By Dr Fozia Kamran Cheema
I cannot remember for how long I am suffering from sleeping problems. I think it started when I was only eight maybe nine years old.
Every time night descended; I felt a desire to read something. I spent long nights reading from “Taaleem o tarbiat”, “phool”, Kafka, Bano apa, and Ishfaq Ahmed. Somehow my insomnia always disappeared during the summer season, I can’t explain why, maybe because night and cold had a different kind of mesmerizing effect, that kept me awake. I spent those long nights sometimes with a book in my hand and other times with my razai (quilt) listening to the sound of cold wind blowing, occasionally creeping into my feet while me waiting eagerly for the clock to turn five, I and my father used to go to local sabzi mandi (fresh fruit and vegetable market) around 5 .0 clock where everybody looked at me with extreme astonishment because girls were not used to going to farmer markets in our area in 90,s. Then I shifted to Denmark and insomnia became my best friend as nine out of 12 months is winter season here.
And after my father died on a cold winter night on November 22, 2015, I developed a strange kind of relationship with these winter nights.
Winter nights create a war zone of nostalgia, where they treat me like a prisoner. They drag me to memory lane, mock me, and whisper in my ear,” you will never get that unconditional love again”. And whenever I try to remember all the good memories about my father, they tell me in a brutal way,” those memories were wonderful Fozia, but what about now?? How long will you hold on to those memories, your father is gone, so no more kisses on the forehead, no more hugs, no calm perspective on everything about life, no more positive talk about the future and transfer of pure energies”?
My father woke up or might be he was already awake. He saw me sitting and even in the dark he could see my worried face
Winter nights are no more nights for me—they have turned into brutal knights, they punch me, they kick me, tease me, whispers in my ears,” your father is gone Fozia, it will never ever be the same, and don’t you think memories are fading a bit, his image is getting dizzy, and admit Fozia there are days when you have to dig hard to feel his presence”.
And with every punch, always flashes a beautiful memory of my remarkable father and I stand up to punch back.
Tonight’s memory was about a stormy night. It was heavy rain and hail with winds breaking the trees outside my room window. The streets were almost flooded with rainwater. Electricity in the whole city went out. I was in sixth grade preparing for my December tests. it was zero-hour midnight. There were no candles in-home, as load-shedding was not “normal” those days. I was worried, as I had to revise a lot of topics of my mid-term course.
My father kept knocking for two full hours on the door of the shopkeeper. They could not hear under the gusty sound of ruthless winds.
My father woke up or might be he was already awake. He saw me sitting and even in the dark he could see my worried face. He took his jacket, knotted his shoes and I asked him “Abu where are you going?“ He said I am going to the shop to buy candles. I first just shocked and then answered, “ Abu don’t, I am almost done with my revision and no shops are open now, and it is a storm outside, Abu please, I am almost finished.
He said “ kuch nahen ho ga beta,yeah rastay meray daikhay howay hain , andhera hay to kia howa, mujhay pata hay galian kidhar murti hain, iss colony ko janta hon main (Nothing will happen, I know the path, does not matter if it is dark, I know every turn of these streets, I know the colony)”, he was so calm like always and then he looked at me and gave me a big smile . He went out in the night, in rain and hail and he knew a shop whose owner’s house was nearby. He kept on knocking on the door of the shopkeeper. They could not hear under the gusty sound of ruthless winds. My father kept knocking for two full hours on their door— he just kept on knocking. Finally, they opened the door and then opened the shop and gave my father candles. He came home two and half hours later, all wet, drenched, top to toe, shoes, and socks were all soaked, shivering, but he was happy and satisfied. He gave me candles and said “ Beta ache tarah sah tiyare kar lo aub,time hay na abhe? (My daughter do your preparation at the best, do you have some time left right?)”
Itne dair to koi Allah ka darwaza bhe nahen khatkatata ,jitne dair wo us rat aik insan ka darwaza meray liay khatkatay rahay . (For so long nobody even wishes to knock on the door of Allah but my father knocked on the door of a human for me (metaphorical expression). That was my father, Muhammad Anwer Cheema, born in a remote village of Chak Kala of Gujrat district in Pakistani Punjab.
That feeling of defeat suffocated me so much, that I opened the window, freezing cold wind came in and room temperature fell down very quickly. I don’t know what it was, maybe the wind, maybe the defeat by night, or was it my hopelessness and utmost grief, or maybe my father heard her daughter giving up in heavens
Velvet of dark night was not in a defeating mood though I told the night the crying memories, the night kept on laughing and dragging me the whole time. And every time I started saying something, night laughed and said: “how will you end this story Fozia, day your memories will be all blurred and there will be nothing more in your closet to hang upon, just give it up, you can’t make him alive with his memories, well you have to, one day, better do it today or you are just too stubborn to defeat”.
