The king and his warrior

He will always be her hero. He will always be her King. She will always have the highest expectations from him. No matter how far she goes, or how wise she gets, no matter how many battles she fights, or how many moments of happiness she passes – he will always, always be the one point where the World stops for her because she knows that he is her rock.  Because he’s her dad.

homer n lisa

I became a bit teary today, reading through a dad’s speech on his daughter’s wedding. At the end of every paragraph, he pleads to his son-in-law “To keep her happy”. And that is it, really. That is all that a father wants for his daughter. To be happy. Every father who loves his daughter (unless he’s too blinded by his ego, or he’s lost in the maze of keeping up with social norms) , would fight the world for her, battle all oddities and even change his own ways just to see the corners of his princess lips curl into a smile. A father always makes his daughter feels like a princess – he will always be her King.

For once in my life, I cannot generalise this article. I cannot talk about all fathers without bringing up the most important man in my life, my father. At the age of  57, as he just left for work  on a 7 am shift, I find myself wondering – what hasn’t he given up to bring me, and my family here ?

My dad’s always been a story teller. I grew up lying in between my mom and dad and felling asleep listening to stories: how he met my mother, his childhood, his family, his struggles, Bangladesh Liberation War, Indian History, World affairs and the day I was born. And it wasn’t Aesop’s fables who made me the the person I am today, it was Dad’s Fables…well dad’s stories.

pineapple

I’ve been brought up in a society where girls are reminded at every step that she is a girl. She is mentally, verbally, visually different from a boy – she is not equal. A boy, a man is not her peer, he is above her. His preferences are more important than hers. She should always curve her ways to match the convenience of “The Man”, be it her father, brother, husband or son.  My father, all his life taught his girls just to be good human beings.  He’s taught us to look at other people with empathy and care. He always taught us to judge people characterwise , not genderwise,  faithwise , racewise, or classwise.  His lessons were not in a class or daily lectures, his lessons were through the lifestyle he chose and the choices he made.

Dad lost his father when he was 21. He did not have anyone too look up to, to advice and assist him in the  worldly affairs for a long time. That’s when he found a friend, a partner and probably the most reliable person in his life – my mom. In a society, where working wives or mothers were not looked upon highly, dad involved mom in his business. And this partnership has become forever.

I remember holding his fingers and walking into huge, shiny sparkly offices in Motijheel, the business District of Dhaka where I used to sit with him (fall asleep very often from the tiredness of school)and watch him do his business things. I watched the way he’d stand, holding his hands in a grasp in humility, as if the person he is talking to is the most important person in the World; the way he shook hands with them, smiling and nodding and then finally he’d turn and stick out his long finger out, so that I can hold it and walk with him. I remember I was so overwhelmed by one of these offices I forgot to greet his associates with Salam. He whispered in my ears and I whispered back “Can you squeeze my hand next time so I don’t forget!”

Throughout his life I’ve seen him as an entrepreneur – he had successfully set up many businesses throughout his life. He has a hunger for being different and so the products offered were always unique.  Whether it was exporting leeches, building a research lab for bio-medicinal purposes or introducing the first Mexican Restaurant in Dhaka, his businesses may not have been backed up by unlimited finances and investors, but his dedication and drive were the key to their success. As a boss, he was respected, loved and adored by his employees. As a businessman his associates thought highly of his integrity and morality.   Unfortunately, to remain a successful businessman in certain countries , you have to be flexible with your morale. You have to learn to throw ethics out the window. To make your business survive, you have to have unlimited amount of money, or have a  back up so strong, that you can squirm your ways into influencing political figures to support your business. No matter how much energy, motivation and dedication you pump into your business, it becomes virtually impossible to sustain when you’re not just surrounded by a corrupt system, but a bunch of hyenas, who can’t even wait for their prey to die.

Dad wanted his girls to have a life far away from these hyenas. He always envisioned us to be able to run and catch a bus to school, to walk the streets without being taunted or looked down as girls; he wanted us to be secured and free. It was probably a scene in Paris, where he saw a bunch of school kids waiting for a bus when he realised he needs to migrate; no matter how much he loved his country and culture, the society will never give his children, his girls the freedom and benefits that the western world has to offer.

The kingdom he built from scratch since 21, it took him six months to curtle them and begin migration in his late 30’s. A time when people start living their family life comfortably, and plan savings for better settlement and life, he  disregarded the comforts to settle in a different country, culture, language and start from scratch only to give his girls a better opportunity in life, to give us “wings”.

Migration is not the easiest thing to do. Especially, when life was like laying on melting butter. I saw this charismatic entrepreneur change his career to become a job seeker. A man who had been his own boss for over 30 years learned to give up that mindset and work for someone else.  When I sat to write his resume for the first time, I had goosebumps. After typing up a resume of 3 pages with detailed description of his management experiences, I wondered, what has he lost to bring me here? And when I asked him that question, he only put a hand on my head and said nothing. The saddest part was chopping his three page resume down to one page only, because he was over-qualified for any job he applied for. I was stunned to see the smile on his face as he asked me remove his real qualifications and only stick with what was asked for. Even before I could say it, he knew it would be difficult to get a management level job at this age. It seemed to me he already knew the consequences of migration at a late age and as if he prepared himself for it all his life.

The best lesson I learnt from dad was in his downtimes. He would always smile, laugh, and workout as if there is nothing to worry about. I guess Hakuna Matata is truly his tagline of life. Whenever I stride the road in high heels today, I find myself copying my dad’s traits. His walk, his motion, his talking skills, his body language. I’ve been told my body language and driving habits have a strange resemblance to him. Maybe because when I used to watch him work holding his fingers, I used to try and keep up with his long strides – I wanted to be my dad when I grew up. If it wasn’t for the traits I inherited from him, I wouldn’t be such a strong , independent woman I claim to be…I’d be just a girl. If behind every successful man is a woman,  then behind every strong woman there is a man. It may not be Father’s day yet, but here’s a toast to the men who’s given up their own dreams and desires for the sake of their children, here’s a toast too all the fathers of the world!

srk n suhanadad n daughters

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