The following letters are written by Brown Girl contributors in honor of Father’s Day.
You are my hero. Since I was a little girl, I’ve looked up to you. I’ve learned so much from you—how to change a tire, how to travel, the value of money, hard work, and manual labor. You’ve taught me how to raise kids by raising me and Dipesh so well. You’ve taught me to get out of problems using logic and sense, not panic. Your advice and your one-liners ring in my head all the time:
You don’t get what you want just because you have a pretty face, you have to work for it.
You don’t get if you don’t ask
Don’t ask for help at the 11th hour
There are many many more… and they still ring true.
I’m not very good at verbally expressing how I feel, but I admire you for your strength throughout the years, especially with all you are going through now with Motor Neuron Disease. I deeply feel hurt when you’re hurting.
I deeply feel pain when you’re in pain. And I deeply feel helpless that I can’t make things better.
So, I really want to say thank you. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me. Thank you for being there for me today. I truly cherish our daddy-daughter moments… past and present. I don’t tell you often enough but I truly love you. Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.
—Surina Khira Shah
Thank you for being you. Thank you for always being patient, for being kind, for being thoughtful while I tried to take on the world in all my crazy ways. I have learned what it means to be a human being because of you and have learned how to see people for the goodness in their hearts. If I had to attribute my open-mindedness and love of adventure to anyone, it would be to you because you have always encouraged me to live my life to the absolute fullest. I have learned how to be kind, to love humanity and its good traits, because of you.
Your work ethic has always taught me to work hard for my dreams, no matter what anyone says.
You have always taught me to look at other people for who they are in their heart, not what their appearance dictates, and it is a lesson I hope to pass on to my kids one day. I hope that the person I will spend my life with will have your kindness and your humor, as well as your love for cricket and Bollywood movies! I know with my constant traveling and running around I don’t often get a chance to tell you, but I just want you to know that I love you, and cherish you, and will always think of you as my superhero. The only thing I wish you would do more is to take vacations!
Sincerely your little girl always,
Have I ever told you how much I admire you? How much I look up to you? How sometimes I am in total awe? I see you working so hard, and no matter how tired or exhausted you are, you never lose the positivity in you. You moved our family here, to a suburb where we barely knew anyone and built us a home. The qualities you have instilled in both Ani and me are those I will forever hold onto.
Somehow, you know the answer to everything. You are the person I can go to, knowing everything is going to be ok. I admire how you can see so many different perspectives on one situation, and you never jump to any conclusions. You push me to work harder, do better, and strive for more. That’s something I will pass onto my kids. To always work hard, never settle because there is something more to achieve. To build a foundation for yourself and always be passionate about what you do. You have worked so hard to give us a stable life, in which we never needed to worry about basic necessities. You sent Ani and me to college and taught us the importance of education, which we will carry forever.
They say no one in this world can love a girl more than her father, and I see that.
Happy Father’s Day, today and every single day.
Not enough credit is given to those fathers who raise a daughter to be a feminist and remind them they’re more than just an element of their cultural background—I am me. So, Pops, I want to thank you today for being more than just a father, for being a friend to me and my sisters. You have never let me forget that honesty and sincerity go hand-in-hand with hard work if I really want to reach for success.
Thank you for always supporting me in my life choices and defending me against the stereotypes of following an expected linear path just to uphold societal acceptance.
My passion for traveling was inherited from your curiosity and appreciation for the beauty of this planet, and it’s because of the sacrifices you and mum made that I was privileged to explore the world from such a young age. Thank you for always listening and never judging, something I can only strive to continually do. Most importantly, thank you for trusting me as YOUR friend, for picking up the phone and turning to me when you also needed a friendly ear. If there is one thing I would ask you to do it’s to love yourself as much as much as the girls and I do. Don’t underestimate the importance you hold in our lives. You held my hand, now let me hold yours.
Love you always and more.
Life’s battles are not always won by the stronger or faster man, but sooner or later, they are won by the one who thinks he can. When someone asks me what hardworking looks like, I tell them: my father. Your work ethic, your drive to succeed, and your ability to never give up has certainly rubbed off on me. You taught me that it’s about will—not about skill.
I am so proud to be the daughter of such a hardworking person, and I feel so lucky to have been a part of and a witness to your journey.
I love you so much, and I can’t wait to spend this Father’s Day with you.
Thank you for teaching me the meaning of hard work, courage, and determination. These are lessons that will forever be passed on, generation to generation, because of you. Happy Father’s Day to best dad I know.
