Dear abba, thank you for your unwavering faith in women

Published: June 18, 2017

Now you can imagine how frustrated an average Pakistani father would be by a daughter that wants to make her own rules and who has a self-worth equivalent to an average Pakistani boy’s ego. PHOTO: TWITTER

My parents were faced with a rather arduous challenge when they had children; raising a stubborn young girl amongst three mischievous sons. Naturally, the girl would grow to measure her actions against her brothers’ and compare her privileges with theirs, the only siblings she had, whether her parents liked it or not.

Now you can imagine how frustrated an average Pakistani father would be by a daughter that wants to make her own rules and who has a self-worth equivalent to an average Pakistani boy’s ego. However, my father is not the average Pakistani father. He grew up like I did, the middle child amongst three sisters, soaking in their influence. This is how he grew up to be a sensitive diplomat, familiar with raging hormones and an advocate of feminism. We turned out to complement each other perfectly.

When I was a toddler, I had an extraordinary obsession with my father. We were attached to the hip to the extent that I would plop my chubby little body on the floor outside his bathroom door when he was inside, anxiously waiting for him to return. My father reciprocated this by saying I “had a special place in (his) heart” when asked who his favourite child was.

As I grew older, I realised that my gender stood in the way of regular things in a way that I did not fully understand. One day we were going to Boat Basin in Karachi to run errands and my brothers ran into the car wearing the shorts and t-shirts they were already wearing. I was instructed to run upstairs and change, and to not forget my dupatta. While I always saw myself as the same as my brothers, my body began to bring small inconveniences that irritated me repeatedly. While my brothers could roam in whatever attire they desired around the house, the presence of our male staff meant that I could not. It irritated me again. I felt as though my father was not treating me equally, and it hurt.

While in some areas he did not have much control over his decisions, he compensated for it by giving me equal opportunities wherever he could. My father himself had learnt to drive in seventh grade, and so when my older brother was learning how to drive, I insisted that he teach me too. My argument was that even though I was young, I was not as young as he had been, and I was responsible enough. Not long after that we were spending Sunday mornings cruising down Bilawal Chorangi listening to my favourite music and picking up fruit for Sunday lunch on the way home.

When I was 10-years-old, my father taught me about the art of negotiation. This once funny word went on to become our greatest tool for decision making, replacing arguing altogether. We used it a lot when I was in high school and wanted to be with my friends all day and night, every day. We learned to respectfully shoot our requests to each other back and forth until we reached a settlement both of us could agree with. It was stressful at times, but the system worked for us.

As I began to ask questions about Islam that may have horrified some parents, my father was there to encourage me to explore and to guide me on how to be a good person regardless of his beliefs or mine. He is a very rational person, and questions are always welcome in our household.

When the time for me to choose a university finally came, it was a difficult decision for everyone involved. My older brother had gone to school in Canada, and because we are citizens, this meant his education was significantly subsidised. I was considering a couple of places in Canada as well, but my heart was at New York University where I had gotten into my dream program. However, I viewed my education as an investment my father was making, and so I understood that a similar education for a very different price was not a practical investment. My father took the plunge. And in that moment, I felt as though the weight of the world was on my shoulders, but in the best way possible.

This was proof of the transparency and innocence that my father views me with. He invested 15 times more in his only daughter’s future career than he did in his eldest son’s. He worked effortlessly to make sure that I did not feel like my femininity was a weakness, and that my hard work would pay off.

A couple of days ago, I caught him talking to my brother about me. He said,

“She is going to make a great breakthrough in her lifetime.”

That is how much faith he has in women. That is how much faith he has in me.

Happy Father’s Day, abba!

Fatima Khayam

Fatima Khayam

The author studies Global Liberal Studies at New York University.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Khayam Husain

    Beautifully expressed by a wonderful daughterRecommend

  • ABKhan

    Another boring article. Feminsts cant spare even father’s day without trying to be relevant Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Studying “Global Liberal Studies” at NYCU and the nerve to talk about being underprivileged. I bet your brothers studied Engineering, Medicine, Law or Business. You know, the useful degrees which have a practical application in the real world, unlike “Global Liberal studies”. Because they will have actual responsibilities one day, unlike you, princess snowflake.

    I can imagine the career you will have with that degree one day. In a social NGO, telling millions of dads and brothers like yours how misogynistic and oppressive they are for not letting their daughters pursue liberal arts degrees. Oh and not letting them wear whatever. Obviously, that is the biggest hurdle to progress in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Ahmar

    Astute observation.Recommend

  • Yasir

    spot on!!!Recommend

  • Nina Bhatti

    You are rude. You make negative comments about a sweet tribute from a daughter to her father. Recommend

  • Nina Bhatti

    Yes. Beautifully said. Ignore the haters. They don’t understand the relationship between a daughter and her father.Recommend

  • Hussam Uddin

    Only if you could think beyond the conventional career choices you will allow the females in your family to make, if you allow them to get educated, we can be a better nation. Please take your head out of whatever hole it is in, and think beyond the run of the mill patriarchal thought process of this country. Also, please note that this though process is not a Muslim mindset, if you may argue on religious basis, and that this mindset has not brought any fruit to Pakistan except social disorder, underachievement and failure
    as a nation.

    I bet you are very proud of your manhood and you put women down all the time, only because you are a man. But please, limit your behavior within your own circles where you might be able bolster your man – hood, but in places like here, you will get responses from people like me.Recommend

  • farhan

    i was being sarcastic, Im a CS graduate Alhamdulillah, and most people know that these studies are a farce. Salam my sisterRecommend

  • farhan

    hes honest, you can call it rudeness. Women when dont hear what they want to hear say such thingsRecommend

  • Ahmar

    Women are allowed to get an education in most parts of this country, both legally and socially. It is not something for me to allow or forbid.

    I have no idea what a patriarchal thought process is, so I can’t respond to that. And no I have not argued on the basis of religious mindset but on the basis of reality. Please tell me the career choices for someone with a degree in Global Liberal Studies.

    I don’t know if I am proud of my manhood or being a man, but I am certainly not ashamed of it, as much feminists would want me to be. Are you?Recommend

  • Ahmar

    So there are dentists with liberal arts degrees in the US? Shocking really. I thought fake doctors were something only third world countries like Pakistan were blessed with.

    And no. I would rather not put my daughter on a pedestal and treat her more favorably than my son just to get a silly tribute of being a good father. Feminists always demand equality but what they really want is preferential treatment, as is evident from this blog.

    If a son had written a similar blog praising his father for treating him favorably over his sisters, you feminists would be out calling for blood. But a daughter writes a blog that her father “invested 15 times more in her than her brothers” and “her being his favorite”, and suddenly it is a sweet tribute of love.

    Why don’t you take off your blinders and note the sheer hypocrisy from feminists like you?Recommend

  • farhan

    what does english have anything to do with logic?Recommend

  • farhan

    oh yes, you are so superior to us Recommend

  • farhan

    the feminist ran away, hahahaRecommend