I’ve taken a while to write this post mainly because there are so many feelings that run through my heart. To say my father is my rock is an understatement. There are many ways I can introduce my father. Him as an individual who is forthright, intelligent, just, and kind. He also has a great sense of humour that is a big hit at parties and everyday family dinners. Then there is him as the husband and father, who is sensitive, supportive, responsible and loving.
Brought up in the Woodstock generation, my dad was a hippie, a socialist, a history and music buff, whose library included copies of Sputnik and books on the histories of the USA, The Rockefellers, Rothschilds, as well as a copy of James Clavell’s Shogun. A shoe designer by qualification, he studied at Cordwainers in London, the same design school as Jimmy Choo. Meeting society’s expectations of lifestyle or career did not matter to him.
My dad is a modest man, who despite running a shoe business goes to work in rubber slippers and carries his work documents in a grocery bag. When my mum had first been introduced to my father in a proposal set up, he had turned up in his father’s slippers, two sizes too big for him. He hates ‘big talk’ and hobnobbing and prefers to hang out with young people and anyone with a sense of humour. Our post dinner conversations since childhood would be about history, politics, and contemporary issues. He preferred spending time with family at home than any other hobby.
My dad taught me the value of investing in good things. He would always say, ‘poor man pays twice.’ We would go through camera reviews together and he was the one who bought me my first camera, the Nikon D300 when it had just been released. For a young 20 year old, this was a huge leap of faith. I had never shot with an SLR before. How could my father trust me enough to buy me a camera I saw much older and experienced photojournalists used. His blind faith in me and my skills is what has brought me here today.
He is a true social justice warrior. One day a few years ago, one of his female employees had complained about being harassed when going to buy a lunch packet at one of those saivar kades in front of Majestic City. She had reached to get her change and the cashier, a bearded Muslim man, had grabbed her hand lecherously. (When I mentioned this incident to my male peers, they shrugged it off saying it wasn’t a big deal, with one of them saying ‘she shouldn’t have been there’). My dad didn’t let this go. He walked into the shop the next day and demanded to see the owner. He ordered a line up of all the staff and got our employee to identify the man and got him fired. He then proceeded to give a shelling to all the employees on how to respect women and how they needed to set an example.
These days as Muslims debate the word ‘qawwamun’ and about men’s roles as ‘maintainer and protector,’ my father meets this perfectly in the original sense of this word. As someone who puts his family first. Who ensures everyone’s safety and protection. Does not control our lives, but is supportive of the aspirations and dreams of me, my mum and my brother. He treats us all as equals and respects our individual contributions to the family. He was the one who brought me up to question authority, to question him and use my sense of reason. He valued our advice and our perspectives since we were children, and gave us our independence.
Today my family and I would like to celebrate our Qawwam, my dad Fazlie Nizar.
God bless him always.