We Just attended our Third Family Therapy Session together. You aired your grievances against us. We are here to talk about issues that are causing problems in the family. Your mother responds to your comments, it’s like a battle scene between the two of you, emotions are running high. Your brother is not here. I sit there with my broken back, staring at the plush carpet. Dear Daughter, this carpet is so clean, so beige. Therapist tells us you’ve made a remarkable improvement in four months. Your responding well to therapy and your divorce.
I come home and search for recovery tips on Google. I close my eyes, and this is what I want to tell you Dear Daughter.
I accept I failed in many areas of life- and I failed as a father as well.
But Dear Daughter listen to this:-
I work as a cab driver, because it helps me to pay off our mortgage. I should have been home more often. I should not have been too controlling about our future. I should not have looked too far ahead into future, your universities, weddings and this big mortgage.
As you started to grow up, the size of my wardrobe shrunk. We had to update your and your brother’s wardrobe three- four times a year. You kids were growing up so fast. Looking at you in colorful outfits with matching accessories filled me with pride. I became arrogant, Yes I can provide the best for my Children.
When Festivals came, I sometimes would get tempted to buy a new shirt or new pants, but then I would recycle my old clothes and wear them at Eid and Weddings.
When you were 10, there was a skiing trip to Alps Mountains. You wanted to go. I was saving up for a trip back to Pakistan to visit my Abba ji, who had made a spontaneous decision to go and spend his retirement years in Pakistan with his widowed sister. I thought doesn’t matter, I’ll go next year, Pakistan can wait, but your trip can’t.
When you were 13, you wanted a new bedroom with new furnishings, new wardrobe and new shelves. I was saving up that money to fix our broken home in Pakistan, but doesn’t matter. Your Grandfather said, give her the room of her dreams.
When you were 14, you wanted more stuff, more money. Now I was struggling, so my Taxi Hours increased from 12 a day to 16 hours a day. Breakfast was just a cup of tea, lunch was a quick sandwich and dinner was usually at 1am in the morning. I would heat the left overs in microwave, ping the noise of microwave would bring me out of deep slumber of sleep, and I would tirelessly make my way through the meal. You would be upstairs tucked into your princess canopy bed . All nice, safe and warm.
When you were 16, you walked out with 7 A’s, we celebrated. It was a trip to New York for you and your Mother and Brother. I confess dear daughter, I was a selfish thrifty man, who realized that with his ticket money and hotel money, he can pay off another installment of mortgage and pay off your brother’s one month of university rent.
I look at my finances. I haven’t been home in 10 years now. I think of my father. I no-longer enjoy playing snooker with my friends and I have not boxed in years.
You said, No Muslim clothes, No covering of Head, No Hand stitched Village Clothes. I said that’s fine.
So I said to you- No low necklines, No sleeveless and No showing of Legs. You agreed with your old man. I stood tall, and proud.
Every Father’s Worst Nightmare
Dear Daughter, As a Taxi Driver, I would drive my Taxi around at wee hours of the morning, picking up semi conscious girls sitting on the side pavements with shortest of shortest skirts, waiting for some cab company to pick them up. Dear daughter, my blood recoiled, my fists clenched, as I would look at those bad-boys inappropriately touching those girls. I would ask God, Please never put me in this position.
There’s a grapevine, you’re seeing someone. I tell your mother and we ask you and you deny it. ‘Don’t tell me those illiterate Taxi Drivers are feeding you lies about me?’. You scream at us. Dear Daughter you can’t hide anything from Taxi Drivers. Tabloids come second, Taxi Drivers know all the in’s and out’s of the community before anyone else.
Dear Daughter me and other Cab Drivers would put our heads down and debate and argue whether we should allow our daughters to date every Tom Dick and Harry, so she can find her Prince Charming. We all agreed unanimously that we would lose it, if our daughters brought home a bad-boy. We all know too well about the influence of a bad boy on girl.
Your 18. A-level results are out. Time for another celebration.
“I’m in Love” You tell us in a mater of fact tone.
‘Over my dead body she’s marrying him,’ I tell your mother. I’ve had him investigated, he’s 25 and she’s only 18. He’s a school drop out, an ex drug addict, every father’s worst nightmare.
We try to reason with you, but we fail, your uncles fail, your aunts fail. I tell you he spent 45 days in jail following an assault. You tell us your love has changed him. He loves you and appreciates you for who you are. You’re on hunger strike. after three days, we give in. If I had known what was going on I would have put a stop to it, but I didn’t find out about your special friend until you were already at a marrying age.
Devastating Moment, You leave home never to come back.
