Oh, don’t worry. He’s very much there, as in, his physical being is. But he has never been a father to me. He’s been the first to place restrictions, and the last time I remember having love and attention from him is when I was too small to question his view on life.
Father’s usually come with daughters when it’s time to go to college, they help them with the fairly intimidating task of form-filling and documentation and ensuring a college is good enough to go to. My father actively tries to stop me from going to college. He thought too much education would give me ideas. I got the education anyway and I got those ideas he was afraid too, but not without the fear of him withdrawing financial support, every year for seven years of my post-school education. A 16 year old should be worrying about her study schedule, not marriage schedule.
Anyway, as I studied humanities, I got to understand that this was part of his cultural upbringing. Fathers were to be aloof, he was told. They were the rule setters and they got children to conform to what was right. Which is why he tried to ensure I do not get too smart or too independent, because I would not have a husband.
It would be okay if this was all. I have seen many dads in the extended family, who want to make their daughters conform to this. But, there is still an emotional wavelength despite it. None of them have an absolutely selfish, emotionally devoid father like mine.
He grew up in a family that only paid attention to instrumental things – the earning, how much the daughter’s in law could do around the house, and how many children they could bear. My father divorced his first wife because she could not get pregnant. His family claimed this was because they were not told from before about her health issues. It is not that they feel empathy and emotions and they suppress them. No, they only understand power and self satisfaction. That’s just how they’re wired after years of conditioning. That’s why, my dad’s brother who spent his formative years in Karachi, away from this family environment, is a tad better.
So this Father’s Day, I think the only gift I can thank dad is for the many emotions that lived in me, that guided me on my path of healing and social justice. I thank him for the opportunity to study oppression so closely, and to show first hand how, relationships with the oppressor can grow so complicated.
All the absence of love and family, made me know what love and family should look like.