Sunday, June 17, 2018

Exclusive Father's Day Post: He was my Father

I was born as the last of five brothers in Lahore. Pakistan in 1955 to one of the best fathers of the world. Son of a decorated police officer, recipient of coveted King's Police Medal, of undivided India, my father was born on 1st June 1915. He had a towering figure of six feet, with a Herculean body, for Charles Atlas was his favourite and he worked hard to shape his body like Atlas. When I saw Samson and Delilah in my childhood, I happened to have remarked to one of my brothers, "Look, how much Samson (played by Victor Mature), resembles our daddy". 

As for himself, he was greatly impressed by Clark Gable in his youth and always wore mustaches like his. He also had a great taste and love for music, He had a "His Master's Voice' gramophone on which he used to listen to English and Urdu songs. K L Saigal, a famous united Indian singer was his favourite. There was a song at the end of which Saigal would give a laugh - it was a children's song. We would replay the last portion time and again and had fun. However, the gramophone was out of bounds for us. So, when our father used to be away, we would block its sound passage with a piece of cloth, normally our shirts - just in case. It was years after when record players came to our part of the world and we bought one. Then we used to play the LPs and our father would listen - perhaps enjoying the transition of technology from older to younger.

Like his father, he also joined the Police and mostly served in the intelligence Bureau and the Interpol. In fact, he pioneered Interpol in Pakistan and remained its unchallengeable chief for over twelve years. In his office, he worked with such passion and zeal that he even never bothered that he was working only by himself with no other officer under him, but a clerk and a peon. When in 1964, he went to Paris to attend a conference of ICPO (international Criminal Police Organization) or generally referred to as Interpol, the performance of Pakistan Interpol was specially lauded. Later on he jokingly told us that had he informed the participants who all constituted Interpol in Pakistan, no one would have believed him. 

He was an exceedingly well-read person, with a book or Reader's Digest always by his side. In fact, it was because of this habit of his, that I also picked the habit of reading Reader's Digest, which continues till date. He could speak for hours and hours on any subject with impressive details and always sounded like an expert.

Like his body, he was a tough nut to crack also. As a police officer, he was a model for the rest. In a country, where bribery is synonymous with Police, there was one Mr. Bhatti, as he was commonly known as, who would not even look towards a penny if it was not what the government paid him - and did not let others do the same either. For this strength of the character, however, very few around liked him for his honesty. But he never cared. We lived in a small house in Lahore. A few still did not believe that a Police officer could be that honest and often remarked that upon retirement, by and by the 'money' would come out. But they were all dismayed when nothing came out as we continued living in our small street house.

During the last 6-8 years of his service, he was posted to Islamabad, but he kept us at Lahore so that our studies do not get disturbed. We would visit him during our summer and winter vacations. This used to be fun. Our mother would cook snacks for the journey from Lahore to Rawalpindi in Rail Car - a very good and efficient rail service of tis time. It used to leave very early in the morning and after 5-6 hours, our father would be hugging us at Rawalpindi railway station. From where we would go to Islamabad for a memorable vacation each year.

When we grew up, three of us five wore lucky to find our way to the prestigious college of Pakistan, the Government College Lahore, where our father had also been a student in early 1930s. Then all the three Ravians, the students of Government College are known as the Ravians - since the river Ravi flows next to the city of Lahore, parted, finding jobs out of Lahore, while the remaining two who happened to be twins, and Formanites, students of Forman Christian College, and later the National College of Arts Lahore, stayed back. Later, I joined the Army, Whenever I would visit my parents in Lahore, he would generally get upset on mine coming on leaves, even though these were not very frequent. As he himself seldom took any leave during most of his service, he would always advise me to concentrate on my profession rather than wasting time on visiting them.

Our lives continued without any eventful event or a true test of love of a man to his wife till 1993, Before this year, some 21 years had elapsed since his retirement as superintends of police- He never took any other job, as most people do in our country, as he would often remark that having served for such a long time without any leave or rest, he needed a break. However, he often wondered and would say, tilt that grim day of July, that he did not understand why he was still alive as he had nothing worthwhile left to do. But God had wanted him to look after his wife, who tor all her life had been serving him and the five of us like a most affectionate wife and loving mother. 

On that July day in 1993, she suddenly collapsed due to extreme dehydration. When she was rushed to the hospital, her pulse was barely felt and blood pressure had dropped to the lowest limits. Although, because of a hectic effort on part of a team of doctors, she survived, the doctors were apprehensive of her survival and gave her maximum one year. But for the loving care by my father, she lived on. As a result of her illness, however, she partially lost her memory and became bed ridden. My father was there by her side day and night, attending to all her needs on the bed. He had prepared small photo albums of all of us with our families to keep her busy seeing these all day long, whenever awake. 

She was treated most lovingly by a man whom we always thought had everything but the expression of love. He would remain awake most of the day and night for his wife may need something. The lack of sleep took a telling effect on his physique and from a healthy man, he soon shrunk to a mere skeleton. But his efforts did not wean. He would keep talking to her so that her memory could be revived. They would often talk of the good old days, as our mother could only remember things of the distant past but nothing of the present. Although our mother had no other disease, but continued confinement to bed and ill effects of her earlier illness started having telling effects on her gradually. But the care she had from her husband kept her spirits high. 

Then came 1995 a chain of sad partings hit our family. In 1995, my mother-in-law, a long sufferer of diabetes and heart patient died in February. The next year, my sister-in-law and renowned journalist Razia Bhatti suddenly died of brain hemorrhage. She was a celebrity, having editored tile only quality English language monthly "Herald" for years and later founded and editored an equally quality monthly, the "Newsline". Just months before her sudden death, she had won the Courage in Journalism award by the Washington-based International Women's Media Foundation.

Since my mother had a special liking for her, the news of her demise was kept secret, lest it may also affect her. The same year the eldest sister of my mother; living in America with her husband and three children also expired. The next year on 14 August 1997, when rest of Pakistan was celebrating the Independence Day, my mother was sinking. Since morning, she was finding it difficult to breathe. All day long, my father remained by her side, reciting verses from 'Quran' and about 11:30 pm the 55 years long marriage came ID an end when my mother died in still strong arms of my father.

Thereafter, our father became very lonely - suddenly he had nothing else to do. He would then onwards often tell all around that for whatever he had been alive for, had been accomplished and soon it would be his turn. And 10 months after our mother's demise and 10 days after his 84th birthday, he left on June 10. 1998 to join his life companion up in the heavens. While burying him, the last look on his face was so very reassuring as there laid a man with a most peaceful and satisfied face, a blessed man (God willing) for being a man of principles, strong character all along his life and for having looked after his wife no one could have ever dreamed of. 

Now that he is no more, I still keep a quotation under my office table - the one my father had on his years ago: "There is no limit to what a man can do, if he does not care who gets the credit". And he actually worked hard exactly as per the quotation, caring for no reward or appreciation. Although he was decorated with the prestigious President's Police Medal, he never boasted of his achievements and lived for others - never ever caring for his own comfort.

It has been over 20 years since his demise, his memories are still afresh in my memory lane and it feels as if one day he would knock at my door and I would find him there standing with his usual warm and firm handshake. Though it is just a dream, his life has been a beacon for my life and I tried my best to be like him - though I could not emulate him even one percent.

If you like Jaho Jalal, please follow us on Facebook