Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I couldn't have imagined while dad was alive the specific times that i would miss him after he departed. Most often its when i'm driving alone, especially in the beat up old Accord dad refused to sell simply because i forbade him to. I forbade him to, HAH! as if i could forbid my father from doing anything, but i tried and he cared enough to obey. I can almost see him sitting there in the passenger seat, that stern pakhtoon expression of his , humming along to the pashtu songs he loved under his breath.
Sometimes its at the dining table, where i now fill his seat at the head of the table and unknowingly mimic his exact pose, elbows resting on the arm rests, hands in lap, feet resting on their toes with the heels raised as he would shake his legs and cluck his tongue with his sunday smile and his sunday hair.
Its still not easy for me to talk about him, two years down and God knows how many more to go, i still mention him unless its for practical purposes. I carry his memory within me, i can't share it, i don't know how to... i lose my temper when mom mentions him to shame me into doing something, it hurts to think that he is gone or that his not being here should somehow make me renege from the person he helped turn me into. I try not to do the thing i wouldn't do if Dad was alive, i try to pretend that he was never there or perhaps that he still is here and that life simply goes on without too much of a change or too much of a tragedy. I tell myself everyone MUST live with this sense of being untethered, this overwhelming absence of someone who ought to be there. I try not to make the decisions he would have made, i try to make up my own mind but i still seek his approval, would he do this, i don't care but would approve of me doing that is still a very important validation for me and the inability to receive that validation, that pat on the back or that admonition stare is easily the most grievous of losses. Somehow he is most distant when i visit his grave, i just don't feel him there, the reverence i feel, the fear even perhaps, i will clean the place if its dirty, i will water the plants not because i like clean places but because he did and his grave must simply be in pristine condition but i don't feel HIM there, just his expectations. I wonder if there's something wrong with me, if i'm not a good enough son, if i didn't love him enough but then i find myself unable to talk in the middle of a conversation just because i have said something i heard dad say, or i have remembered some conversation i had with him which suddenly makes more sense than it ever did before and i know that it doesn't even matter what kind of a son i am, the only thing that matters is what kind of a Father he was because that is why i miss him.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007



Bakra's bleating like its Armageddon, bright red, fake ketchup colored blood squirting helter-skelter. Rigor mortis sets in, setting tails wagging posthumously. I stare on barely perplexed. Its god's will and nature's way. My concern is how much the butcher's gonna charge and is he going to do the meat right? This is training as imparted by a father. Sit back straight, no slump in the shoulders, look everyone straight in the eyes, if the balk they lie. Confidence is the cardinal virtue that will lead your right on through. Make mistake, no one's perfect, but own up to them, and show courage. Face life head on, grab adversity by the horns. Stand tall, son, through it all. Whatever it is; its god's will, its nature's way.

Its funny how I didn't even blink while watching goat upon goat upon sheep beheaded in my backyard, but couldn't muster up the guts to go to Dad's grave. The Epitaph is up, it has his name and his parent's names and his DOB and his DOD on there. He's been condemned to god's will and is marked now only by a marble slab. This is somehow harder to behold than laying him down to sleep was. The first time I saw the new improved 2.0 version of the grave I ended up bawling. All decked out in a grey suit that dad chose for me, hair gel backed, high on the euphoria of authority used right I stood desolate like a ship that's lost its mooring. The tears swelled forward as if the dam had finally given way and I huddled myself within my arms trying desperately to keep from shaking so violently.

This is how it will always be I suppose, this unexpected, unprecedented surrender to emotions held in check so tight that they almost choke to death. But almost isn't enough and when the tidal wave of the implications of being an orphan courses over all my defenses, I can only succumb. There's no age limit for being an orphan, unfortunately but there is one for feeling like one. I'm well past that age where I could use this loss to gain sympathies, I'm at the age where my father's hard work in making me a man is represented through my actions, my words, my life. His honor is now my responsibility and crying like an orphan ought to just ain't done. So I visit his grave alone now. I cannot afford to let my mom see my crumble or my sisters. Its better if they think I'm a coldhearted SOB because cold hearted SOBs alone command the respect that is needed to make the tough decision without being undermined or being considered incapable of doing anything even remotely mature because you're just an orphaned child who is still grieving. Orphan yes, child no, and thus grieving falls out of the equation turning into something that is too personal to be shared or exposed to anyone. God's way and nature's will again, but the implementation is all mine.

