I am often subject to questions about photography and most of all, about the ‘glamourous models’ I shoot. Seldom do I get asked about my favourite role – being a parent, the role I play with unconditional love and utmost dedication. As a parent to my peppy teen twins, I’ve had my fair share in the sun, right from changing diapers to handling teen tantrums. While the whole journey has been exciting, I remember the days when my children turned 13. It was a rather different journey after that, but a thoroughly enjoyable one. So, here it is, an insight into my life as a dad, along with answers to those few, yet pressing, questions about my parenting ideologies, and what makes me click with my children.
What kind of chemistry do I share with my teen twins?
Oh! A fantastic one. My parenting style is very fair and clear. I play by two simple rules
The open door policy: My children can talk to me about anything and everything. I try to be as objective and practical, about their requests. Most of the time, I tell them to go ahead and try what they want to. I am flexible that way. I never boss around. I give them their due respect and always allow them to explore by pushing the envelope. With me, they know that they’ll get a fair verdict, and therefore don’t feel the need to hide anything.
The veto power: There are certain scenarios when I don’t entertain any argument or explanation. I use my veto power as a parent to say ‘no’. Though I use it very rarely, my children know that there is absolutely no way around it. If my son wants to go for an outing in the evening with his friends, I would usually agree after a little bit of a persuasion from his end. But, if he wants to go for a party, where there would be a possibility of drunken driving, I put my foot down and say ‘NO’. This is where I use my veto power!
Is the teenage phase the most challenging chapter for a parent, especially in my case, with twins?
Absolutely not. I would say that twins are double the trouble in the 1st year, the infancy stage. During that stage, the never-ending diaper piles and sleepless nights can leave you in a perennial state of exhaustion. But, this situation gets better with each passing year. As for the present teenage chapter, I am proud of how beautifully my twins have grown. The personalities they’ve developed and the individuals they’ve become, leaves me in awe. I believe we the parents of teens today are more mature. We multi-task and beautifully weave our parenting into our chaotic lifestyles. If there is a certain tip from my parenting styles that I would like to impart to others, I would say – ‘talk and listen in equal measure’. Keep the communication channel open. Year 14 is a rather dicey stage for your child. You need to have family rituals and rules, like ‘compulsory family dinner every Friday’ or ‘no-mobile phones on the dining table’. to keep the fine balance.
What is my parenting ritual?
Football! It is my ritual. Both my son and I are football junkies. It’s a rule that we watch important matches together, period. No matter where I am, if an important match is coming up, I make sure I head home. Similarly, Arnav makes sure that he watches all the matches with me. We’ve shared some of the best father-son moments doing this. As for Naomi, she is a reflection of her mom. Having shot for ‘Proud Fathers for Daughters’ campaign, I couldn’t be a prouder father myself. I used to love watching her play tennis at a very young age, and I still do that whenever I get time. Also, with her, I love making impromptu travel plans or simply hanging out.
Photography is an unconventional career option, and I opted for it in an era when it was considered a taboo. How difficult was it? Were my teen years laced with rejections and opposition?
Oh! Convincing my parents was a tough task. But, I wasn’t a flippant teen, I was headstrong and knew what I wanted. I was the class topper, a burly athlete, I followed rules to the‘t’ and didn’t indulge in any fly-by behaviour. For me, photography happened by chance, and I was lucky to get the right breaks at the right time. As far as teens are concerned, I would say ‘find your passion and follow it fiercely’. Once you relish what you are doing, you’d be happy. As for parents, they’ll eventually come around, for there is nothing more in the world they want, than to see their children happy. So, persevere and never give up or give in!
What are my dreams for the youth of the nation?
One thing, and one thing only! I hope they find their passion and chase what they love! For if they do, they will not have to work for a single day in their life. And, that’s true bliss!
What’s my message to the parenting community?
I believe it’s all about the choices we make. After all, it is the quality of relationship and time that matters. Everyone is running against deadlines, and no one has time anymore. Whenever you get a small window of time, use it well and make it count.
Atul Kasbekar is a renowned fashion photographer, head of Bling! and honorary chairman of the Photographer's Guild of India.