The other day I read a wonderful blog by the wonderful Jill Berry. This was one of a series of Shero blogs and Jill talked about how her mum was her shero. Jill encouraged me to write one too and I wrote about two women who are a huge influence in my life, my grandmother and my mother. Today I want to talk about three other people who shaped me and helped me become the independent, articulate, assertive woman that I am; my grandfathers and my father.
My maternal grandfather (Abbajee to us all) was a lawyer by training. He gave up practicing law when he realised that sometimes he had to, if not lie then at least not tell the whole truth, if he wanted to get his client acquitted. He bought some agricultural land and became very successful. He belonged to the generation which did not give daughters a share in inheritance, certainly people who were as successful as he was didn’t. They did not want to dilute the family’s wealth and reduce the landholding. Abbajee was different. He said he would not deprive his daughters and would give them their rightful share and he did. He practiced what Islam preaches and taught me that sons and daughters, men and women, have rights and obligations. He was as loving and affectionate towards his daughters as he was towards his sons. How wonderful for me to have such a grandfather!
I was two when I went to Pakistan and first met my paternal grandfather. He was introduced to me as my daddy’s daddy so that’s what I called him, DaddyDaddy, and the name stuck. DaddyDaddy was an eminent agricultural scientist. His contribution to Pakistan’s cotton industry is huge. He authored over 140 research papers and published books and received numerous national and international prizes and honours. My sister and I feel hugely honoured that he dedicated one of his books to us. From him I learnt the importance of hard work and of good education. As a child I used to enjoy listening to him and my father talk about agriculture, especially cotton, politics, religion, etc. At the request of my father he wrote about the history of our family which is a treasure trove of information for us and for which we are all ever so grateful. He used to write to me frequently when I was away at university and those letters were a welcome reminder of how much he loved me and was proud of me.
And then my father. Whatever I say about him can never do him justice. The bond between a daughter and her father is said to be a special one. The bond I have with my father is especially strong and special. He is handsome of face, mind and soul. He has always been there for me; rejoicing when I succeed and encouraging me when I need it. I can’t remember a day of my school life when he didn’t drop or pick me up from school. A few years ago when I went back to Karachi and met some of my old school friends, they all asked how he was. They told me they remember him as the one dad who was always at the school gate.
My father is a man of principles. When he started working for UNESCO in Sri Lanka he was told by a few people that he would have to serve alcohol if he wanted to network. Being a Muslim, buying, storing and serving alcohol is against his principles. He did not compromise and invited people for gatherings at our house and never served alcohol. The fact that he was not willing to compromise was appreciated by his friends and no one ever refused his invitation. This goes to show that if you explain why you do or don’t do something people will understand, but it needs courage to stick to your principles. I have followed his example in my social dealings with people. I have a very large circle of friends and they know I don’t drink or serve alcohol. Seeing my father stick to his principles has made it easy for me to stick to mine.
My father always makes me feel like a princess. I remember how safe and secure he makes me feel when he holds my hand when crossing the street. The only time he won’t hold my hand is when he has his grandchildren with him and then it is the grandchildren who are safely taken to other side of the road. I used to teach at university in the good old days. One day there was torrential rain and roads were flooded. My father rang me and told me that he would come and pick me up. He brought someone else with him who drove my car and I went with my father in his car. This may not seem a big deal to you but the fact is that the university was at a great distance from home, when Karachi has torrential rains the roads are impossible to drive on and not everyone does what my father did. It’s his nature to be caring.
My father has taught me that family is important. He taught me that my teachers deserve my respect. He taught me the importance of sticking to one’s principles, of doing what’s right. He taught me that education is important. He taught me that what’s worth doing is worth doing well. Most importantly he and my mother have taught me how to be a good parent and for this I can never thank them enough.