India from the areas that now form Pakistan. When the boy was about twelve years old, his father bought him a brand new bicycle. The boy was overjoyed and cycled around the city on his bicycle and proudly showing it to his friends. Years passed, the son grew up and got a good job with a decent salary. The father was still riding  his old cycle. On the father’s seventieth birthday the son bought his father a brand new car and took pictures with him along with the old cycle and the new car. What a nice father and son story.

I want to end this essay with a very touching story of a soldier – second lieutenant Arun Kherapal who was killed in the 1965 war between India and Pakistan. His father Brigadier Khetrapal was invited by a senior Pakistani officer to Lahore a few years ago. Since both the men were soldiers the conversation obviously veered towards the two armies and the wars that were fought between the two countries. The Brigadier talked not only about the  wars in which he was involved but  also about his son who fought in the 1965 war but succumbed to the gunshots that he received. The senior Pakistani officer told the grieving father, “I want to confess something – your son got killed by me when I fired at him”.

History is a strange amalgam of events and  lives of people – important or ordinary. Among these lives the accounts of relationships of fathers with their sons are vibrant and humane. The persons may differ from generation to generation. But their stories recount interesting and unforgettable episodes of life, love, harmony and occasionally animosity.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, an educationist and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University.  ravipbhatia@gmail.com


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 14 Nov 2016.

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