Afather can be a white-collar worker, a mid-level employee, or a farm labourer. No matter what the circumstances are, he will try to provide his children with food, shelter, and love. Over the years, I have seen many fathers make tremendous efforts to fulfil their children’s needs and desires. Paradise lies under the feet of mothers, but it should be noted that most fathers play a crucial part in improving their children’s livelihoods, and yet their hardships almost always go unnoticed. This Father’s Day, I hoped to reflect upon how much of a profound effect dads have on us...
Recently, a thought sparked in my mind. I wanted to know about the relationships my friends had with their fathers. Hence, I discussed the idea with about twenty of them. Listening to all the beautiful stories left me divided between smiles and tears. Here are just two of them:
A former college friend, Sara said, “My father and I share a very strong bond. I can talk to him about anything at all, and joke without hesitation. When I first got married and departed for my new home, I did not cry. But a few days back, when I was watching the wedding videos, the ‘rukhsati’ part had an extreme effect on me. I saw my father put his warm, calloused hand on my head. His sad expression was enough to glaze my eyes with tears. I did not stop crying for the next two hours.”
One of my best friends expressed her feelings too. “My dad and I have a cordial connection but we do not really show direct affection through words. I am scared of him, and yet I know he is caring and understanding in his own subtle way. There is one particular moment which will always stay with me. Once, my family had gone out for grocery shopping, and I was the only one at home. After a while, I felt hungry, but there was nothing in the fridge. When the other members came back at around 2 a.m., my father immediately apologised. He hugged me, and fed me with his own hands,” she recalled.
After performing this casual survey, I thought about my own father. My relationship with him has been like any other child’s. When I was quite small, I used to adore everything he did; from wriggling his ears to making the best cheese omelette in the family. Then came those infamous teen years. Lost in the angst of adolescence, I developed an extremely thick skin, and did not share much with him. But he was wise enough to know that gradually this skin would shed off, and it did. Finally, I established the peaceful appreciation for my dad that many people do as they mature.
My features and habits have always been compared to my father, rather than my mother. Initially, I pretended to be annoyed when people commented on how similar my eyes and cheeks were to his, but I was actually secretly proud of the fact that people thought we were cut from the same cloth. Also, my thirst for knowledge, forgetfulness, love for books and travelling, all come from him. Before discovering the Internet, he performed the function of being my Google and Wikipedia. It was nice to have everything packed up into one individual. Whenever I was given a science or a history project, he was the one I would go to. Even today, I quiver with pride to have a father, who can strike up a conversation about the most serious issues to light-hearted, humorous topics.
Baba has never been able to express his sentiments well, because he is a shy person, and one can actually see the pink blush creeping up to his cheeks if he is ‘forced’ to show love. Growing up, I learned that like many other fathers, he has his own sweet and subtle ways of manifesting compassion. I sensed the quiet fatherly pride he took in everything I did, whether it was my high school diploma, or my writing. I still recall the day when my first article was published. He was glowing with excitement and telling everyone about it. Being a shy person myself, who does not like attention, I usually try to stop him, but he says he wants the whole world to know about his daughter’s accomplishments.
There are many other moments, when I can sense his unconditional love for my sister and me. For instance, due to his chivalrous and merry demeanour, our friends do not consider him as one of those strict uncles, whom one cannot even look in the eye. Instead, they view him as a beloved friend; someone they can trust and talk to about anything. His presence does not tense up the atmosphere. Instead, over the years, I have seen all of our friends enjoying his company, which brings a smile to my eyes. Another of his many ways of demonstrating his love is by making jokes and being silly. Only in front of his daughters, does he sing along to Richard Marx, Phil Collins, and Elton John, although he knows that this talent does not flow in our blood. I cannot help but grin like the Cheshire Cat, whenever I see his comical, yet zestful performances.
It is not just love that he showers us with, but respect too. Let me give you an example. Whenever he wants to address any of us, he uses ‘aap’, and not ‘tum’. This is a small gesture, but it has a positive effect on not only his image, but also on our self-esteem. Most importantly, he treats my mother with utmost respect and love. I have never sensed asperity in his tone, whenever he talks to her. Because of their healthy relationship and the sunny atmosphere they have been able to create at home, it is always a treat to spend as much time with them as possible.
Lastly, like any other good father, Baba has proven to us that there is nothing like ‘a woman’s job’ or ‘a man’s job’. He has taught us to ride quad bikes, make fruit chaat, brush and oil our hair in the correct manner, choose sacrificial animals before Eid-ul-Azha, and play basketball. Some ‘old-fashioned’ fathers might think that discussing finances, politics, and hunting adventures with daughters is naivety. But Baba and many other fathers, whom I know, enthusiastically indulge in intellectual and fun conversations with their daughters, in order to get their opinions. For instance, I am fond of discussing a variety of subjects with my father. As I have spent most of my life outside Pakistan, I like listening to tales of his spontaneous road trips to Shikarpur, Quetta, Muzaffarabad, and other cities. Also, we often have heated discussions about our favourite books, various cultures, and our family’s future.
Now, at around the age of fifty, I observe Baba taking pills for his diabetes and body ache. I can see the scarred hands and the lines of weariness on his sweet, plump face. Yet, still he continues to work hard, so that we can get the best of everything - from toothbrushes to education. It is heartbreaking and heart-warming in equal measure. With time, I have come to enjoy his company even more, and treasure his pearls of wisdom. For instance, he always tells me, “If you really want to do something, put your heart and soul into it, or don’t do it at all.” Nothing is more precious to me than sharing my crazy ideas with him, while savouring frothy coffee and cinnamon rolls, with the flavour bursting on my tongue like gustatory fireworks. I am sure many of you would be able to relate to my sentiments. Despite having its highs and lows, this beautiful bond remains unconditional and irrevocable.