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Dads breaking stereotypes, one rule at a time

From being the biggest cheerleader for his gay son to learning to cook for his pregnant daughter, these dads are redefining relationships. On International Father’s Day, we bring you their stories

Wholehearted acceptance

Pradeep Divgikar, father of drag queen Sushant Divgikr, makes sure to attend all Pride parades with his son. For him, accepting his son for who he is came naturally. “My elder son once said to me, ‘Sushant is not a normal guy, he attends gay parties’. At first, I didn’t understand what that meant. A few days later, I directly asked Sushant if he was gay. And without a second thought, he said, ‘Yes dad!’ I was taken aback for a few seconds, but that was all. I hugged him that moment. Since then, I have been very protective and supportive of him. I attend all his shows and events, too,” says Pradeep from Mumbai, who was one of the first members to join Sweekar – The Rainbow Parents Group, a community to support parents in fully accepting their LGBTQIA+ children. “It was never a challenge for me to accept Sushant, but when I see kids masking their faces during Pride parades, I realise it’s not the same for everyone. Through the group, we counsel parents and make them understand that acceptance and love is the only way,” says Pradeep.

Aditya Tiwari and Avnish

In highs and lows

In 2016, Aditya Tiwari from Indore became the youngest single parent in the country to adopt a child with special needs, Avnish. As a 27-year-old single man, it wasn’t easy to convince the concerned authorities that he was willing to adopt Avnish, who was the last child left at the orphanage. But the struggle was all worth it, Tiwari tells us. “Nobody was ready to believe that a single man was willing to adopt a child. But I was finally able to convince them, and Avnish came into my life. I am still learning with this boy every day. I don’t like to tag our relationship. We are everything to each other. He is now seven, and I share everything with him. He made me a proud parent after becoming the youngest child to trek Mount Everest without medical support. He loves Nature and feels one with it,” says Tiwari, who accompanied Avnish for the trek and made sure he received special training to climb Everest. “Right from changing his diet plan to a strict training at different places in Indore, Avnish learnt it all. He is a blessed child and I am grateful to have him by my side,” says Tiwari.

Retired col Sanjay Pande
Retired col Sanjay Pande

Stepping into a mother’s shoes

After spending 17 out of 25 years of his Army life in combat and on the field, Retired Col Sanjay Pande stepped into the dual roles of a father and a mother when his wife passed away in 2017. He turned into an expert cook with all the traditional recipes — just like his late wife — only for his children. And when his daughter conceived, he took it upon himself to tend to her, making meals and nutritious laddoos throughout her pregnancy, and even after. “After my wife passed away, our world changed. To help my children come to terms with the loss, I decided to take up her role of a mother and a friend, along with being a father. She was a fabulous cook, so I started learning cooking with the help of a person my wife had trained eight years ago. In 2019, my daughter who is settled in the UK, conceived and I told her I will take care of her. I researched about traditional foods and what women need in each trimester, gathered knowledge about the nutrients in the various food items and the requirements for a pregnant woman and her child. I used to prepare and freeze the food to parcel it to the UK, only to take it out three hours before the flight,” says Pande from Delhi, whose story became viral when he shared it on Twitter. “When I am with my kids, they just eat the food I cook. Through my food, they remember their mother and the beautiful moments they spent together,” he shares.

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