Muddassar’s father died when he was 13 years old. “I don’t have that many clear memories of him,” Muddassar tells me at first, “such a traumatic loss messes with your memories.”
“But my father had a profound impact on my life. One of the biggest gifts he left me was a love of the Urdu language.”
Muddassar remembers that from the age of five, after a day at school following the English curriculum, his father would insist that he study Urdu language, literature and poetry when he got home. “It was painful,” he laughs, “especially the writing.”
Writing in Urdu was a real challenge for Muddassar, so his father would say to him, “Imagine that you can write – or just pretend that you can write well. Really imagine it, and you will.”
It was a kind of confidence trick, Muddassar says, but it worked and it stuck with him; it’s a wisdom that stays with him today, especially when it comes to public speaking, he laughs. “You just have to imagine you’re going to do ok.”
Muddassar’s father loved Urdu poets like Iqbal and Ghalib, and Punjabi poets like Bulleh Shah and Waris Shah. He remembers his father reading a book by Waris Shah, that had been passed on to him by his dad, and that Muddassar now has. I asked Muddassar if his father had a favorite sher (couplet). “Aaah, I don’t remember now … I’ll have to ask my mom, I’m sure she remembers.”
As we continue to chat, memories trickle: how, from the age of 10, his father would take him to halaqas (religious gatherings); how every Monday evening, almost until he passed, they would go to Sufi dhikrs together; how they loved playing cricket and eating Pakistani mangos. His father was an amateur palmist; Muddassar has many of his books, some dating back to 1665. At his home, he has a hand figure with palm lines on it, on which he keeps his dad’s watch and rings.
“Oh now I remember the sher,” Muddassar says excitedly, “now we’re on a roll!” He asked his father once whether they were Sunni or Shia. And his father quoted Allama Iqbal’s sher: Yun Tu Syed Bhi Ho, Mirza Bhi Ho, Afghan Bhi Ho Tum Sabhi Kuch Ho, Batao Tu Musalman Bhi Ho.
“If people ask you if you’re Sunni or Shia, just say you’re Muslim,” his father said.
Day 14 Wisdom 14: Imagine that you can do it, really imagine, and you can.
PS: I asked Muddassar what his father might have thought about Concordia. “I do wonder that sometimes,” Muddassar says. “There is one thing my mom told me that he would say to her about me, ‘let him go on whatever path he wants to go.’”
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