By Bibi Ali
This piece of writing is not an eulogy, a biography or an account of my father’s achievements; instead, it’s a page from the diary of a bereaved daughter who is still trying to come to terms with the loss of her father.
My early memories of my dear father as a little girl are sitting on his lap and feeling the stubble on his face with my tiny fingers. I was always fascinated by his rough skin and the sweet smells of his aftershave mixed with cigarette smoke. He wouldn’t talk much but would listen to our childish ramblings with great interest. He was very proud of the fact that I was able to read at a very early age and showered me with all kinds of books and magazines.
I remember him as a very deep and complex human being with various layers. He was a strict disciplinarian with his sons but with us daughters, he was always a tolerant angel. He adored us, encouraged us and showered us with praises for the talents that we didn’t even possess. However, he always expected us to have follow a code of conduct based on modesty and sobriety in every aspect of our lives.
He had a deep disdain for gaudy colors, silly remarks, petty jokes or even loud voices.
My father was an old school parent who believed in keeping his children at an arm’s length, especially in his personal matters. Being a perfectionist in every aspect of his life, he did not allow us to make silly mistakes. Any word mispronounced or any out of blue remark would not be reprimanded, but get a glare from him, which would shake us to the core. As a result, we could not be spontaneous around him and uttered every word with caution. This style of parenting proved to be a double edged sword since it taught us the importance of familial hierarchy and the mannerism around elders, but it also deprived us from the kind of closeness we should have had with our father.
My father was a closed book when it came to his personal life and never shared any accounts of achievements or ordeals in his life with us. All we learned about his early life was in the form of anecdotes from his friends and some vague memories from our childhood. He taught us to avoid self-projection but instilled a seed of self-worth which helped us get through our personal challenges with hope and optimism. He taught us to stay dignified during adversity and stay humble during prosperity. He encouraged us all to be avid readers, to have informed opinion about the world affairs, and to have higher order thinking skills.
I remember a long time ago, my father returned from work related trip, looking a bit dazed and pale. He had travelled from Rawalpindi to Gilgit through a van. When my mom inquired, he informed us that the van that he was travelling in had met with an accident. It had skidded off the road, into a cliff beside the river.
While the van was slowly descending towards the river all the male passengers had jumped off the van to save their lives. Only one woman left with her two young children, frantically calling for help.
My father had stayed behind and helped the woman get off the van first. Then he had grabbed the kids one by one and tossed them at their mom who was able to catch them. After saving those three lives my father was the last one to jump off the van, seconds before the van had submerged in the roaring waters of the river. He told this story very nonchalantly and did not even hint at the fact that he had put his life in grave danger to save the lives of three complete strangers. As I child I didn’t think much of this incident but now when I look back it gives me a glimpse of his immense courage on the face of adversity.
Mi Subhanuddin had an immense love for his birthplace Chitral and never agreed to travel or settle anywhere else. His final conversation with me a few days before his passing away was about how rapidly Chitral was developing and how glorious Chitral’s future was.
The love and respect the wonderful people of Chitral have shown to my father has left us eternally grateful for their kindness and generosity of spirit.
After burying my father in his final resting place, I have returned to the loneliness of the foreign land with the most precious inheritance that a daughter canget from a father, his old books with his beautiful signatures and his Pakhol. One day, I intend to bequeath father’s Pakhol to my son, when he proves himself to be half the man that my father was.
Rest in peace my dear father. Next time we meet, it will be for eternity.