A little something for Father’s Day
To celebrate Fathers’ Day here are a few takeaways that my dad shared with me, that I would like to share with you.
Fed up with constantly seeing his youngest child grumpy and moody at the breakfast table, my dad threw his hands in the air and said, ‘Lady Amna, to offer a smile is a gift. To receive one is a gift too.’ I tried it for a few days until the brother of a girl I played tennis with, happened to remark that I smiled so much I reminded him of a dolphin.
Fast forward my teenage years, and I’m a big believer in having a laugh. Sometimes I get a fit of the giggles at the most inappropriate times. The last time was on the day of my dad’s funeral. One of my dad’s favourite sounds was his children’s laughter and I think he wouldn’t have minded my hysterics. The bottom line is, I don’t care if I look like a dolphin, I’m just going to smile.
When I told my dad I was taking up writing, he told me he was very happy for me. ‘But,’ he cautioned, ‘You must read all the Russians.’ My initial reaction was, ‘Whatevs.’ I have read Anna Karenina. I’ve watched Dr. Zhivago many times. I’ve seen a few Chekov plays (with my dad) but according to my dad, my efforts were insufficient. He told us recently that he read War and Peace not once, but two times. I saw the very abridged BBC series, but now I feel I should really read War and Peace. I’ve a six week break coming up. Doing a back of the envelope calculation, (I used a calculator) if I read a chapter a day I would get through 13% of the book. That’s soul destroying. But if my dad did it, so can I.
My dad was an ardent atheist. My mum was – and still is – very religious. It made for an interesting backdrop at home. When I was nine years old, my dad told me, ‘God doesn’t exist.’ I burst into tears. He didn’t say it to be cruel; he was trying to show me that we should question everything we’re told. I’m still figuring out whether God exists. I’m not a fan of organised religion and the rules and the intolerance that go with it. In the end my dad found God (and my mum smiled from ear to ear.)
Our relationship wasn’t always plain sailing and there were occasions when I got uppity with my dad. ‘Lady Amna,’ my dad told me after one little explosion, ‘brains are not enough to get you through life. A bit of kindness and humility will take you much further.’ Even though I didn’t show it at the time, his message stung and, it stuck. Now I tell my children to be kind every single day. When I watched Cindarella with my daughters, I really couldn’t care if Lilly-Whatever-Her-Name-Is had an impossibly thin waist, I was the one rejoicing at the message Cindarella’s mother gave before she died …
Shortly before I got married (the second time around), my dad asked me to take him for a drive. ‘Just go anywhere you feel like.’ So I did, taking the two of us along a country lane snaking further north towards the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. Abruptly, he told me to stop the car. I pulled up and we sat in silence, admiring the view. Then, my dad started talking. He spoke about three things. One of them was about drawing a figurative line in the sand. ‘That,’ he told me, ‘is fulfilment.’
Every day I feel incredibly lucky and fortunate and I don’t wish for more.
Until next time.
In memory of my dad, Syed Mustafa Karim (16th March, 1932 – 12th June, 2016.) I hope you get to meet your heroes – from T.S. Eliot to Che Guevara to Tolstoy. And that right now, you’re rubbing shoulders with Muhammad Ali.