My father loved dessert, anything sweet and delicious brought him so much pleasure; I inherited his sweet tooth. Growing up, whenever there was an office birthday or holiday party at work, dad would wrap up his share of dessert in a napkin – a piece of frosted birthday cake or home made cookies – keep it in his briefcase, and bring it home for me. He’d unwrap it after dinner, with a twinkle in his eye. And then savor the moment – it tasted so much more delicious to see me reveling in every last bite.
It’s a small story that reveals my dad’s huge heart. Making someone else feel comfortable, at ease, happy, well fed, taken care of, made my dad’s day.
Growing up, when my parents hosted Saturday night dinners for their NJ community of Pakistani friends, my dad would lay the table – with beautiful plates and tea sets that he had bought in various corners of the world, and carefully carried through all his moves. He would garnish the food that mom would prepare with sprigs of coriander and cucumber and tomatoes artfully sliced; how a meal was presented was part of his acute sense of hospitality and artistry. He would make each guest feel cared for, at home, and spoilt – the Urdu word is khatir karna; there’s no one word in English that full captures that sense of hospitality, but to my dad it came so naturally, because it was innate.
At my mehndi (henna ceremony), Dad insisted on making his specialty, shahi tukray (bread pudding), for almost 100 guests; never mind the huge effort at a time that was already so busy, his little girl was getting married :-). He made three massive silver trays – and beamed every time someone enjoyed a bite. People’s joy at something he may have created, whether a dessert or a work of art, made him smile. I can picture him smiling now – and laughing his hallmark laugh – as I share this story.
While this isn’t a particular wisdom that he said, it is one of the most important wisdoms that I have learned from his example: be generous, overly generous; be kind, overly kind; spoil people, with uncommon hospitality; care for others’ comfort, before your own; share what you love most, with abandon; and smile, until your eyes sparkle.
Day 10 Wisdom 10: Be uncommonly kind.
PS: My father passed away six weeks ago (Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un – We belong to God and to God we shall return). Please do me the honor of saying his name – Atiqul Hasan; saying a prayer; reading some of his extraordinary story – and perhaps sharing a piece of cake with someone you love.