Ayah, my dad

Hello! Last two weeks were of the frenetic, hectic and all-bustling kinds because of new ventures so I’m glad my family and I finally had a breather last weekend while celebrating my sister’s 26th and father’s day. Happy Birthday Farah, Happy Papa’s day Papa!

I don’t have a father anymore, not for the last 15 years and yes, it was only three seconds ago and after a quick mental calculation that I realized that it has indeed been 15 years since his passing! I was a teenager then, and if I had had a baby then, he or she’d be a teenager by now. Gosh, time has passed and maybe the numbers don’t really matter to me when I have such a wonderful mother who was and is always there for us. She has parented us in a way that has never made us felt armless, fatherless, and because of this the loss of our father, while he is still dearly missed, is somewhat easier to cope with.

IMG_7358Dad at a university in London (1981) – my favourite pic of him. He looked so dashing!

I know I must have talked about his passing at one point or another but I’ve never really talked about his life and there’s so much about his life that is inspiring. The way he lived, his values and how he brought us up has shaped me into the person that I am today. Even though what I remember of him took place such a long time ago, it awes me when sometimes – I come across a problem, a predicament, a moment now when I stop and think, oh… this is why my late father told me this, or did it that way, or advised me like that.

About my father, and his life

  • He was a sportsman. Squash, soccer and cycling – in jumbled orders, on a weekly basis. Very often would he cycle from Jurong (where my grandma used to live) to Changi where he worked, competed in national squash tournaments and played soccer every week. Only my sister is known to have inherited his athletic genes.
  • He can cook asam pedas, his ultimate favourite dish (mine too actually). He learnt to cook it not so much by choice but because he had to when my mum, who was rendered into this blanket-cocooned person while pregnant with my brother, felt pukish every time she smelt food. I refuse to recall the number of times we had asam pedas every week in those nine months.
  • He has the neatest handwriting in the family.
  • He didn’t know how to read Arabic and only learnt the Muqaddam after he married my mother. My dad did not grow up in a religious family but after having kids, he really got into learning Islam in its depths. I remember all the classes we had at home and him telling me, “Don’t wear your shorts ok! Wear long pants” whenever the ustazs and his friends came over.

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A family portrait (1988) – at grandma’s house balcony

  • He has never scolded me or my siblings. NEVER. He has never punished us. NEVER.
  • He used to a roadie – and I’d like to imagine him living a carefree single life enjoying music and the company of people who made music, just like my husband.
  • He’s a Capricorn.
  • He was one hell of a prankster, he should have conducted Master classes on how to successfully pull off pranks. Did I tell you about the time he and mother covered themselves under the blankets on our bed and pretended they were sleeping zombies? My sister and I ran away, so spooked we rolled down the stairs.

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  • He has a crooked smile, but it was a smile so grand, honest and warm – it’s hard to forget.
  • He had to sign a ‘contract’ prior to his marriage to my mum. Terms and conditions included a honeymoon to Paris (where it is believed I was conceived).

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Mum and Dad by the Eiffel (1981) 

  • He signed all the test papers or exam slips of mine with bad scores. Mum refused to sign anything less than As or 90/100 so my dad, would gladly sign it for us and when you’re a small kid, you’re like OH MY GOD THANK YOU AYAH FOR SIGNING IT. I can now face my teacher, and I HATE YOU MOM! I am forever grateful for his kind and gentle heart (don’t worry mum – I know why you played bad cop).
  • He loved me, too much.
  • He woke us up every morning for prayers, and would carry my sister to the toilet where we both napped (it was a very clean and dry bathroom) till he banged on the doors. Then we would wake up, and he would carry my sister downstairs and perform prayers with the entire family.
  • He took my little brother (who was four at that time) to a bike shop to buy him a bike. He was supposed to collect it for him but died before he could. Till this day, we have never been able to find out the name of the bike shop.
  • He loved sweet things and traditional Malay food.
  • He first met my mother at St. John’s island.
  • He would console his crying kids, ever time after we get a scolding from mum.

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The firstborn at the Leaning Tower (1986) – a photo of me taken by Dad

  • He loved to travel and took us around the world from the rollercoasters of LA, to camel-riding next to the Sphinx to snowball fighting on the alps of Switzerland.
  • He loved listening to our childhood ambitions.

I still miss him and am still in a way, coping with his absence and passing. I find his face during the iconic moments of my life  – like right before getting married, or as I put on my graduation gown.

Yet the hardest bits are the littlest everyday moments that conjures him, his smile like when I cook asam pedas and the spiciness hits me, like when I open up the table while sitting in an airplane, when I pray and ask for strength and forgiveness, when I walk around my childhood home and see his tools sitting in the rusty toolbox.

Those are the hardest bits, but I look through again, I stop and think about his life the way I made the list above and it makes me feel more at peace. Till we meet again ayah.

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Ayah at cukur rambut (1983) – my dad holding me during the hair-cutting ceremony for newborns

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