Dad's the word

That the child in question — her name is of no importance — is dearly loved comes through often enough, especially when Bhattacharya describes an approach to parenting that involves taking breaks from beer and a cigarette to help her with tennis or the odd homework assignment involving adjectives. At such times, his writing is almost pleasurable. ‘How much longer?’ he asks, elsewhere. ‘How much longer do I have with this?’

Dad’s the Word: The Perils and Pleasures of Fatherhood, Soumya Bhattacharya, Westland, Rs 225

At other times though, he expends much energy on name-dropping a who’s who of modern British literature (Amis, McEwan, special Thank You to Barnes), art (Kandinsky, Picasso) or world cinema (Kurosawa, Bertolucci, Nagisa Oshima). The general impression one derives, then, is of Bhattacharya as a man who reads the correct things and watches everyone who makes the Criterion Collection list. His daughter’s presence, on those pages, is marginal.

As a compilation of columns, for that is all it is, this is at best more soufflé than substance. At its worst, it comes across as a vanity project destined to be a gift for the aforementioned girl when she turns 21. I suppose one ought to be happy she’s an only child. Siblings could have prompted the release of more exhausted prose from this otherwise engaging (when restricted to cricket, apparently) writer. ‘Any of you could have written this book,’ he points out on page 101.

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