June 16, 2013

Remember when we were about four (or five) and you taught us how to swim? You tied the orange floats tight around our arms, told us everything would be absolutely fine and then - literally - threw us into the deep end of the pool. And any terror that we might have felt was completely erased because we knew that you were there. Remember those long evenings by the Karachi Club swimming pool? Learning how to dive without falling flat on our tummy - because that hurts - and learning how to swim underwater by playing a silly game - you  know the one where you find the coin. Remember how those evenings always ended with a plate full of french fries, and lots of tomato-ketchup?

Remember our funny childhood ritual when you would come home from work in the evening, you'd lie down on your bed and you'd always ask me to take off your socks?

Remember when I was thirteen and we went to Bangladesh for the first time to meet that branch of your family? That long drive from Dhaka to Chittagong to Cox's bay. Watching the monkeys play along the side of the road. Stopping at random little dhabas along the side of the road because you just could not get enough of the funny Bangoli food. The mota-bhat, the fish, and the chicken I-did-not-like. Remember going to India afterwards to meet yet more family? Remember all those trips I forced you to take to Cosbay Colaba because I had a magpie-fetish for those shiny trinkets. Remember scolding me - but always indulgently - about how much I was making you spend? Remember spending all of it anyway?

Remember our ever-so-many-fights? Me storming off in protest because you refused to give me something I wanted. Like when I was about fourteen and experimented with nailpolish for the first time. And for some reason you threw a fit and told me I had to take it off. I never understood why you were always had such a funny reaction to these things my mother always took for granted, like jeans and short(er) tops, like nailpolish  and getting my hair straightened, like staying out a few minutes after my curfew. Remember how furious my temper tantrums were, and how that annoyed you - for about five minutes - and then ultimately made you laugh? Somehow, the angrier I got, the calmer you did. Remember how every fight ended in exactly the same way? A compromise that usually went in my favor, and a big, warm, tight hug?

Remember walking around LUMS one evening, just you and me, talking about life, the future, the possibility of marriage and children. I told you that I was too young just yet. Also, if I had a child right-about-now, what were the odds that I'd end up putting it someplace, forgetting all about it and losing it? Remember looking at me funny, thinking for a bit, and then laughingly agreeing with my character assassination?

Remember after days and days of agonized waiting  when the envelope finally came from the Fulbright-scholarship people? Remember how I received it at home, was too terrified to do anything except get in the car and frantically drive to your office so that you could open it for me? Remember how proud I was of myself then? And how much prouder you were of me?

Remember soothing away my fears as I got onto that plane to America. And then handing me a bunch of money specially to use at every airport along the way (Dubai, Heathrow and JFK) just to buy phone cards that I could use to call my mother. Because she would worry, you know. Remember the tech-y robot dinosaur that I got back for the brat the first time I returned from Amreeka? Remember how you spent more time than he did putting it together and playing with it. Remember the brand new camera I got you? Remember how you carefully put it away intending to use it 'soon'? Remember that you never did?

Remember special trips to the market every evening to buy fruits because daddy's daughter was home? Remember lounging in front of the TV cutting them for me,  because the one thing I still don't know how to do is cut fruit?

Remember that summer of 2008, when I cut my hand on a glass during a conference and had to get stitches. Remember how terrified I was? Remember holding my hand and making me laugh till I forgot to be afraid?

A lifetime of memories, and so much love.

You were an incredible father. Thank you for a wonderful childhood. Thank you for being my rock, my moral compass and my guide.

I hope that wherever you are, you can see me and that I still make you proud. And that you turn around and tell whoever is standing next to you in the spirit world that 'hey, 'that' is my daughter!'

I love you. 

2 comments:

bano said...

you made me shed a few tears Zebbie. this father's day I've felt so guilty, with all the facebook posts from my friends who've lost their fathers. this was just too beautiful, too sad.

p.s. i remember the techy dinosaur you bought :)

shahrukh said...

Wow, this so touched me. Beautifully written.