On Fathers Day

“Father’s Day is a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society,” according to Wikipedia. This annual celebration has its roots in Catholicism and only in the 1970s; it was declared a National Holiday celebrated in June.

In the Muslim tradition, the respect for parents – the father having a critical role – is deeply entrenched especially within the daily prayers, which include verses from the Holy Quran. As an example, Surah Ibrahim 14:41 says

Grant Thy forgiveness unto me, and my parents.”

So conservative people present their own arguments for not celebrating events such as the “Fathers’ Day.” That is their choice.

One way to honor this day is to pray for the fathers and by recollecting precious memories individually and then share the blessings by honoring all those males playing the fatherly roles.

My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived and let me watch him do it.” –Clarence Budington Kelland. These are the words, I choose to bring alive the beautiful memories of my own father.

“Son, I started my work life by cleaning army latrines,” my father would say, as he changed from his three piece suit or a tuxedo into a farmer’s dhoti every evening. Almost every night in those conversations, he would remind us that “he’s just a sufaid posh – meaning a respectable person living within modest means.” In his simple words was an unmistakable message that there is no substitute for hard work and it is up to us to make our own destinies.

It was mid-1960s and he had left the army some years ago. His unique role as the “Resident Representative” for a multinational engineering firm engaged in one of the largest construction projects in the country thrust him to engage with the business community, members of the judiciary when litigation came into focus and union leaders to prevent work stoppages. He had found his niche but he did not lose his soul.

His last beverage of almost every evening was a glass of hot milk, sometimes with honey. Among the things he talked about was his love for his grandfather and often he would discuss some of his favorite verses from Sura Maryam. Often his concluding remark used to be: “it is just the Mercy of God that got me this far.” He would also tell us that he had learned this from his own grandfather Hafiz Fazal Din.

In addition to my father’s love for his grandfather was the love for his own father. I would witness this during their loving conversations during breakfast whenever grandfather was in town.

I learned from my grandfather that he was against my father’s enlisting as a recruit to fight in World War II and he grudgingly gave into my grandmother’s wish to answer the call of community leader to raise a battalion in the fight against Nazi tyranny.

Father, a tall man himself, was an obedient son and as his stature in life saw new heights he would honor grandfather’s request to help anyone in need of employment or reprieve from injustice when requested. During my travels on many continents, I have come across many people whose lives were transformed by little things my father did to help them whenever asked.

A meticulous man, father was always smartly dressed. The sweet morning whistles when he was shaving still rings in my ears, as does his singing of Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s poems. Little did we know that years later Faiz’s widow Alice would be visiting our house to see my disabled sister.

The amazing thing about father was that he never let us feel that we were his second family let alone talk about his deceased first family. Only through photo albums and perhaps from our grandfather did we learn about the love of his life and his son dying soon after his marriage. Father never wanted to marry again but it was some dreams that my grandparents on both sides that my father then again as an obedient son agreed to marry my mother who was sixteen then.

Throughout his life we were recipients of father’s unconditional love. My father was after all a human being like everyone else and his loving legacy remains long after he is gone. In fact, tears roll down the eyes of his friends, who have survived him, whenever his name comes to their minds or when they talk about him during conversations with this writer.

The objective of this story is to help rekindle precious memories of the readers’ fathers and respect for those who are already fathers or soon to become one -because fathers – obviously along with mother – provide the foundations upon which societies thrive.

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