Tuesday, 8 May 2018


Whether we know it or not, our sons learn about being a man primarily by watching their fathers. A father's influence on his son's personal development is often unseen but nonetheless real. As a young man watches his father interact with his mother, he learns about respect (or disrespect), about how men and women interact and about how men should deal with conflict and differences. As he watches his dad interact with other men, he will learn how men talk, how they relate with one another and how they deal with masculine issues. Alas with work pressures and financial woes mounting father and son bonding is becoming a thing of the past.

Human beings are social animals and we learn by modeling behavior. In fact, all primates learn how to survive and function successfully in the world through social imitation. Those early patterns of interaction are all children know, and it is those patterns that effect how they feel about themselves, and how they develop. A child is vulnerable to those early patterns and incorporates those behavioral qualities in his/her repertoire of social exchange.

The father-son relationship can be complex. Fathers and sons with widely different interests can find it hard to relate to one another. Sometimes dads and sons feel competitive against one another. Sometimes their male tendencies to not communicate feelings are compounded as both want a better father-son relationship but neither one quite knows how to go about it. Understanding that a father's influence on his son is unmatched will help fathers think more deeply about their relationship with their sons and take that relationship more seriously. Focusing on our sons, spending positive time together and talking about life lessons, scattered with a large dose of quiet and engaged listening, will help fathers and sons develop nurturing and meaningful relationships and help our sons form attitudes which will allow them to develop into men in the richest sense of that term.

Today when I look back I can say with certainty that my father did a far better job of fathering than I did. His lessons were hands on and of everyday use. ‘Quality time’ did not come announced; it was there every time we were together and it left an indelible impression on my mind and helped me become a better person.

I would accompany him to the bazaar every Sunday for purchasing vegetables, fruits and groceries. One thing which always astonished me was he knew almost everybody he interacted by their first name! Not only that, he also knew whose mother was not keeping well, whose son was appearing in High School examinations and whose daughter was getting married. He would stop and talk to everybody, whether he was buying something from them or not and I was supposed to greet everyone with a polite ‘Namashkar’.

On one such day in the bazaar he taught me how to purchase the sweetest watermelon! Watermelons are one of my favorite summer foods, and to my mind, nothing tastes better in the Lucknow summer like a sweet and crunchy watermelon. On the other hand, there's nothing quite like the disappointment of biting into what you thought was a ripe watermelon, only to be rewarded by the bland and flavorless taste of an unripe melon. To reduce the disappointment of eating an unripe melon how can you pick the best watermelon from the heap? You won’t know if your father didn’t tell you!

So here are the tips which my father gave to me to choose the sweetest watermelons. Try them, they have never failed me:

1.      Look at its belly: Watermelons have an underside, or belly, which is in contact with the ground throughout its growth.  This is called a 'field spot' or ‘yellow spot’. This spot on a ripe watermelon will be yellowish (sometimes referred to as "buttery"), and not white, which indicates an unripe melon.
2.      Dull not shiny: The watermelon should not look shiny, that is a feature of unripe fruit. If should be dull in colour
3.      Round not oblong: Perfectly round watermelons are sweeter than the oblong ones which tend to be a bit watery
4.      Look for webbing: These web-like brown spots on the watermelon mean that bees touched the pollinating parts of the flower many times. The more pollination, the sweeter the fruit is.
5.      Thump it: Using your knuckles, rap on the middle of the watermelon while holding it up to your ear, or flick it with your finger (like flicking a crumb off your shirt). A ripe watermelon will have a hollow sound when knocked, which sounds more like a 'plunk' than a 'thwack'. An unripe watermelon will have more of a higher pitched sound, while an overripe one will make a 'thud' or a lower-pitched sound. Learning the difference between the sounds of an unripe vs. a ripe watermelon takes a bit of practice.
6.      Sniff it: Pick up the watermelon and carry it a little bit away from the rest of the melons (so you don't pick up the smell of other melons), and give it a good sniff. A ripe watermelon should smell slightly sweet, and similar to what a melon tastes like, but not overly sweet (which can indicate an overripe watermelon).
7.      Squeeze it: Gently squeeze the side of the watermelon to see if there's a bit of 'give' to it. The rind of the melon shouldn't be soft, as the skin of some fruits get when ripe, but it also shouldn't be hard as a rock, with no give to it at all.
8.      Check the approximate weight on your palm, for a similar size watermelon the ripe one would be heavier than the unripe one.
9.      Look at connection to the mother vine. A ripe watermelon can be plucked off the vine leaving no part of the vine attached to it, whereas an unripe watermelon invariably carries a part of the torn vine along with it.  A dried tail indicates that the watermelon is ripe. However, if the tail is green, it probably means that the watermelon was picked too soon and will not be ripe.

Now tell me, if your father did not teach you this, who else is going to impart this invaluable knowledge to you!

Helping a son be grounded spiritually is an important role for a father. Whatever your faith tradition, help your son understand the deeper meaning of life. If you don't have a faith tradition, help him reach for his inner self and try to have a perspective that will help him look at things deeper than on the surface. As a young man gets in tune with nature, God and himself, he will have a pattern in his life that will help him endure hardship and thrive personally. Buying a ripe watermelon was just something I am reminded of every summer but developing inter personal relationships in this world was a far more valuable lesson that I learned from my father during these trips to the bazaar.

One of these days I am going to tell you how to buy fresh fish!!

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