The very first time I ever considered writing a story about my dad was when my brother asked me a question at one of my book launches; “If you were ever to write a book on dad, what would you call it?” he said.
I paused for a moment, tearing up, remembering dad’s face, I replied;
“The greatest man who lived in my life” I told the audience.
Dad had passed away and it hadn’t even been a year, I stood at my book launch scanning the audience and hoping I would find his face staring back at me in pride.
I continued to get signs and inspirations to write about my dad and finally, here is my short fiction story of what I remembered his life to be like from all the stories he told me and what I saw in my life with him.
The short story does not do justice to his life and one day perhaps I will write a full novel on his life. It was truly a life full of ups and downs, struggles and sacrifices, but happiness and pride. I promise I will showcase his life one day.
I lived my dream
My old and fatigued heart, beat relentlessly, but had slowed down now considerably. It was struggling to pump blood around my worn-out body, it had been doing it for far too many years and how long could it possibly continue? It wasn’t just my heart which gave me a lifetime of service, my other organs had also done their fair share and now it was their time to breathe their last.
As my organs ceased to function one by one, I felt my body shut down. Surrounded by my beloved, it was time to say my farewell. As my soul departed from this facilitated body, my entire life passed me by in a flash of a second, the longest second of my life.
In a remote village in the middle of nowhere at a tender age of just two, Mother had died prematurely from Pneumonia, leaving behind my older sister of age 8 and my baby brother of just 6 months. Father simply could not afford to pay for Mother’s long-term treatment, and we watched her slowly depart from the world.
The feeling of void entered my heart, a feeling which was going to haunt me for the rest of my life.
Father was a teacher and left for his duty every morning, we still needed the income to survive. Bubu was left with her two young brothers to care for and feed. She had never cooked in her life and suddenly found herself raising two young children and running the household.
Most days it was burnt rice and plain lentils, it was better than nothing and Father would gratefully eat that too. Some days we had nothing to eat and would wait for Father to return with something to cook, the neighbouring houses releasing the aroma of a mothers cooking, how we missed Mother greatly.
Bubu would moan she didn’t want to do this anymore, she wanted to go to school, and she wanted to be like her friends, carefree and just a child, so Father had to consider remarrying.
A new mother entered our home and Father left for his duty with peace of mind. Bubu went off to school and my brother and I, had now a mother to care for us.
Our new mother fed us, bathed us and did her very best to protect us, but Bubu wasn’t happy, she felt like Mother had been replaced.
Father’s job took him to a faraway village, and I pleaded to go with him. After careful consideration, Father agreed to take me with him. We lived in the house of a kind woman who provided us with shelter and meals. I went to school there and looked forward to the dishes this woman prepared.
She had a number of children herself and wasn’t always mindful of my presence and so I would sometimes sleep on an empty stomach or secretly enter her kitchen and eat plain rice with dried chillies, that was the best I could do for myself.
Father’s brother lived in England, he was very much well off, he only had one daughter who was the privileged in our village, we dreamt to be like that, and I desired to be with uncle in England. Boy vouchers were issued by the Prime minister of England to children in Bangladesh, I had reached the required age and begged uncle to consider me, after all, I was the son he never had.
He submitted the application and we waited eagerly, I had dreams, I had hopes for the future and I knew staying here wasn’t going to give me that.
England was the land of hope, the land of opportunities and the land of my dreams and when my application was accepted, I knew God had good plans for me.
It wasn’t long until I joined my uncle in England, we shared a small three-bedroom house in Yardley, Birmingham with 20 other gentlemen who had come with the same dreams and hopes as me. I was quickly offered a job at the Ford factory, hand spraying each and every car that rolled across the conveyor belt. It was tedious, but it was a job, and it was providing me with an income.
At the end of the week, I would split the £13.50 I received from the Ford company, £7.00 towards the rent, bills, and food, £6.00 I would send to Father in Bangladesh and 50p I would keep for Friday nights at the local cinema watching Bollywood movies with the lads. That was the highlight of the week.
We would queue up at the public baths to have our weekly washes, use the housekeeping money to buy the groceries and take turns to cook the meals. We lived the lives of the bachelors, still better than living back home.
Soon enough I found my feet, learnt to communicate in English and landed myself a job at a local garment factory. The pay was better, but the job was laborious, pleating, and underlying skirts, but I was happy here, I made some good friends, and I was able to send more money to Father and even save some.
Father didn’t spend all the money I sent him, he saved some to buy land and built a decent house. I had now 5 more siblings and they relied on my income to be fed and educated.
Bubu was married at this point and my brother was now ready to go abroad and help me provide for the family. He landed himself a visa for the United Arab Emirates where he spent years earning as a gardener in the scorching heat to help provide for the family.
I had now reached a point in my life where I was ready to marry and start my own family and I had saved enough for that. I went back home for the first time as a citizen of England, the reception as an expat was very honourable and I welcomed it. Father had selected a bride for me from the very best family he knew, and I married her and welcomed her into my now decent home.
I prepared to leave her with my family as I planned to return to my life in England but waited for the arrival of my first child. A beautiful girl, an angel, and a piece of me, but she returned to our Creator 18 days later, she was too perfect for this world.
I left my grieving wife and promised to return very soon, but earning money became a priority, the more I could earn, the more I could send back to my family. When I had saved enough to return home, I decided to visit my family in succession and was blessed with three sons.
The worry of giving them a good future, a good education and more opportunities entered my mind. I planned to take them with me the next time I went back, but I had to first set up a home for them in England.
By now many of the men had bought their families to England, so it was feasible. I worked overtime to earn that extra cash so I could provide my family with a place to live. Bubu had joined her husband In England with her children too, but she was admitted into hospital soon after, as she discovered she was expecting triplets. Her desperation to have me by her side changed my plans and I too decided to settle in London.
When my family joined me, I rented at small room in the basement of a small house on Settle street, London. London was much more expensive, but there were more opportunities and a better network of people from my community.
My children joined school and my family expanded. When my daughter was born, I had decided it was time to buy my own home and we moved to Walthamstow.
I named my daughter after Mother and as I watched her grow, I imagined her characters as those of Mother’s.
My family settled in well and I worked tirelessly to provide for them and at the same time, providing for my family at home. One by one, I paid for the marriages of my siblings, helped them when they were in need, building houses for them and buying more land for Father.
My wife helped me earn money too, even during the time my youngest daughter was born, she sewed garments at home and together we saved enough to build a house in Bangladesh. We continued to pay the mortgage on the house we lived in and maintained our home. There were many sacrifices we had both made, but it was after all for our future.
I dreamt of retiring in Bangladesh in the house I had built, but by the time I had educated my children, got them married and watched them settle down, my ill health kicked in and I relied on the National Health Service to keep me well.
My five children had now grown up, Father had passed away and all my siblings were now happily settled. My children, all educated were soon landing themselves well paid jobs, they were buying their own properties, all marrying, having children, and living with surplus wealth.
It was something I had dreamt of, to see my family established in England and living alongside the privileged.
Now, laying in this hospital bed, surrounded by those who I love, is truly the best ending. I leave behind a legacy of children who are established in their lives and who I know will pray for me as I breathe my last.