Dard aisa kay her rug mien hai mehshar burpa (apocalypse reins in every vein, such is the pain)

Aur sukoon itna kay mar janay ko jee chahta hai.(And such calm that I wish for death)

The translation sucks ass but that is the verse by Faiz that graces the epitaph. Dad was fond of it, and it is fitting in the sense that Faiz wrote it about a heart attack. Which is the malady that in the end claimed dad's life. But what it does, and this we did not foresee while selecting it, is that it reflects quite commendably exactly the way I feel inside the small mausoleum where husband, wife and now son rest. Not as much a heart attack as an attack to the heart but the feeling is pretty much the same, only I don't get to have the wish come true.




Friday, October 27, 2006


Eid? What Eid?

Stiff upper lip, son. Chop Chop, suck it in and stick it out. No one ever said it would be easy...
And no one ever said it would be so hard...

It is though. Somewhere between excruciating and unbearable. But the upper lip is stiff as it can be, and i'm sticking to IT like velcro. What IT isthough, is anybody's guess.
IT isn't for instance, Dad's old shirts. Or his huge collection of classy pens. IT isn't his beloved watches; a minor, tear stained fight broke out over the Cartier, turns out all the sisters want it equally. I had my dibs on the Omega all along and he gave it to me for graduation anyway, so i just looked at the sorry bunch slugging it out at an emotional level over who gets to keep it. They figured out a time table in the end, sharing is caring after all.
IT isn't his spot on the couch in the drawing room that he used to dole out our eidis from. He'd make us do stupid indian movie stuff, like touch his feet and shower him with praise like obedient god-fearing kids. He loved watching us squirm but you know, he only ever expected this from us twice an year, the rest of the time we were treated as much like equals as was possible for him. I sat in that spot when the guests started pouring in without missing a beat. I had refused to even look at that spot all through Ramzan because of what it signified. And if it wasn't for a wonderful Samosa stuffed with kindness and understanding i don't think i would've been able to pull it off.
IT isn't our customs or our rituals that Dad abhorred but went along with anyway just to avoid confrontation. I'm abandoning it all now, slowly, steadily because i saw dad's disdain at the wasteful weddings he had to throw for his daughters or when he got invited to a Qul, he always believed that there was no room for rituals in faith, except for hindus and i concurred whole heartedly and eventhough because of his stature in the family and his nature, he acquiesced to the demands of society, i have my age and 'amreekan' exposure at my behest to launch my crusades from.
It isn't Eid, even. What's there to celeberate anyway? Eid to me, to us, has never been about the communal spirit of the Muslim Ummah, or about inculcating brotherhood, its simply been about going to the mosque in teh morning with dad, and looking up all teh numbers in his PDA to call after wards. It's been about touching his feet and watching him snicker like a ten year old girl at our discomfort. It's been about Hugging dad. Its been about being his side kick for the whole day. Its about being introduced to all teh guests who came over as 'My Son, Sajjad Khan.' It's been about blushing with the pride in his voice everytime. Eid really isn't much of anything without Family. And though Dad is survived by 5 precocious, insane children and a wife, dad himself was the ether that held us all together. Not that we're falling apart now or at each other's throats over the leftovers. Thankfully Dad didn't even leave anything for us to fight over. He just left his legacy, his unconditional love that got proven way too often to be denied. He left his words and his actions.
I guess, that is ultimately what IT is. Everything that Dad came to mean to me. luckily before he left. And year and a half i got to spend with dad as the son he deserved to have and as the son i was honored to be. That is what IT is. IT is the pride on his face when i beat him at Scrabble. It is the love in his embrace when i came back from the states. IT is him looking at me just as intently as i looked at nothing while phasing out in the middle of a conversation right after the break up. IT is him bringing me out of my misery with a verse from ghalib or faiz or some obscure indian writer no ones even heard of before. IT isn't vested in the natural world, or teh spiritual one. IT isn't something tangible or quantifiable or scalable. That is, in fact, what makes IT so special, so intrinsic to who I will be from this point onwards till the day i leave to join Dad wherever he may be.
IT is all that Dad left me. IT is what i can never be worthy of but have inherited through rights of Birth and of love.
IT is all i have. And i'm never letting go.

