Dad's open policy

Be it special occasions such as New Year's Eve or someone's birthday, or even just on his days off, Mr Farouk Darshan Singh Gill is likely to be partying and playing lively host to people half his age.

"No one believes I'm her dad," says the 49-year-old cabin crew member, adding that his 22-year-old daughter Poojaa's friends find him hip.

Poojaa, one of the contestants on Asia's Next Top Model Season 2, which is now airing, says: "Some people think I'm his girlfriend."

Mr Gill also goes clubbing with Poojaa and his son Ashwynn, 20, who is waiting to enlist.

His wife Seema Kumar, 39, also a cabin crew member, chides him: "Leave the kids alone. Who wants their dad around when they're partying?"

She is his second wife, whom he married nine years ago. He divorced his first wife when Poojaa was around five years old. He has custody of Poojaa, and his ex-wife, Ashwynn.

Poojaa, a communications graduate who will be taking up a marketing job, chats with her mum weekly and meets her fortnightly for dinners.

She was a keen competitive athlete from a young age, but began dabbling in freelance modelling a few years after suffering a back injury at age 15.

What do you think of your dad's partying ways?

Pooja: Some teens don't want their parents partying with them because they don't want their parents to see them drinking or drunk. But I'm completely transparent with my dad.

Mr Gill: How does a person behave his age? What's appropriate for my age?

Ms Kumar: I suppose everybody has a different personality.

Poojaa, what was your childhood like?

Poojaa: My paternal grandparents, who were my main caregivers, pampered me. They knew I liked running - none of my neighbours could outrun me when we played catching. So my grandpa took me to Bedok Stadium to run twice or thrice a week. I was around eight years old and was studying at Temasek Primary School.

Mr Gill: After her PSLE, I went to her school to tell her teachers I wanted her to go to the Singapore Sports School, where she studied from 13 to 17. It was untested ground. Other parents may emphasise grades, but I say nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Poojaa: My grandparents hired a coach for me when I began competing in sprint events at inter-school competitions from when I was 10. I've been taking part in international competitions since I was 12.

Do you and your ex-wife have the same approach to parenting?

Mr Gill: Once, my ex-wife saw Facebook pictures of Poojaa in a bikini while on holiday in Phuket and she texted me: "Do you know your daughter is dressing like this?" I texted back to say: "Okay, next time, I will ask her to wear a turtleneck at the beach."

Poojaa: No, you told her, "I'm the one raising her. Don't worry, I'll take good care of her."

Mr Gill: I'm okay with her modelling. If you have it, flaunt it. But she knew she had to ask for permission to do big things before she turned 18. Once, she called to ask about a braless shot. I asked her: "Is it tastefully done? Okay, go ahead."

Poojaa: I was then 15, the youngest in a modelling contest. I was wearing a jacket but no bra underneath.

Mr Gill: If she's fine with a nude shot, and explains to me why, I'll say yes. But the subject won't come up.

Poojaa: Because I won't do it.

What is your parenting philosophy?

Mr Gill: I want my children to be my friends and to trust them wholly, as they trust me. I also raised my children with the power of reasoning. At my previous home, a 10th-storey flat in Chai Chee, I had no window grilles. To show her how dangerous it was to go near the window, I carried her in my arms downstairs to see the body of someone who had jumped.

Poojaa: He says I was around four, but I remember I was around nine.

Ms Kumar: You must have traumatised her.

Poojaa: It was a gruesome sight, but I wasn't traumatised.

How did you discipline Poojaa?

Mr Gill: We don't believe in corporal punishment.

Ms Kumar: We can always reason things out.

Mr Gill: For example, she's not supposed to exceed $50 on her phone bill. Once, she hit $51.70, and I asked her for the $1.70.

Poojaa: It was two years ago, and it was to teach me the value of money.

Poojaa, what was it like growing up apart from your brother?

Ashwynn: In our primary school years, we met only on birthdays and for all the festivities which we celebrate.

Poojaa: We didn't feel strange when we met. All we thought about was fun and games, playing with sparklers and catching.

Ashwynn: We began to meet weekly when we were in our teens and could make our own plans.

Poojaa: After he turned 18, we went clubbing too. We still talk about anything and everything - if dad is mad with me, he's the first one I tell.

If the parent-child roles were reversed, what would you do differently?

Poojaa: I would not ask for the $1.70. Talk about being stingy.

Mr Gill: I would wake up earlier to make my bed, and be neat and organised.

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