Now your father walks around with lower gaze. I just can’t look other men in the eye. I’ve got a broken back. My friends look at me with pity. Some call me spineless, a man who could not control his daughter.
Your older brother doesn’t want to know you. Your mother just cleans one bedroom after the other. She spring cleans, autumn cleans and summer cleans the house. Do you remember how well dressed your mother was? Do you remember the famous joke, we need an extension to accommodate your mother’s wardrobe? Dear Daughter, We no longer need an extension. She donated 3/4 of her wardrobe, her shoes, hand bags, jewelry to Islamic Relief.
One day we get a phone call from hospital. Your ill. Your not eating and your putting up a fight.
We go to hospital and we see a bag of bones, lifeless eyes and jutting collar bone.
Your brother is furious. ‘Let the love of her life take care of her. She’s not coming back home.’ He yells. I tell your brother, ‘she’s coming home with us.’, I chose you over him.
She needs to eat and then we’ll have therapy sessions, your doctor tells us.
I learn all there is about your Anorexia. I tell your treatment team, forget six months waiting list, We’ll treat her at home and we’ll go private.
I become a hated enemy, as I sit through one meal after other with you. You think I am trying to control you, punish you, but Dear Child, I’m merely supervising your meals. You need to eat to live. I can’t let you have your way with meals, it’s as simple as that. What am I going to tell Abba ji, that I failed to feed my daughter? Under my roof, I’m binded by an oath to protect you, and that means protecting you from the demon of Eating Disorder.
You coming home creates tension in our family circle. Your uncles are furious. Your mother cleans obsessively now. I think of my father in a small village in Pakistan. Family whispers grow louder. I walk with a hunch back now. ‘He’s spineless, he has no dignity. How can he bring her back home?’ Look Dear Daughter, How your Brother speaks to me? I used to be a man, strong, powerful and proud man. Today I am a man of very very few words.
‘Come to England, Abba ji.’ I tell him. ‘Why do you insist on staying in a country with no electricity, no running water and no technology.’ ‘I’m happy my Son, he tells me, you take care of your family’.
You gain weight, treatment team is happy. You’ve been with us for 8 months now. But then you want to go back to your husband. ‘He’s changed,’ you tell us.
You leave, and me and your mother, we simply stare into empty air.
I want to go and visit my Abba ji. Me a man of 48 wants an escape.
I go home to my Abba ji. ‘Look my Son is here, light of my eye is here,’ my elderly aunt wails and hugs me tightly. A little sneaky tear rolls down my cheek, betraying my manliness. I am no longer ashamed of my tears.
The house needs fixing. Abba ji’s sister , so old now cooks for me. I work too hard she scolds me.
At night, so many people gather in Abba ji’s house. They are his cousins, his relatives. Some relatives have walked for miles to come and see me. I am treated like a king. Everyone drinks Fresh Milk with fresh Honey and Cardamoms.
Next Day, we take a stroll across our village. It’s so quiet and so peaceful. Everyone is so happy. They are so poor, but so happy. No latest phones, no laptops, no Apple brands here, no Anorexia, no Children Yelling at their parents.
We go and pray at the mosque and Abba ji prays for you Dear Daughter.
We visit Amma ji’s grave. Abba ji prays for her soul. We visit other ancestors graves.
You’ve changed my elderly relatives tell me. Now you are drinking water from our local Well. We don’t have to buy you a bottled water anymore. They smile at me.
‘Come back home’, your mother sends me a message. Our daughter is back.
I’m home, I think to myself. I’ve only been here for 15 days. I think of 14 hours of taxi. I think of bills, mortgage, mocking glances from family members and I slowly rise to my feet. I straighten my bent back and I say good bye to my Abba ji, to all his animals, to his sister. I kiss her hands and thank her for taking care of my father.
I come back. ‘Dear Wife, Dear Daughter, I will work long hours in Taxi. I will support my family. I will pay off the bills. But When I die, don’t bury me here in cold grey climate. Take me back to my small rural, backward village in Pakistan. Bury me among my ancestors. I know someday, people in that village, children in that village will come and visit my grave and will pray for my soul.’
I look at time: 12:30pm. I bring my divorced daughter out of her bedroom.We eat Lunch. It’s Moroccan Today.
‘It’s going to be OK,’ I tell her! She looks at me with haunted look in her eyes. I walk around to her side, and I put my hand on her head and kiss her forehead. ‘Your safe here, your father is here. I’ll protect you here.’ I look into her eyes, ‘remember this will be all water under the bridge in few years, these people will get bored and they’ll find something else to gossip about.’ ‘Humanity is fallible, we all make mistakes. We will fight this together and you’re going to come out of this stronger.’ She squeezes my hand, I know she believes me.