An ode to My Father, My Friend

By Asma Anjum Khan for

My father breathed his last. Nay, he suffocated. The level of oxygen in his blood was hovering dangerously close to 44 mm Hg. The man, who never forgot to tell me that Ozone 3 is amply found in the early morning breeze, now needed supplemental oxygen. Ozone 3 actually is a breeze from Jannah. He would try hard to sound philosophical,  If you miss Fajr, you are missing a  gift sent to you from your God.

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Quite an ingenious way to coax me for the dawn prayer, I must say.

I sat in the hospital room, staring at his handsome visage and 6’3’’ frame.  His white feet protruded way out of the bed balustrade. It had always been a problem. You searched all over the big hospital but could never find a size that fit him. Even a king-size quilt could rarely take this whole giant of a man in. It must be a constant struggle for that fluffy comforter, I know. When it became obvious he needed to be hospitalized, saying Alhamdulillah, he, Mr.Ayyub Khan didn’t forget to ask for a mirror and combed his snow white hair neatly that were stubborn like him and would often try to kiss his large forehead.

My father was truly handsome as handsome as the word.

Being a Pathan, he made quite a scene at the MICU.

Notwithstanding the oxygen mask, he kept on communicating with the nurses, his daughter, and grandkids. He harassed us nonstop. When he got tired of making signs, he asked for a ‘pen n paper’ to write down his demands, nope demand.

Take me out of here.

I am not new to the ICUs. In fact, I  should have been a pro, by now twice handling the “Atmospheric Pressure” found in this God forsaken hangout for the sick. An eerily cold hotspot, its grave silence punctured with beeps and peeps; blue-clad nurses too don’t comfort. You never know when the blues at an ICU turn black. No, I can’t describe it any further. I don’t have the heart which sank the moment I intruded into it. Each sabbatical of mine in those blue precincts was marked by an altercation with the chowkidars of ICU checkpoints, who feel powerful like Afghani warlords, allowing or banning entries at their silly wills. I had lost a loved one here, so this time I was determined and persisted in my strides, unmoved by rules for a restricted entry like I was an Afghan rebel myself.

Hope dear Afghanis don’t read this. Pray.

If I remember correctly it was Khalid bin Waleed RZ or was it Haroon Al Rasheed? He had set up a grave for himself and would lie down for a few moments each day in there, to get used to it. I say in our times there is scope for change. We all must go for an ICU trip occasionally and lie down on the contraptions termed beds, encircled by every sort of scary weapons of cure.

Do not forget to breathe, while being there. A lesson much needed for us.

My father made sure we didn’t get any peace over there. He was insistent he is removed from that hole of the ICU immediately.

Aah! That was the word with which my English education began!


As a very young kid, I used to feel screwed by this strange concoction of soft sounds spoken felicitously, by my father. There was a certain rhythm that I could feel in the language and decided I was going to catch this monster.

But have become its captive instead.

We owe so much to our parents, we don’t even realize as we run around the maze called life. He used to talk to me about the great literature of the world, Guy de Maupassant was someone he would quote often. A foodie to the core, he taught me the finesse of good cooking. Fond of old songs, he would hum along and weep, more so after he lost his wife. He felt broken and we could see it. He had nursed her like a child. You could find him holding her hands planning great trips or making her smile with his little quips.

He was into colours, a master of it, a dyeing supervisor at a factory, imagining hues and myriad shades for each of them. He would bring home teeny-tiny samples, and how fascinating it felt to me!  A sea of colors in varying beautiful shades. Each of them would come alive when he explained to me how colours work and how the intermingling is done and newer shades are born. He was the head of such a project where his firm got an order for the epic film Gandhi. I remember seeing such a wide range of colour white that day. When the cloth mill he worked for years closed down, never even once I saw him worried. He joined another private venture and helped the other workers get their dues from the management. Everyone seemed to love his charismatic persona and went back happy after a little chat. He had that Rober De Niro-like quality in him, immensely likable and not easy to ignore. There was a little bitterness in him; despite his life-long struggles in courts for trying to get his due shares from his father’s property.  His brothers had duped him smartly.

He was never smart in his politics. I would laugh at, his proclamations,

” Rahul Gandhi will soon be defeating Mr. Modi”.

 Naïve yet one who believed every word of his on politics was Gospel truth!

As I write, these people are pouring in to express their grief. They hold my hands and ask me to be patient. Home is full of people furiously exchanging phone numbers, sharing tit-bits and catching up as they have met after quite a while. Sitting among them makes me forget that my father has died. I go and sit in a dark lonely room.

I want to miss him.

جس کو تم بھول گئے یاد کرے کون اس کو

جس کو تم یاد ہو وہ اور کسے یاد کرے

(Jis ko tum bhool gaye, yaad kare kaun uss ko

Jis ko tum yaad hai wo aur kise yaad kare)

Three days after, more people come, sit and talk. An aunt shows me her new shopping bag stuffed with more shopping items in it.

Life, as you might know better, has to go on.

Hope that Ozone 3 filled breeze from Jannah ,keeps serenading my father’s grave, without fail.