Twelve years ago today, we lost a man that was the most amazing, hardworking, goal oriented, loving man a family could have, my father. And on this day, I felt it was my duty to honor him and share his story, as his daughter, as his first born, as the woman he taught me to be. His story is one that I tell often because I am so proud of who he was, what he accomplished and the legacy he left behind.
My father was born and raised in East Pakistan, which is now known as Bangladesh. He came from a family of farmers and was the youngest of 11 children. His father, my grandfather, had decided early on that he did not want my father to grow up and become a farmer. Instead, he wanted him to get an education and graduate from college. My father was sent to a boarding school in Sylhet and upon graduation, went on to college and began to work towards a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. But the call to go to America became stronger and stronger, so after 2 years, he left school and made the journey to America as many of his friends had. He was determined to build a life for himself in America!
He arrived in New York City in 1960 with only $100 in his pocket, a suitcase full of clothes and a head full of dreams. He began as a waiter at a Bengali restaurant and lived with a group of friends in an apartment, both on the Lower East Side. He began saving and planning for the future and within a year of arriving in America, he got a full-time job as an electrical technician and registered at CUNY to finish his bachelor’s degree, where he changed his major to Electrical Engineering. A few years later, he would meet and marry my Mom, but that’s a story I’ll save for another time.
By the time I was born, my father was working full time, working overtime to earn extra money and attending classes at CUNY four nights a week. There were some nights that he wouldn’t get home until 11pm and my Mom would wake me up so we could have dinner together because it was important for him to spend time with his daughter. We lived in an apartment building and I remember looking out the window for him as he got off the bus and then sitting outside my front door, in my little brown chair, which I still have, facing the elevator, waiting to run to him as the elevator doors opened.
After dinner, I usually fell asleep, but not my Dad. He would do his homework, study for his tests and then finally go to bed well after midnight, only to get up at 5am to do it all over again the next day. He never complained and all I remember is his smile, his laughter and the genuine happiness he had to be home with his wife and daughter. It would take 14 years for my father to earn his degree, but he did it. He had hoped to continue on to graduate school, but by the time he finished his bachelor’s degree, his responsibilities had grown quite a bit. He now had 3 daughters and planning for our future became his top priority. A few years later, our brother was born and our family was complete.
It was through my father’s actions, we learned the meaning of hard work, the importance of working to our fullest potential and never letting anyone make us feel as if we were not good enough. He taught his girls to be strong, independent and not needing to depend on anyone except ourselves. He taught the four of us how to handle any obstacle that would come our way. He stressed the necessity of a good education, planning for the future and the importance of family. He knew where he had come from and knew what he wanted to be and helped us find our way. There is not a day that I don’t think about my Dad or think about something he said to me or a lesson learned from him. It is something that I have passed on to my children and hope they will pass on to theirs.
I love you Dad and I miss you every day.