“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I say to my sister.
“No, seriously. Ask dad. He’ll tell you,” she replies.
She has just told me a really interesting and scary story about my father and I’m sitting there, wondering how I never knew that about him. And then I realise that I don’t really talk to my parents.
Of course we speak to each other but it’s usually regarding the day-to-day running of the house or general stuff rather than conversing about personal experiences or current issues. And I’m not quite sure whether that’s my fault or theirs or if that’s just the way it is. I know many kids that do have a bond with their parents that allows them to have long, interesting and comfortable conversations but the majority of Asian kids I know speak to their parents (and specifically their fathers) mainly in passing.
I recall the few times I had real, interesting conversations with my father. I recall how he told me that he used to play football in Bangladesh and wanted to go pro, about some of his first years in the UK, about how my eldest brother threw a fifty pound note in the fire back in the days when fifty pounds was a month’s rent. These small insights into my father’s history are stunning and special. So when my sister revealed this latest story about my father yesterday, I had to go and speak to him about it.
“Tell me the story you told Shiri,” I say to him. So we sit and he rewinds the years back to 1978. He tells me that he was walking through (what is now) Altab Ali Park after work one day. He tells me how the weather wasn’t great so he was carrying a long umbrella. He suddenly noticed three men get up from their lying-down positions in the foot-long grass and begin to walk towards him. “Each one was carefully placing his foot in the footprint of the one before him as if to show there was only one person there,” he recalls. He sensed danger and began to walk faster, making sure that the long umbrella with a pointed end was in full view. As he reached the street at the end of the park, he exited as fast as he could and breathed a sigh of relief as he saw that the men had stopped advancing towards him. He walked home as fast as possible and told my mother about it. It was a few hours later that the news of Altab Ali’s death reached our house. Altab Ali, who walked through the same park was accosted by three racists, stabbed and murdered.
I am stunned that I never knew this about my father. How many other things are there in his life that I do not know about? Stuff like this makes me realise how hard our parents worked to set us up here and most of the time, we’re ungrateful and critical. I guess if parents took some time to talk to us instead of simply commanding us and if we took some time to listen, we would find out stuff that makes us feel bad but also, feel really really grateful.