There’s a garage in my head bursting its bricks with bent Popoids, Scalextric racetracks to anywhere, Polaroid cameras, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazines and books about The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Talk-Back Tracy and a magnetic chess set are stacked on top of the Dinosaur! magazines I’d collect years later (every fortnight) along with the photographs of leapfrogging at Zoo Lake Sunday picnics.
Eighteen years later and this is all I feel I have of Daddy; these the only things palpable; toys and gadgets, and a father seen through the curtains drawn by a five-year-old.
I can still scribble a stick-people nuclear family gathered in the garden of a house with mattress-spring smoke pouring out of the crooked chimney.
I wish I knew more of my father, beyond the crayon renderings of a child. Six-and-a-half-years with him and Daddy was this fantastic bearer of amazing things; a doll that repeated everything you said when you pressed a glowing red heart on its palm and a little sewing machine that really stitched. Daddy was fun and hugs and there and all things magic until he started getting sick.
And when he got sick, I got scared. Daddy was strange, quiet and convulsing on the floor of the kitchen at the house in Azaadville.
This is all I knew. Happy, then not. Things are that simple to a child.
And when he passed away on that Boxing Day in 1989, the world suddenly got a whole lot more complex.
Now, I’m scant months away from becoming a wife. I need Daddy now more than ever. But it’s a funny sort of longing, seeing as I never knew the man behind the Daddy-mien. Any suggestion of what our interactions would’ve been like can only be nebulous. Would we have got along as adults? Would I have grown to share his ideals? What were his ideals? I know he never missed salaah, even towards his end he’d offer prayer five times daily from his bed, his eyelids closing in submission for each sajdah his body could not perform. I know he was easy-going and had an ear for every stranger’s problems. I know he read Robert Ludlum. I know he loved gadgets. I know little things, but I’ll never know a lot of things.
Verily we belong to God and to God we return.