oday after some time of procrastination, I decided to deep clean our refrigerator. Doing so reminded me of my Papa and how routinely in our home, he would deep clean the fridge and freezer with Ammi.
My father was very different from typical husbands and fathers. My parents would always go for groceries together. Papa actually liked doing groceries and used to tell us that as a kid, his mom would give him a list and he would go on his bike and get all the sauda of the house. So when we would bring our month’s round of groceries home, all of us would lift the groceries from the car, to the elevator, then to the kitchen table and then all of us would have duties assigned to put the groceries in the right place. But most often, Ismail and I would take the one chocolate bar (under 1 riyal, of course) we were both allowed to get and would run off to our rooms. Papa was in charge of the fruits and vegetables. He would clean them, rinse them under water, and then put them in the right baskets/bins to the fridge or to put outside. He was also in charge of all the soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, shoe polished, dish soap, laundry detergent and other chemicals and would refill or restock wherever necessary. Grocery runs were an event in our family for one day of the first weekend of the month. We would go to the biggest hyper store, then fruit and vegetable market, and then end the night with either Tazaj, Al Baik or some Turkish food. Those were the golden days! Feasting after all that work was the reward.
Papa was also in charge of the laundry of the house and for a while, Ammi did not know how to use the machine because it was Papa’s task and if Ammi ever dared to, Papa would always put the blame on her for messing his process. 😂 Then the chore to dry the clothes after the machine had done its work was assigned to us 3 – Ammi, me and Ismail. Of course, if we got late, the clothes would smell and be ruined so we had to do it right away as per Papa’s instructions. We had a Bua in the house, but still some tasks were ours to do regardless. Once I saw another family friend ask their bua to bring her water in her room, and I asked our Bua as well, casually. It was not taken well by my parents and that was the best part of our upbringing. Instead, Ammi told me to give water to Bua whenever she wanted. Bua was not our “maid”. She was our respected househelp and any help she gave us, we had to be grateful for. And we were and still are.
Papa was also the handyman of the house. And not at all a procrastinator. He had a box of glues – ranging from instant glue, Elfi, UHU, epoxy glue, the white wood glue, glue gun with the clear refills as well as coloured refills and then he had a tool box of all tools and screwdrivers and of each size. He kept us involved as well and asked us to help him as he fixed things around the house. I was obviously his assistant so since early years of my childhood, I knew which glue and which tool to use for any kind of troubleshooting at home. Papa also always cleaned the drains, made sure nothing ever clogged and did plumbing work in the house.
Papa was also highly acclaimed for making the best chicken karhayi in the house. He even made katakat and handis at home for us once a while. A video of my Aqiqah in December 1990 also shows Papa cutting the meat to distribute during the party in the kitchen.
So when I hear of stories of men that don’t enter the kitchen, it makes no sense to me. I don’t know how it could be possible after seeing my father do so much around our house and beyond.
After a month of sulking, I decided to look back and remember my dad and how he was in times of setbacks and sadness. I quickly realised that he never let any thing pull him down – he had no time for politics, no time for sulking and no time for what people say about him. A desi uncle in Canada once said to him, “Dunya chaand pe jaarahi hai, aur aap Pakistan jaarahe hain?” He laughed it off and said “Yes, that is my dream.” Papa accepted the sad realities of life and moved on from them to continue his work. I remember him most recently when Dada died in 2014. He prayed for his parents, remembered them, but he did not sulk or sit around waiting for answers. He just did his work and did good work for his peace and patience.
There’s so much to learn from Papa’s life for me as his daughter, but for now I will begin to learn from how he dealt with the lows and how he enjoyed the little things such as a hot cup of tea and a bush full of flowers. He enjoyed Eid and always was ready for a day with his family and friends. I am sad that Eid this week will be the first without him, but I will plan to celebrate as he liked and hopefully if he’s watching us, he can be proud.
Note: This post may be long for a lot, but to me, this is a memoir into Papa’s life for us to read later as well as a way for me to remember him and the little details that get shadowed in the busyness of this short, chaotic life.