When my eldest daughter was born in 2011, my parents visited me from New York. When they first came to see my daughter in the hospital, my father gave “Azan” (a few Arabic lines from prayer) in the right ear of my daughter. That day, I learned that the male head in the family recites beautiful words to the newborn. I am fortunate that both of my parents were around when I gave birth to my girls.
It is a blessing to live under such a strong canopy of love and shelter. To me, the word father means friendly, amazing, trustworthy, helpful, energetic and respectful. I see all these qualities and many more in my father. While being raised in a conservative society, I saw my father as a liberal parent who gave his daughters the liberty to get an excellent education.
Just like many other kids, I inherited some of my father’s qualities. Despite seeing many challenges in his life, he never gave up and raised six daughters and two sons with dignity. We had a typical family unit in which one man earns and feeds everyone at home. He provided us two things with limited resources: healthy food and education. He tried to get all of his children accepted to St. Joseph Convent School in Karachi, but unfortunately, our system has many loopholes which showed favoritism over merit.
I never knew this until I saw my documents that I brought from Pakistan. This also made me recall how my father organized and kept all of his children's documents. I still remember the steel cabinet with four drawers; my father took care of all of our report cards, medical records, etc., and kept them in that cabinet. While immigrating to the U.S., my father gave everyone their records and learned and implemented this habit of record-keeping from my father.
My father is also highly responsible. With minimal resources, he managed to not only provide us food and education, but also arrange six weddings for his daughters. Though Islam prohibits extravaganzas on weddings, we are culturally bound to do some norms that include big wedding ceremonies and dowry. My eldest sister once told me she had a dream that my father drove all of us to a mountain. Later, I realized that dream came true. It was an arduous task, but he did it with dignity. Living in Karachi in a moderate locality to bring all of us here to the U. S. and get us all settled was not an easy job, but he did it.
I can recall some more beautiful memories, such as when we used to walk with our father at night in a playground next to our house. We had so many conversations about different topics during those walks and I ultimately learned some lessons from them.
Now that I am an adult and live close to my parents, I still occasionally have conversations with my father. I did not understand some topics as a child; I talked to him about them again, such as his struggle of living in an orphanage.
My father’s childhood was not easy since he lost his father when he was only 5 years old. He had to migrate from India to Pakistan. Unfortunately, at a young age, he had to get a job at a hotel. One day, while walking to his job, he saw a newspaper lying on the door of a house and tried to read the English newspaper. When the owner of a house saw him reading the newspaper, he offered to tutor my father.
When my father matured, he started writing for the leading English newspaper in Karachi. He then acquired a prestigious job as a head acquisition adviser at the Library of Congress located at the American Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan.
It was impossible not to have a love for reading, being the daughter of a librarian and writer of three books. Our dining table discussions were always literary, and I still usually converse with him about politics, culture and international affairs.
One of the best pieces of advice my father gave me was how to control my anger. I asked him once if I could and how it would be possible; his reply was so deep. He said if I were thrown in a swimming pool without knowing how to swim, what would I do? Would I drown, or would I try to survive? I replied I would try. Soon, I understood the answer was “never give up.”
I am fortunate enough to have both of my parents living close to me. Maybe “Allah”(God of Islam Religion) has given me this opportunity to make up for those years when I was in Pakistan and had to wait to join my family here in the U.S. There were several days and nights when I used to cry as I was missing my family. Now, I cherish each and every moment I spend with my father.