I don’t think any piece of writing could do justice to the life you lived
A bottle green Fiat 124s whizzed across the highway between Karachi and Hyderabad for the second time in the day. It stopped before a shanty little bakery and a young man walked inside carrying a beautiful black leather diary and a matching pen. He apologised to the (abashed but deeply pleased) shop assistant for losing his temper earlier and gifted him the diary. He could always say sorry, that was one of the things that I truly admired about him. The young man in the Fiat was my father.
My father was a jovial, happy person, full of wit, wisdom, humour and gratitude, and dapper to the tee. He was extremely well read and his library at home contained everything from Allama Iqbal to Shakespeare to encyclopedias and volumes of religious literature too, plus the self-help best sellers of those days. Papa read his first Freud book when he was just 14; he was a genius with a photographic memory.
To me Papa was much more than a father, he was a friend, a mentor, and even a partner in crime. If I ever needed someone to applaud my amateurish writing, culinary or cricketing skills and when I was dejected he provided the necessary cuddles and if I ever needed to laugh, a story or two from him could make me chuckle. His perspective on everything was overwhelmingly positive and he mentored and inspired so many people by strengthening them with his love, wisdom and support. He also had an unmistakable aura, a charisma about him — you couldn’t not notice him.
Being the youngest in the house, hardly anyone ever took me seriously, but my father would take my opinion on important decisions and would have meaningful conversations with me about everything under the sun and above it. Art, music, literature and poetry were an important part of our lives, and I remember him explaining me complex pieces from Iqbal, Ghalib and other greats.
Papa’s command on language was extraordinary — he spoke six languages fluently. Once in his younger days, he had gone to meet the great Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz and he had nervously shown Faiz Saheb his writing — who promptly declared that it was rubbish. Heart-broken, my father went off to England to study Chartered Accountancy. Years later, Faiz Saheb confessed that he had been dismissive of the poetry not because my father wasn’t talented — but because he knew a little encouragement would make a good-for-nothing poet out of a perfectly capable young man. Later on his life, the poet in him got revived and I still have some of his pieces that I treasure deeply.
My father was a profoundly spiritual man and helped me understand the concepts of love, worship, tolerance and empathy and why our intentions are so important. He taught me to not judge people, to hate the sin, not the sinner. He was an upright man, his love for God and His Messenger (PBUH) was evident in everything he did and said.
It was after my mother’s passing some ten years back that the man I had known to be the ultimate alpha male slowly began to recede. The full manifestation of the Alzheimer’s and dementia was a gradual process and agonising for me to witness. Then pain and suffering became his companions and he the perfect picture of patience.
I realise just how lucky I have been to be brought up by this beautiful man who actually lived the principals of excellence, gratitude and charity, and did not just speak about them. My father will forever be an example for me to follow, a man to love and respect, a person to cherish and a presence to dearly miss. The regret of not having served him as was his due will linger forever.
We don’t really lose the ones we love, do we? Don’t we just wait a little bit till we see them again? Rest in peace Papa, it’s been an honour. I don’t think any piece of writing could do justice to the life you lived, to the man you were, to what you meant to me. Words do fail me today, Papa. Till death reunites us ….
— Mehmudah Rehman is a Dubai-based freelance writer
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