“I will go to him but he will not return to me.” I repeat this famous quotation attributed to Prophet Daud, in my heart every time I think of my father. It was in June four years ago when he left us for his heavenly abode. For a child to lose a parent, there can be no consolation; and time does not heal the pain either. However, with time one does realise the fact that one has to move on, for time – alas! – stops for no-one. But when I think of this quotation, then I begin to see time in a different light; not as something that separates us, but as something that will eventually reunite us, and this is why I love those words.
I know it sounds over-depressive to say something like this, but unfortunately life and death are a mixture of both sadness and positivity. I feel the same applies when I think of my dad. If you look at it, though Dr. Mian had a short life, there is much to celebrate about it. He was well known in Pakistan, especially in the field of computer science, highly respected and known as the “father of computers” in the nation. He was the one who designed Rakim, despite all obstacles, and even with him gone his works live on. Yet with all this, as his daughter he was first and foremost just my DAD!
I can say it gives me immense pride when people tell me that I am somewhat like my father. No, I do not mean ability-wise, but reading books, the love of discussing history and philosophy, to cook and to smile – these characteristics definitely come from my dad. As astonishing as it may be, I learnt cooking from my dad; I still cook some of the recipes he taught me, and when people say how awesome it is, I say with pride, “My dad taught me how to make this!” Similarly, I remember just a few months before he passed away, I thanked my dad. He asked me what I was thanking him for. I replied: “Dad, thanks for making us what we are today. I have never settled for second best and have always had the courage to take a stand and the strength to follow my heart, and I learnt this from you”. I am glad I told him that and I would advise all daughters to thank their fathers, because for a daughter it is the father, not the mother, who determines our self-esteem. What we are as women today comes directly from our own fathers’ perception of women; so if our fathers loved our mothers, we will naturally expect the same treatment from others.
True, no dad is perfect, and I have to admit that though my father was like a god to me, but of course he was not perfect. I have to say, by many accounts he could be stubborn, harsh and sometimes just unpleasant; but that was what made him what he was. His ability to do what others feared, the ability to pursue an idea when all the odds were against him – these good and bad characteristics rubbed off on us as well. He never told us to be honest or generous, for he did not need to do so: he just led by setting an example, and we followed him, like little ducklings follow their mother everywhere. I cannot be dishonest, not because it is right or wrong, but because I never learnt otherwise. It is hard for me or my sister to be mean, because we just never learnt how to be so. If I am an independent thinker, it is because he supported me in being so. I still remember the criticisms and attacks I had to experience in school because of my dyslexia, yet at home my dad would always say, “Don’t bother yourself as to what others tell you, just follow your heart”; and I did and I still do.
Without his support I do not think I would have been able to pull through school. I loved writing, but my teachers would make fun of how I wrote; when I would come home crying, I still remember my dad encouraging me to write and thus I never gave up on it. Now, when people tell me how well I write, I laugh in my heart thinking of all the attacks I had to endure to get where I am. I never would have made it without my dad’s support.
Sometimes I used to wonder how children repay their parents for all they do for us. As usual I asked my father this question: “Dad, how do children ever repay their parents?” and he laughed and replied: “Children do not repay their parents, all you can do is give the same or more love to the next generation. Our love and support for you is a way we repay our parents”. I think this is the best advice my dad ever gave me.
I strongly believe that now my role is to protect the coming generation, and whenever I hug or talk to my niece or nephew, for a moment I feel I am hugging and loving my father. Whenever my niece says she misses me or that I am the only one who understands her, it immediately brings back the memory of when I said these very words to my own father. Now I understand why he loved us so much. Partly it was a result of his own love for his parents, as in a way we were the medium through which he connected with them, just like now I see my niece and nephew as a connection to my father.
Just like love has its own connotations, so does life bring many ups and downs; in the end what we make of it, how we interpret it, is what will matter. Yes, I have lost a part of me: without my dad I no longer have anyone to share my ideas with; I miss the long night-time discussions we used to have over a cup of tea; I miss making snacks for him; and I know that will never come back. Yet I am happy that we had a loving relationship and that love will be passed on from one generation to another. I may not have felt so connected to Lahore, but the fact that my dad is resting there makes it almost a holy place for me and a connection that I love and cherish; all this would never have happened without my father.
In the end, all I can say is, Dad, I love you; that is one thing that time can never change.
LAHORE – Former president and co-chairman of Pakistan People’s Party Asif Ali Zardari ...