By Farooq Wani
What surprised me most when my father breathed his last on August 25 was the pall of gloom that was palpable throughout our entire locality and the extraordinarily large number of people who turned up to pay their final respects and console us intrigued my journalistically inclined mind and set me thinking.
By the time I reached an age where I could discern things, my father was serving in J&K police and we were leading a modest but content life. I found my father to be an affable person who never expressed any complaints about life having treated him unfairly and this made me assume that just me, he too must have had a comfortable childhood.
It was later that I learned from my grandmother about the immense hardships he had faced while growing up. She told me that my grandfather’s untimely death at a young age had put the onerous responsibility of looking after the entire family on my father, who was still a minor.
With a widowed mother and two sisters to look after, my father never had the luxury of enjoying the thrills of childhood like other children of his age. But rather than pushing him into depression, this stroke of bad luck instilled within him a deep sense of responsibility and determination not to accept defeat.
Unable to pursue higher studies due to the requirement of having to work in order to sustain his family, my father joined J&K police and working diligently, retired in the rank of Inspector after serving for 35 years.
Fate may have deprived may father the chance to pursue higher studies, but despite his meagre income, he ensured good education for us and due Allah’s blessings and my father’s efforts, all his children (four brothers and two sisters) are well settled today. But one would say that since every parent goes out of his (or her) way to do their utmost for their children, what was so singular about my father?
I think that what made my father so special to others was his tenacity for upholding his ideals and helping nature. After his retirement, my father led an active life, keeping himself busy doing household chores and never indulged in idle talk or criticised anyone.
Elders now tell me that while talking about moral and social values with their children, they would often cite my father as a role model on account of his upright character, humility, helpful attitude, sober habits and excellent personal qualities. Perhaps, that’s why he was fondly called ‘Abba’ (father) by everyone who knew him. It’s really a proud moment for me to know that my father who was so unassuming and docile had served as a source of inspiration to so many.’
Abba’ taught us a lot and whatever I am today is because of him. I cannot recollect him ever being harsh or unreasonable, nor did he ever impose his views on us. On the contrary, he instilled moral, social and religious values in us through self-example as he practiced what he preached. He took pains to explain the benefits of doing the right things even if they were physically and mentally taxing and guarding against the temptation of letting the lucre of ease and comfort mislead us into doing wrong things.
But the most valuable gift that my father gave me was his unconditional support and immense encouragement, especially when all seemed lost. I distinctly remember that while everyone dissuaded me from going ahead with my childhood dream of publishing my own newspaper as there was already a glut of newspapers in Kashmir, he was the one who encouraged me to go ahead.
Later on, when nascent ‘Brighter Kashmir’ was facing a host of teething problems and I was suffering recurring bouts of anxiety and dejection, it was ‘Abba’ who by reminding me of old saying, “himmat-e-mardaan, madad-e-Khuda,” gave me the inner strength to bravely face and overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.
Each passing day brings back memories of some valuable lesson ‘Abba’ taught me and at times I feel guilty that perhaps I did not adequately thank him for all that he did for me. But I also know that he would not have liked me thanking him for his benign indulgence that gave me the confidence in the power of truth since he considered this to be his moral and religious responsibility as a father. I also know that had I done so, ‘Abba’ would have told me that instead of thanking him, he would be much happier if I continued to uphold the noble values that he had taught us.
So ‘Abba’, instead of offering thanks, I end with a promise to try my best and continue standing up for truth, no matter what the consequences may be; Inshallah!