We don’t communicate very much on an emotional level, but I wanted to take the time to write this letter to you and show my gratitude for all the things you’ve taught me. You always find ways to pique my curiosity and encourage me to wonder about the world and its mysteries. I still enjoy Sunday afternoons watching National Geographic or the Discovery Channel learning about ancient Egyptian history, wildlife or the universe. I remember sitting outside in the backyard on a cool summer night looking up at the clear sky and you pointing out the constellations or planets to me. It excited yet also terrified me to think that we are such a small part of a massive unknown universe. This is something I will pass on to your grandchildren so that they to grow up with the same curiosity and appreciation for the earth.
The most important trait I’ve learned from you is to remain young at heart and not to take things too seriously. I think that’s why you aren’t a worrisome person in the slightest bit. No matter the adventure, you’re always ready to get up and go, and I’ve always admired that. This has taught me not to let the little responsibilities like a messy room or unanswered mail keep me back from an experience. You always point out that they will be right there waiting to be finished when we’re back. This also has a lot to do with your laid back, easy going personality.
You make do in any situation, good or bad, which is something I also hope to pass on to my children.
I’ve learned that getting angry won’t help resolve anything, so make do with what you have and carry on.
When you’re not off traveling the world or relaxing, I do wish you would communicate more with me. This is something I can improve on as well, but I guess I get that from you! Any maybe cool it with the iPad and the sweets a little! I know we don’t say enough, but I love you to the moon and beyond, Dad. Thank you for every small effort and every massive one. I know that many sacrifices were made to bring your children up in New York City, but we will do everything possible to make you proud.
Happy Father’s Day from your Bonze!
My dearest Baba,
As I write you this letter for Father’s Day 2018, I can hear my heart breaking in much the manner that waves crash onto the shoreline. If you were still alive today, you’d be almost 68 years old. It has been exactly 10 years since you abruptly left this world. I can picture you sitting on our old brown and mustard colored living room couch with your left foot up, ankle resting on your right knee, in a crisp linen shirt and pants, and polished leather shoes. You’d probably have your head tilted, eyes narrowed as you blow out a puff of cigarette smoke, with Scotch in a crystal glass sitting beside you.
As you know, Baba, as much as I’ve learned from you about what TO do, I’ve also learned what NOT to do. It is from you, that I inherited my love for photography and making more out of what my eyes/camera see than what is visible to others. From you, I learned the importance of having command over languages—speaking English, Bengali, Hindi, and Tamil well. I’m a foodie, much like you, but I think you’d be relieved to know that I don’t drink, which is a blessing considering what it did to you. I believe I’ve picked up some of your ability for persuasive speaking and your presence. In being entirely transparent, I’ve also adopted your hot temper and unfortunate tendency to blurt out things that are hurtful at the worst times. I didn’t realize this until much later, but your journey with bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia, which I lived with for 17 years made me more sensitive to mental health and molded me into such an incredibly strong person. Yes, strong enough to love you, anyway.
I don’t know if I’ll ever have kids, Baba—you’d be sad to hear that, I think. Part of the reason is that love hasn’t ever worked out for me the way I wanted it to. Another part is I’m terrified of my scars. If I do have kids, I’d want them to have your intelligence, Ma’s courage, and my strength.
I never got a chance to tell you any of these things, but I hope you’re reading/listening/watching from wherever you are, and I hope you’ve found some peace.
I hope there are times when you get the classic Dad expression in your eyes—you know, the one, with the damp eyes, confident smirk around the mouth—that indicate a sense of pride and belonging.
I’ll sign off here, Baba, and go read that last letter you sent me on thick, handmade salmon-colored paper with your bold scrawl in blue ink, telling me I should visit, and discuss my modus operandi on finding a suitable man for myself (!). It’s been exactly 10 years since you left, but I think of you every day. And even though you’re not here for me to call you when I need some advice about business strategy or to teach me how to refine my skills with my camera (a Canon, because that was your favorite), and even though we never got to have a normal father-daughter relationship, I’ll continue thinking of you every day.
Too much comes to mind when I think of you.
First, there’s the sepia-toned image of you in wrinkled scrubs, joining the world after a grueling 36-hour shift. You always found a way to mask your exhaustion, to make sure we knew you wanted to be with us.
Then there’s the video footage of you encouraging my spunk, my need to challenge convention. You told me it was your duty to make sure daughters felt strong and free.
You redid all of your medical training and moved across the world with Mom, just so we would have the potential for a better life. You only communicated with your family through letters in sky blue envelopes that smelled like damp earth and expensive, shaky long distance calls. At that time, I was too young to notice all of the things you were constantly giving and giving up.
I don’t know if I’ll ever truly understand all of your sacrifices. What I do know, is that each year, I realize more and more how you made me the woman I am today.
