A Father’s Legacy, A Son’s Salute

Friends, I wrote this story from my own experiences and observations in commemoration of Father’s Day. This is copy righted materials. Anyone needing to publish this will require my written permission

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A Father’s Legacy, A Son’s Salute

A roaring father lion in the plains of the Serengeti whose cub only plays from a distance; a father, distant but affectionate,  whom does not play silly games with the little boy who enjoys it so much, but whose two sharp eyes were ever watchful for his son’s well being. A father who protected and injected the values of life, who laid the foundation of everlasting values of wisdom, and of thirst for knowledge, a champion of fairness and a soldier of tireless journey towards excellence in life; such was my father and my image of him.

My father was a busy man while we were growing up, a man with a bad temper occasionally, and could not separate problems of his work life from that of his family life at times. Yet a man of principle he was; a man who had never learned to bow down to any one on the matter of morality. He buckled to pressure rarely but never broke down, a man of belief, a man uncompromising to the bone of his back. Shortcomings, yes, and an imperfect man he was, in a less than a perfect world, yet he tried to provide the best to his family. I remember, as a little child in elementary school, like many children in Bangladesh, I was fond of eating Hilsa fish, considered a delicacy. The Hilsa fish season was short lasting in those days, with no provision of cold storage yet available in the country, and the fish was extremely expensive. In one season while eating a deliciously cooked Hilsa, I cried out to my mother, “Mom, I want to eat the father of Hilsa, not just a Hilsa fish!” meaning the biggest of the Hilsa fish, which my father overheard. A few weeks had gone by when my father went to the fish market, immediately bought the largest Hilsa fish of the season, or so the merchant informed him, and was provided a helper to carry it home over his shoulder to our house for cooking. I remember on the one mile walk from the fish market, a crowd gathered around it and everyone admired that Mujahid Meah, as my father was named, had bought the largest Hisla for his son.

Years later by now I was in the Eighth Grade, a young teenager, in the crossroads of one milestone of life with another. Few of my class mates and I had to represent our school in a regional examination for a scholarship that was held in a town, four hours journey from home. The school had arranged a guest house which did not accommodate all the kids, so the accompanying teacher arranged for me to sleep on the floor. My father accompanied me during this journey and as soon as he came to know of the sleeping arrangement, he decided to take me out to a private hotel where I could sleep on a bed and not on the floor. I was not happy to sleep alone away from my friends and I could see my supervising school teacher was not happy at my father’s decision either. Later my father explained that while other kids were sleeping on the bed, he did not want me to sleep on the floor, for he felt it was important that I never feel consciously or unconsciously demeaned compared with anyone else.

My father, along with my mother, had an unwavering appreciation and respect for the profession of medicine. Elders in the family told us, and he admitted himself that he wanted to be a physician, but while he was growing up in the 30s and 40s in the colonial India under British rule, his family’s situation did not allow him to be one. As a result he realized his own unmet dream with the help of his wife, our mother, another extra-ordinary woman in our life, through their children, to guide five of their children into medical professions.  In a far-sighted but unprecedented action plan for their children, whenever we visited the metropolitan town of Chittagong, where the nearest medical school was situated. A three hour journey from our hometown, he would make us ride the public bus up to the first entrance gate of the medical school. Then he made us embark on foot through the medical school and attached hospital complex, admiring all the facilities on the way and praising any medical student or physician we would come across to our great consternation, embarrassment, and resentment. Turning a ten minute walk through the sprawling campus of the medical school into an hour long ordeal he would finally lead us to the exit gate of the same campus only to catch the same public bus route to reach our final destination. He repeated this habit, as if an inviolable religious ritual, every time he brought us in town. Far beyond our childhood comprehension and understanding in those days, hid the spectacularly contrived plan by my father and mother to influence the ambition and shape the future of their children in a positive manner. It was no accident that later, this same medical school became the alma mater of their five children; a fact we only appreciate now. He was the doctor behind the doctors; he was the dispenser of our future’s prescription.

Such was my father: an uncompromising, unrelenting soul as far as principle is concerned, so eager to teach me the lessons of life and keep my head up above all. He taught me well, as proven later, our personalities clashing frequently but our affection for each other never ceasing. I realized it for the last time when he was afflicted by an incurable cancer. By now my mother had passed

away several years earlier and my father on the sick bed. As a responsible and loving son, I took over his care again, this time with another well fitted team member, my wife Jesmin, whose dedication helped his care possible.

Today, years and years later, and as I take on the role of being a father myself to my own four children, I realize what my father did for us and specifically, for me. An imperfect man, yes he was like any mortal on this world, but he gave us the courage of being honest and taught us the skills of life, to valorize the virtues of humanity as well as its imperfections, and the confidence of shedding hypocrisy, he put us in the path of relentless learning and search of knowledge. A sleepless sentry of life, a connoisseur of fairness, my dad was neither my buddy, nor my friend but a true father who showed us the way; the beacon of my weltanshauung. Father, you are the true lion, the patriarch in the vast planes of real life’s Serengeti, you are the leader of the pride: the Lion King of all the fathers.
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 Copywrite: Dr. Nizam Meah, June 2014

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