• Aisha Iqbal

Thanks for everything, Abu

You might not be able to tell by just looking at him, especially now in his 70s (we like to keep his exact age a bit of a mystery) when he looks even smaller, shoulders slightly stooped, slim, trim, always lost in thought. He's got an unassuming beard and very little of his amazing thick hair (which used to be black and curly).

But this man in the old, slightly-too-big sweater, the threadbare sneakers, jogging slowly in place in his clean green lawn is a remarkable man.

And I'm not just saying that because he is my dad.

I've written many a testimonials for my mama, who like many other mamas for many other children, is the best mother in the world, but somehow have never gotten around to writing one for my dad. So this one is for him.

I owe to him not just all my material well-being, from the beautiful house I grew up in to my school uniform to all my toys to my first car to my education to my wedding events ... But also so much of what makes me a functional human being.

My dad was a pilot - anyone who has met him would know he flew for 45+ years and retired very unwillingly at approximately 66 years old.

He was often away for several days at a time during our childhood, which must have been hard for my mum but I think as kids that's all we knew so it didn't feel hard, it just felt normal.

He used to help me prepare for all math related tests and assignments. And he used to pick and drop me off to my friends' houses. One of the more practical habits I picked up as a child was to ALWAYS have the address of the house we were going to WRITTEN down. Full address. On pen and paper (this is of course the mid 90s, no Google maps, no 24/7 phone as your PA situation). And if you didn't - well there would ensue a very hardcore scolding.

My father has a terrifying temper. Many people don't know because he is often in such good humour and is funny and kind, but many other people know because, well, they've either been on the receiving end of it or at least seen it in action!

So. You learnt things pretty fast when it came to what he had to instruct you on.

He is also extremely practical (a trait all of us on my dad's side of the family are almost unreasonably proud of). And persistent.

He has always been a daredevil (perhaps less so after the age of 65+ but still!), pushed us to go beyond the 'don't go over the fence' signs for a cool picture opportunity, urged me continue driving rather than dissovle into tears after a fender-bender, take the first solo drive and just get on with it...

He is from a different generation, but has never differentiated in the way he raised his son and his three daughters. He provided us the same opportunities in our education and careers. Even when he didn't agree on the paths we chose, he still supported us to go down those paths. He has always had my back and I am forever grateful for that.

My father is also a man of many paradoxes - somehow managing to keep diverging personality traits in some sort of working balance.

The same man who would be extremely annoyed if I had forgotten the street no. of my friend's house stayed super calm and consolatory when I missed a connecting flight in America and ended up having to stay overnight in a hotel in Nashville with my younger sister (who was thrilled that the smug older sister had made such a stupid mistake). Crisis situations always bring out the calm in my dad.

The same man who gets homes built for the less privileged would balk at even the idea of purchasing imported toothpaste (because it's too expensive!).

The same man who is comically proud and often shows off how right he is with regards to many things in life is still the most humble man I have ever known. He is the least status conscious, background conscious person of his generation. I am forever grateful to my parents for raising us to realise that money is not directly proportional to goodness or superiority - that people who own more don't necessarily deserve more respect.

In many ways I am my father's daughter - I owe all my efficiency, prudence, and time management to him. The most economical train tickets to buy on holiday, the shortest route to our destination, actually looking at the price of something before you buy it (later on I've learnt in life that this isn't something that everyone just does but a skill that is taught!). Loving a movie night with crisps, taking photographs and making albums, road trips, travelling, writing, being fiercely competitive and loving a good game...

All my dad.

I think one of the hardest things about growing up is realising your parents are not perfect (that nobody is perfect but the first realisation of your parents not being superheroes is what astounds and disappoints you the most). And then as you grow older and they grow more fragile, suddenly you're the one who is pulling luggage off the baggage belt, reminding them to have their passports before a trip, letting your mama sleep in and maybe waking up to make breakfast (all the while the parents protest and say we don't need to).

As you realise you need to woman up a bit more, whine a little less and provide the shoulder to lean on every now and then, even as a little piece of your heart breaks, you can only be grateful to the mama and abu who taught you the very skills and compassion that comes into play now.

My father is not an easy person to live with - and I think that is the case with many exceptional people. Their personalities are too strong, too stark. They are often right but they think they are always right, and will tell you so as well, which can be very trying.

But he is a remarkable man. He is the most hard working man I have ever known and will ever know, he came from very humble backgrounds and never forgot that, he worked hard enough to set not just his children but his grandchildren comfortable for life. It didn't fall into his lap, he worked for it and was and is always grateful to God for helping him in this journey.

He is a proud man but he has apologised to his children many a times when he is wrong - it takes an incredible man to do that.

I could never repay even a hundredth of what you have done for us, Abu. But I needed to let you know that you are and will always be my superhero dad. May my baby get to spend many years with his nana, loving and learning from him.

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