You set the standard for how I want to be treated by the world. Thank you doesn’t feel like enough but I’ll say it. Thank you for being strong enough to be vulnerable. Thank you for your subtle and effective sense of humor. Thank you for your inspiring work ethic.
Thank you for being the best father anyone could have.
I love you.
For as long as I can remember, you have been my best friend, my biggest supporter, and the person who I look up to the most. Ever since I was little, you have encouraged me to be the best person I could possibly be. Anytime I had a problem, I knew that I could always come to you for help.
There are so many things that I admire about you and make me proud to be your daughter. A lot of people think that Desi fathers are scary and domineering, but you are the complete opposite. I’m sure there were times when I made you want to tear your hair out, like when I totaled your car. But you were always so forgiving and understanding.
You have raised me to be a strong and ambitious individual, and I cannot thank you enough for that. Most South Asian fathers are expected to keep their daughters at home with their mothers, but you have always encouraged me to go out and explore the world. From teaching me to use public transportation to persuading me to get my first job, you taught me how to be self-reliant. It is from you that I have inherited my love of traveling and discovering the world around me.
I have learned from you how important it is to be aware of everything that goes on in the world and to constantly be open to learning new things.
I know that it isn’t easy for you, an Indian immigrant, to be raising three children in the United States, but I just wanted to thank you for understanding our struggle in navigating cultures and traditions. You never tried to push a certain career or lifestyle path on me, but instead, you instilled in me that whatever I chose to do, I should try my best.
This year, you lost your own father, my Thatha, and I could see how much his death broke you. In spite of the pain, you made sure to constantly make sure that everyone else in our family was being taken care of, and you became the pillar of strength in our family at that time. I know Thatha was proud to have you as his son, and I am proud to have you as my father.
Thank you for always being willing to put up with me when I’m being extremely stubborn or moody. Thank you for always being fair and listening to my side before making a decision on anything. Thank you for constantly encouraging me to improve myself. But most of all, thank you for always standing up for me and being my hero. I know that I don’t tell you this enough times, but I love you.
Although I usually shy away from expressing sincere feelings toward you because I just feel so corny and saccharine doing so (I know you’ll ask me what these words mean later), I thought maybe this was the right platform for me to finally express some of my feelings and gratitude towards you this Father’s Day. In writing this, I had to think about what your best qualities are and it made me realize that your best qualities are also your worst. The traits I most admire in you are the ones that also aggravate me deeply.
You’re incredibly hard-working. I know a lot of children say that about their dads and I’m sure it’s true, but how many of those dads have actually completed multiple surgical residencies and fellowships throughout their entire lives even in their sixth decade? I never fully realized how labor intensive and exhausting what you did was until I, as a third-year medical student, spent two weeks in your field. Your commitment to your field is unparalleled and you never back down from any opportunity. I know this work ethic is rooted in your passion for what you do, which is why it is with such ease that you are able to encourage me to follow my passions. I greatly appreciate this although I don’t show it. Unfortunately, due to the perils of reverse psychology, I end up feeling irritated whenever you nag me to be productive and work towards my goals, but your intentions are pure.
But beyond feeling irritated when you’re pushing me to be better, I get frustrated about the toll that your work ethic has taken on our family life. We didn’t get to spend as much time together when I was growing up. My mom’s career was sacrificed and stifled. We moved frequently and you continue to have to relocate. I know you are aware of this and do your best to cope with these realizations daily.
You’re fun-loving. You love to have a good time, laugh, dance, party, and be social. You’ve instilled these qualities in me, which has led to a relatively open relationship between us.
How many other dads know what “FOMO” is, let alone encourage their children to go to parties so they don’t miss on the experience? I don’t have any siblings but you’ve sought it out as your duty to fulfill that role and have fun with me. I love that you and I can even openly joke about my dating life.
Of course, like any son or daughter, when my dad is too eager to have fun, I can get embarrassed. I mean sometimes you’re so cringe-worthy! (You will most likely ask me what this word means, as well.)
You’re humble. By this, I mean not only are you modest about your achievements and virtues, but you also realize and share with others your humility and flaws. You know you’re human and are not afraid to admit when you’ve been wrong or mistaken. You don’t take yourself too seriously, which is the way one should live.
But sometimes you deserve to toot your own horn! Don’t put yourself down anymore than life already does for you. By being so humble, you put yourself at a disadvantage.
In writing about these three characteristics that I respect you for the most yet also find problematic, I have come to the realization that by focusing on only these dichotomies there are many more negative traits that I didn’t get to address here…but there’s always next year.
Happy Father’s Day, Papa. It’s a privilege to be your daughter.