Fathers in Public and Private

So interesting what is considered “good” public image for fathers versus what they might do in private.  And how, sometimes, they just don’t care about public image.  And sometimes they have to care.  And sometimes they pretend they don’t, but really do, which bothers me.

Do you know the story of President Truman and music reviewer Paul Hume?  His daughter Margaret Truman was in college when Roosevelt died and her father became president.  She went to school at Georgetown and lived at the White House.  And she also studied singing.  And she finally had a public recital, and was pretty good, by all accounts.  Not brilliant, but she didn’t embarrass herself or anything.  Only, the Washington Post music critic Paul Home wasn’t very nice about it (from the Truman Library website Truman Library website):

“Miss Truman is a unique American phenomenon with a pleasant voice of little size and fair quality (she) cannot sing very well…is flat a good deal of the time, more last night than at any time we have heard her in past years, has not improved in the years we have heard her (and) still cannot sing with anything approaching professional finish.”

Truman read the review, and promptly sent off a letter to the paper in response, saying (again from the Truman Library):



Dec. 6, 1950

Mr. Hume:

I’ve just read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are an “eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay.”

It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for it shows conclusively that you’re off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work.

Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!

Pegler, a gutter snipe, is a gentleman alongside you. I hope you’ll accept that statement as a worse insult than a reflection on your ancestry.


This was a terrible idea according to all reasonable political thinking, very unpresidential, really very ungentlemanly all along.  And Truman didn’t care, he sent it off anyway.  Arguing that it was a letter sent by a father, not the president, and it was no one else’s business.

Anyway, that’s what I was thinking about with these two news stories today, how hard it can be to separate what you do as a public figure, from your private life (by the way, if anything the Truman letter just made him more popular among the public, especially among fathers).


Today, two kinds of father stories.  First, Alok Nath’s son was arrested for drunk driving.  Now, a normal father’s job in this situation would be to yell at him in private and try to help him in public.  But Alok can’t afford that, not just for his own public persona, but for his son’s.  His son is thinking about starting a career in film and a scandal like this could follow him for years.  Unless it is addressed emphatically right away.  Which is why, instead of saying “I am disappointed in his behavior but I love and support him and will pay lawyers and try to find what caused this behavior and everyone makes mistakes”, Alok had to say:

“Shivang has been subjected to some corporal punishment and he’s promised me he will never ever drive under the influence of alcohol.”

Alok acknowledges that he is in a different position than the “normal” father, and if Shivang wants a career, he has to be in a different position than the “normal” son.  Different rules apply here, if they way to be seen as public figures, not just people.


And then there’s Rakesh Roshan.  Who has responded to Kangana’s comment about how he shouldn’t have gotten involved with Hrithik’s problems with an emphatic message:

“I am still very much a working father and I very proudly take active part in my son’s life. And for those who find that unacceptable, let me say that for parents, the children, whether 43 or 83 years old, they are still children.”

Now, in this case, I would kind of agree with Rakesh in private if he was talking about a private dispute.  But I agree with Kangana because he wasn’t in private.  Truman wrote his letter as a private citizen, a father, and it was clear that’s what it was because he would never use that kind of language as president.  And it was the exact same letter sent in the exact same way (well, except for the WHITE HOUSE at the top) that he would have sent if he hadn’t been president.

But Rakesh’s statements are formal, he’s not sending a note directly to Kangana, or calling her, or talking to her lawyer, or doing the things a normal father would do if his normal son were being sued by an “ex-girlfriend”.  Heck, even if Hrithik were famous and his father were just a regular person, Rakesh wouldn’t be making these statements.  Do you remember Ranveer Singh’s parents ever being asked to comment on any of his relationships?

This isn’t “Rakesh Roshan-concerned father” getting involved.  This is half “Rakesh Roshan-Concerned Father” and at least equally also “Rakesh Roshan-Producer of Hrithik Roshan’s next movie, powerful industry figure”.  He can’t play the “I was just reacting like a normal father” card, if he’s using tools and powers he wouldn’t have as a normal father.  You can’t have it both ways.

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