I am pretty sure Ali Sadpara like my father had said the same, my father said to calm me in that stormy night
And I almost agreed with the night, as arguing with night always opens my wounds. I admitted that I will never get that unconditional love, and mostly I will never meet a person who will show me the brighter side of life when I am on the ground defeated and at my worse. Not only I will never be able to see his loving face again, but I may also never meet a person who is as possessed and passionate about his dreams, that he will not care about anything else.
That feeling of defeat suffocated me so much, that I opened the window, freezing cold wind came in and room temperature fell down very quickly. I don’t know what it was, maybe the wind, maybe the defeat by night or was it my hopelessness and utmost grief or maybe my father heard her daughter giving up in heavens, that I suddenly started thinking yet again about Ali Sadpara and this time not as a national hero, but as a father of Sajjid Sadpara. I was wondering what a loving, dreamer father like my father had said to his son when he sent him back from the summit, in temperature minus 60 Celsius and the wind blowing at 250 kilometers per hour, aik dosray ko kaisay khuda hafiz kaha ho ga (how they had said goodbye to each other), knowing that might be the last time they were seeing each other.
The window of my room was still open, and so was my heart.
Maybe Sajjid Sadpara like me had tried to stop him, “Father please don’t go alone, take me with you, let’s go together, I don’t want to be away from you. I don’t want you to go alone”. And I am pretty sure Ali Sadpara like my father had said the same, my father said to calm me in that stormy night,”kuch nahen ho ga beta ,yeah rastay meray daikhay howay hain,hawain taiz hain to kia howa , mujhay pata hay cravesses kahan par hain,K-2 ko janta hon main (Does not matter son, winds are howling but I know the paths, I know where the crevasses are, I know the K-2)“ with same calm smile and enthusiasm.
The window of my room was still open, and so was my heart.
And right there I knew, my father and Ali Sadpara were not only dreamers, they were also something else, but they were also lovers. A lot of us dream but we fail because we do not dream out of love or with love. My father loved his daughter so much that he dreamed big and seemingly impossible for his daughters. Ali Sadpara loved mountains and his country so much, that he dreamed bigger than those mountains.
When you love something so much, you close your ears, you do not care what other say. And when you love something the only choice you have is to fight for that, do whatever you can to see your love flourishing. love makes you strong and yet helpless, you can give up on your passions, you can even give up on your dreams, but you cannot give up on your love, yes you can give up the rest of the world for someone or something you love.
That was the utmost love of my father to her little daughter, that he kept on knocking the door of a shopkeeper in mid of stormy night and was least bothered by the weather beating.
And that indeed was the love of the mountains and their countries that Ali Sadpara, John Snori, and their team walked up to K-2, knowing about dangerous winds, deadly crevasses, and piercing cold.
Being a dreamer is a divine gift, but dreams without love are ordinary and wither very soon. Dreams with love are, on the other hand, extraordinary and see the unseen virgin paths of life. Those extraordinary dreams gave you capes and make you heroes, sometimes for the whole nation and a lot of times for the little ordinary girls like Fozia.
I closed the window; I knew I have defeated another sleepless winter night. I gave it the biggest punch, right in the gut saying,” I may never get my father’s unconditional love again, but a part of him lives in me which will keep on showing me the positivity in dark gloomy days and my father will keep on living through me and with me.”
May Allah almighty enlighten your grave my father with millions of candles, and that darkness you removed from my life that windy rainy night and a generation of little girls to come, may you never ever see a dark night in your grave. May Allah almighty have karam (mercy) on you million trillion times and to all the dreamers who dream with love.
And now it is me making fun of night and telling it,” my father will never let me defeat and give up, he will show up in one way or another and will push me to fight harder and crazier, his memories will never fade, he is me and I am him, you will never ever win.
I may not a dreamer, but I am a stubborn lover like my dad and yes, I know how to rise after every fall.
I promise you, my father, that candle you handled your little girl in one stormy night will keep on burning, I will never ever let it die.
I will pass the light on, and so do will Sajid Sadpara, Insha’Allah
…To the fathers who dare to love their little daughters, to the dreamers who dare to dream with love….
Note: Dr. Fozia Kamran Cheema is a pain management physiotherapist at Copenhagen University Hospital, Copenhagen Denmark. She can be reached at her Twitter @ZayaFo
and her Email at email@example.com