The moment you had been waiting for is almost here. In two weeks, my book is being published. I will rejoice, celebrate with family and friends, and display it upright on my shelf, beaming as everyone compliments the gorgeous book cover. And I will nurse my regrets in silence. If only! If only I had done this years ago! If only I could see you hold it in your hands, feel its weight, shake your head sideways, smile at me and say, ‘Baat Huwee Na.’ You would give me that ‘my little girl has done it look’, and I would feel like a little girl all over again, making Daddy proud of me. I wish!
It’s been six years. Six years ago when I sat by your bedside holding your hand, until it lost its warmth. Six years since I said my last goodbye. Then, I would think of you all day, every day. Now, there are days when I don’t even think about you. How about that! Then something happens, and you are back in my thoughts. Sometimes it’s a song you used to sing, sometimes a beautiful dance, often it’s a book I have finished reading and I muse, Daddy would have liked it. And then there are the anniversaries—your birthday, your wedding anniversary, Father’s Day, and the day you died.
Sometimes I am sad, but most of the time I am grateful.
Grateful that you returned back from the war, alive and well. The picture is vivid in my mind: the train pulling out of the railway station, you leaning out of the door, in uniform, waving. I was so afraid that you wouldn’t return. Months later when the train pulled in, I had run down the platform, defying decorum, rushed into your arms, and had broken down in tears. What were your emotions as you held your sobbing fourteen-year old?
Grateful that you were there to take me to college, and for the advice you gave this fifteen-year-old as we rode on the train. “You are going to be on your own for the next four years. Remember that the only restrictions that apply to you are the ones you impose on yourself. We have done our part in defining the boundaries. Now it is up to you.” In that moment I realized that you were placing your trust in me, and with it the weight of responsibility. I made a promise to honor that trust.
Grateful that each time you received a marriage proposal for me, you asked me, what do you think? what should we do? Many parents would just go ahead and decide, seeking advice of the elders, knowing that their daughter would respect their decision. I didn’t know the merits of one proposal from the other, but you dignified me by affirming that my voice mattered.
I have missed you the most when writing my memoir. Not because I have relived the memories—I have—and I have laughed and cried while sitting at the keyboard. I have missed you because I wanted to share this journey with you. I wanted to call you and say,
“Daddy, I just finished writing the chapter on my arranged marriage.”
“Daddy, did you think that I was becoming too religious when I stopped using makeup?”
“Daddy do you remember what you said when I . . . .?”
“Daddy! I got a book contract!”
“. . .wait till you see the book cover. . . .I have selected the photos. . . .editing finally done. . . .I have a publication date. . . .the reviews are coming in, and guess what!. . . .Its here!”
Why couldn’t I have done this then, instead of now!
I could have, but I didn’t.
All I am left with is dedicating this book to you and Mummy.
In memory of my loving parents Farrukh Akbar and Lieutenant Colonel Kazim Akbar.
Happy Fathers Day, Daddy.
Lots of love,