Eid really wans't much different than any other day. Cuz There are no words for how much you were missed on Eid either.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Winter Dad.

All bundled up in your multi layer defense system against the barely discernible cold of lahore, you looked so funny. But having seen you tremble with near asphyxiation I understood the demands aging had placed on you. I remember rushing in to get your pathani topi when we'd be heading out to eat that chargha you liked so much.
And everytime you'd go decked out in your Pakhtoon-stuck-in-abysmally-cold-punjab you adopted that hilarious pissed of pathan persona. Speaking urdu with a pushto accent and cursing loudly at everything that walked in pushto. I doubt you ever saw it but i used to do the same in the states. And i think every one loved that routine just as much as your kids did.
I used to think, thanks to my incredible stupidity during my teen years that what you had to teach was useless and boring and that i'd never even bother picking up on it. Only to realize a few years later that even that rebelious attitude of mine was picked up from you. I think all kids unconciously learn things form thier parents because in most situations the only real benchmark we have to try to meet is the one set out by them.
The pushto accent i can handle, even the tough boss bit, hell i even go red when angry like you, babaji... but you set the bar way too high on how to be a father. If i'm half of everything that you were to your kids, i'd feel like a god. I don't know how you never did.

Shab-bakhair Babaji.


Asaamaikum Baabaji

I can't whine about dad.
I refuse to. There's absolutely zero justification for wasting all the effort he put into teaching me how to be a man. I need to start believing the extremely profound crap I feed everyone else just to make em stop whining. The positives must be focused on. They must be.
Iman Ali is hot, for instance. Dad liked her too, Not in a nasty lecherous sense but he deemed her worthy of his vote of confidence. She has a brain besides the bod, you see, hence. Dad had one hell of a taste in women. As it turns out he was quite the playboy when he was young and had a lot more hair. Big ol curls he had, dad was such a looker. To the rather peaceful end, in fact. The ex had sort of a crush on him. One of my sister's friend was quite literally in love with him. I think she had a falling out with my sister because of that. I don't think she knows. I'm sure she'd cry. Sigh, infatuations are funny things, they linger silently like nuclear reactions.

I’ve been writing a lot about dad off late. Makes sense too. And I needed a place to put it all on. The other blog has too much cussing and sexual stuff on it to qualify as a proper setting for remembering dad. It’s the Acerbic crap blog goddamnit and if my dad was some wife beating, beer guzzling hick from hell I’d writer about him there. But Babaji deserves better.

That’s a seedy bar as opposed to this, shiny clean gentleman’s club where I shall come and light up dad’s old Dunhill pipe, sip on a cup of tea with my legs folded left on right properly, throw my head back and recollect his life as best as I can. I need to remember him as he was, strong and resilient and invincible. And even though death may have proved too much of an adversary for his aging body, his soul cannot be tamed as it lives on as robust and as loving as ever in my heart. And the hearts of all those who love him.

It’s a surprisingly huge number. I’m still stunned by the turn out at the funeral. And at the Qul’s. My god! It was like the god father died. Heh.

Dad. Dad Dad Dad. Man, how I wish you were here.

I hope there’s internet in heaven or alam-e-barzakh so you can finally read what I write.

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