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|Volume 12 |Issue 05| February 01, 2013 ||
Remembering a Father Figure
I was deeply honoured when Amma (my mother-in-law) asked me to write about my father-in-law Dr A R Mallick. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to observe him very closely over a number of years. It is difficult to write about a person with such high intellectual and moral stature. Many have given tribute to Abba's accomplishments in life. Notwithstanding their merits, I intend to honour him in this article as the father he was to me and the love he showered on me.
It was the month of November almost two decades ago. It was my mother-in-law's birthday. Abba appeared excited and happy and pulled me aside. We were to embark on a mission to find the perfect gift for Amma. Our destination – Mirpur Aarong. His busy schedule and dedication to his work rarely allowed him to indulge in shopping. I recall with great fondness his enthusiasm in trying to find the perfect gift. He went from each section to another looking at different things and asking me whether Amma would like this or that. We picked up a few items; the sales person at the counter approached me, and commented on how lucky Amma and I are for a husband and father with such a jovial and affectionate personality. She had been watching us from a distance while Abba tried to find gifts for Amma. She was very surprised when I informed her that I was in fact his daughter-in-law. Many years have passed since this incident. A few years ago Amma gave me the hand embroidered shawl Abba had bought for her that day. I treasure the shawl and every time I look at the shawl, as it reminds me of Abba.
The world knew my father-in-law as a man of strong character. He calmly handled difficult situations and had made notable achievements in his lifetime. But the Abba I knew also had a tender side; one which was gentle and kind, one which loved all those around him. One of the most admirable traits he possessed was his boundless ability to forgive others. He believed that everyone deserved another chance and that a person should not be solely judged on his mistakes.
After my marriage, I would observe people from Abba's village arrive at the house as early as six in the morning. They would wait to see him and request for his assistance in finding work for themselves or their sons and daughters. Numerous cups of tea, biscuits and sometimes even breakfasts were served while these people waited to see him. Abba would listen to their requests without fail everyday.
When Abba retired from active life he took up a project. He went through numerous old and recent photographs. It was not an easy task. He selected some important photos, enlarged them and then had them framed with captions. At that time we were wondering why Abba had embarked on this project. It was a lot of work sorting through the photos. He put up all the framed pictures in his study. There are many photos of his meetings with important personalities he had met during his professional life, and pictures of his children and grandchildren. He loved taking visitors to the study to show his project.
Now that he is gone we realise the purpose of this project. He has left us with memories.
Up until my son Aqmar was a year old, I used to take him to work as it had childcare facilities. And every day, Abba would wait for our return to spend time with us and play with Aqmar. We used to have tea and chat amiably. Abba, in his prime, actively participated in conversations. Unfortunately, his short-term memory suffered as he aged and he withdrew from social interactions. The time we spent together was something we all looked forward to and it was one of the highlights of our day. Since Aqmar was his youngest grandson, Abba was very fond of him. I had Aqmar after several mishaps and Amma told me that he used to pray every night that I be blessed with a child. His prayer was answered.
I was very attached to my own father and when he passed away I was devastated. I remember that day when Abba stood by my side and told me that from that day onwards I was to be his daughter. True to his word, he provided me with comfort and loved me like his own. I was always welcome in his presence and he became the father that I had lost.
One day, feeling slightly unwell after returning from work, I went straight to the third floor to my bedroom to take a nap. Suddenly I felt a presence nearby and was quite shocked to see Abba by my bed. He wore an innocent smile and held two oranges in his hands. Asking why he was there since he was not supposed to climb the stairs, he replied that he had heard that I was sick and had come to see whether I was alright. Eagerly he gestured to his oranges, saying they were delicious and he had already consumed four. I was deeply touched. He had risked his health out of concern for my well-being.
A few days after this incident, Abba passed away. On that fateful day, all he expressed was a slight discomfort. He was rushed to the hospital, but soon died. During his life he was never a burden on those around him, even so on his deathbed. Allah did not prolong his suffering. His departure was an immense loss to the family and to Bangladesh, the country he loved so much.
This February 4th is Abba's 16th death anniversary. The memories I have of him seem just like yesterday. He set an example for us all to live by, principles to adhere to, and he blessed us with his wisdom. I only wish there were more like him in this world. I will always miss him very much.
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