This year, Father’s Day will be a bit different and quieter for doting dad and Bollywood actor-producer Tusshar Kapoor. Tusshar, who would usually take his son Laksshya out for some recreational activity, will be spending time at home with the four-year-old due to the pandemic. But neither he nor Laksshya are complaining – they have plenty of activities to do together inside their cosy home.

“I like going to parks and playing outdoor sports like cricket and football with Laksshya, but he has a lot of things to do at home as well,” says Tusshar, admitting to being quite surprised at managing to play home-school tutor so well during the lockdown phase. “He loves it when I read books to him, or we do art and craft together. I also like making videos with him. When I look back I am quite surprised that I have actually managed the first four years very well.” Tusshar also likes watching his father, veteran actor Jeetendra, playing with his grandson.

Four years back, Tusshar surprised the celeb world when he announced that he had become father to a son. That in itself would not be news, if not for the fact that Tusshar is single and unmarried. He opted for surrogacy using in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

It wasn’t an easy decision considering he was taking up the huge responsibility of raising a child single-handedly, but his paternal instincts were growing by the day “from my mid-30s,” he says. “I always liked kids but at a certain age you start missing having your own child.”

He admits that once he decided on having a surrogate child, there was no looking back. But before his son arrived, he did experience self-doubt.

“Before Laksshya was born, obviously I was feeling a little nervous on whether I’d be able to take on the responsibility, or what society would say since I am single. Those fears kept occurring but once I announced Laksshya’s birth and him coming into my life, I got a lot of support from all quarters – friends, relatives, industry, media, fans... which really made me feel very happy and confident.”

He still remembers the moment he first held his son in his arms, the first time he walked, talked, went to school, the first birthday party he went to, and the first time he had a birthday celebration in his home. “All these are the milestones of my life. I have been part of all that,” he says, sounding emotional.

For the 43-year-old, life acquired a new meaning after he embraced fatherhood, making him feel secure, more complete and confident. “There’s a sense of fulfilment,” he says. “My son has brought a lot of focus and purpose to my life. I am now more clear and content. All those stressful aspects of this industry don’t really matter to me anymore because my priorities have changed. It’s my son, his life, his growth and his upbringing – those things have become more important to me. I don’t overthink because now I don’t have the time to think. I make quick decisions. Once I am with Laksshya and doing things with him, everything else just doesn’t matter to me. You become so selfless as a person, and that is the biggest change I can see in me since I became a dad.”

If a lot of changes have been internal, there have also been a lot of visible changes to the actor. “My lifestyle has changed drastically, making me change my habits particularly when it comes to time management,” he says. If earlier he was socialising heavily, now that’s been drastically cut down. “I don’t go out much now, I just want to relax and be at home with Laksshya. I get tired by the evening playing and doing things with him. But this way my social life has become quite sorted and clear. Socialising is now more thought out and planned. I go out and I choose those days, it is not random. Now I go out with a lot of energy, will and happiness,” he says.

Gender dynamics have changed over the years, with men helping in household chores and taking up parental duties as mothers step out to work, but Tusshar has never felt burdened with the responsibility of having to be both mother and father to his son. “It was a well-thought-out decision and I was totally ready to become a parent,” he says. “It may be time-consuming but I enjoy doing it. It doesn’t become a liability for me, and thoughts like, ‘Ohh, I have to do everything, whereas, the other husbands are only working’... I have never felt like that. Luckily I can balance my personal and work life very well and I had my child for the right reason. I have never treated it as a pressure,” he says.

Keen to better his dad qualities, Tusshar says he tries to educate himself by learning new skills. He also reads a lot on child psychology, at the same time learning a lot from his son. “I am always learning something new from him. Children live for the moment and we forget to do that when we grow up. We become so tense about things, we keep thinking and ruminating over little things but children just move on. They just let go. If they discover something, they enjoy. If they don’t, they move on. They are so innocent, they live life the way it should be,” he says.

Are his own dad’s parenting tactics influencing the ways Tusshar is raising his son?

“Well, my dad’s generation was very different. Dads those days were not so hands-on. Father would work and the mother would be with the child. That is how even I was brought up and it is a very old-school way of bringing up kids. So I won’t say that I am raising my son the way my father raised me.

“My father was the earning member of the family and my mother [Shobha Kapoor] was the homemaker. My father used to be very busy. We used to fly down to be with him and he balanced it quite well but at the end of the day my mother was the hands-on parent and this is the case with most families in India.

But my style is different. I also feel that if you want you can be a hands-on parent whether you are the father or the mother. You have to be clued into what a hands-on parent is about. There is so much information these days that can guide you and you can be a better parent even as a father.”

Tusshar is convinced that today’s dads don’t have to mimic the role played by fathers of the previous generation. “Times have changed, the world has changed. The father is as important as the mother. I don’t see myself being any lesser than my mother or my father and that is why I believe that my style is very different from the previous generation,” he explains.

No wonder then, Jeetendra often says that his son is a much better dad than he was and the best father he has ever seen. “Tusshar is equivalent to 10 dads and 20 mums in one,” the actor has said.

Tusshar smiles. “My dad has always been very chilled out. He makes us learn from our mistakes. At times you have to give space to your children. He has never been overly strict or overly protective, or interfering. I have learnt that from my dad, and I too don’t believe in being too overbearing with my child.”

The actor admits he has imbibed many other qualities from his father, including his professionalism, patience, respect for elders, respect for the community. “My father is very generous to the less fortunate, and I would like to impart these qualities to my son.”

So, what is his biggest parenting worry?

“I am afraid of spoiling children with the kind of freedom that is given to them,” he says. “Children these days are allowed so much freedom as far as their choices are concerned. What kind of friends they want to be with, or what kind of education they want to pursue, we ask them everything before going ahead. We usually don’t force them and are quite patient with them. But at times we may forget that all this can make them feel a little entitled. So one has to have a few restrictions. One has to learn not to indulge them with materialistic things.” Instead kids need to be given the independence to grow up as “good human beings”, he says.

Tusshar realises that striking a proper balance in everything is difficult. “But I am trying my best.”

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