Serendipity, Happenstance and Toast with Guacamole


I do believe in serendipity and happenstance.

And I believe that things happen for a reason. At that happening moment, often, we don’t realize what that reason maybe; over time, we understand why this just needed to happen.

Also, I see, that the series of experiences I have had, were just preparing me for this moment of time.  

Today, I closed on my first holiday-home (and possible final home) in Oakland Park, Florida. For seven months, I have been following the construction of this home; cinderblock by cinderblock, windows, doors, electric wires and tile work. As if, I am preparing for a child to be born. 

When you talk about serendipity or happenstance, on this same date, I arrived in the US, some 32 years ago. Maybe the date is just a coincidence.  

I started my new life in this new country, bursting with desire and ambition. Even after so many years, my heart and mind are just as excited by possibilities of love, friendship, a great meal, or a bottle of wine.  

This morning, Shania, my twelve year old and I drive to sign the paperwork at the closing office; all the way, I keep thinking of the first home I bought on Merrimack Lane in Toledo, some 24 years ago. I remember the night before the closing of my first home; my mom and I kept talking about the concept of buying a “home”. She was worried that if I bought a home in the US, I would never return to Bangladesh. She was right.  

She sat with me through the signing of papers, insurance and documents. At the end she asked me, “Bujhcho, shobkichu?” (Did you understand everything?)  

Today, my strong Shania sits with me, quietly, for more than hour, while we go through some 30 signatures, deeds, titles, insurance….all of it. Later, she acknowledges, it was really boring, but she didn’t bring her headphones to the closing because she thought it was impolite. I am grateful she is here; I believe she is here for a reason more than, just that I asked her to be there. Just like my mother, twenty-four years ago, she is is providing me strength and support to nurture my dreams along.  

We get home and Daiyaan arrives; we unpack boxes and put things away. We are sleeping on air mattresses tonight, just like camping. Sheets are unfolded. New dishes are put in the new dishwasher; new towels are hung up. All to the girls’ favorite music – dancing, joyful and bright.  

In the evening, my friends Toby and Ray, bring champagne. We toast in our new glasses, nibble on tapas, listen to good music and break out into utter goofiness. I feel like I have been designing and planning for this day, all my life.  

The goal tomorrow is to make breakfast for my girls, at our new home.  

Multi-grain bread with Guacamole, sunny-side up eggs on toast, and a sprinkling of Sriracha. Orange juice, hot tea or coffee.  

This is a great day for my family. 32 years from landing in this beautiful place, to 24 years from learning to buy a new home, I am here today because I have been preparing for this day. This is no coincidence. This was meant to be; Guacamole toast for my princesses, and a hot cup of red-rose tea for me.  

Our First Drinks at our New Home

Fear in a Father-Daughter Conversation: Feb 2017

daddy-daiyaan-dinner-feb-2017
We find a great place in Delray for Dinner!

 

This is not the typical dinner conversation a father has with his twenty-one year old daughter on a Saturday evening.

Usually, when together, we talk about her friends, her classes, and her work. Within a few hours, we learn about each other’s worlds, and participate in our growth as a parent and a child. As my first born, she has taught me how to be a father. I experiment with her – bounce off politics, religion and familiar topics. Sometimes we roleplay in adversity and joy.

She knows that my optimism about America, borders on grandstanding; I have always been vocal about my aspirations about this nation. She knows, if one works hard and is willing to give our best, we can achieve everything possible, in this country.  I don’t compromise on this particular strain of feelings, and it’s been a consistent thread of our dialog, for life.

On this pleasant February evening, as the sun is setting, we walk west on the pretty bridge on Atlantic Avenue in Delray, and approach downtown, in search of a nice place for dinner.

I gently ask her if she has heard about Muhammad Ali’s son being subjected to harassment at Orlando Airport security for his last name and his religion. ” No Daddy, I haven’t heard of it”, she answers.

We go on to discuss that if she is stopped by the police, or any security personnel, how should she react. With a last name like Mahmood, this is more likely to happen now, than not. Most important is not to be surprised by the event – but rather to expect it.

If you expect the worst in life, and prepare for it, there are only two possible outcomes – either you’re prepared and deal with the calamity – or you’re pleasantly surprised (that the calamity never took place)!

I want her to be prepared; I don’t want her to be sad, confused or dismayed.  We discuss that if a cop stops and asks her whether she is legally in this country, she needs to be respectful and not get mad or respond angrily that she was born in Toledo, Ohio. We acknowledge that due process and the law-of -the land will ultimately protect her, but it could be nerve-wrecking and a complete waste of time.

We talk about the two Indian immigrants who were shot and (one) killed at a bar in Olathe, KS, this past week. She is stunned to hear the news; we discuss about being more aware, and not going out when I am visiting one of my plants in Middle America during the next few years.

The word, immigrant, has become such a flash point of discussion, in the land built by, with and for immigrants.

It’s unfortunate, but it’s true.

When Daiyaan’s grandfather came to this country, back in the late 1950s,  foreign scholars often carried a “temporary white” card, so that,  they could ride the front of the bus, or drink from a “whites only” water fountain. That was only sixty some odd years ago. Things may not be perfect today, but they are a lot better than those times.

In my thirty plus years, I have seen tremendous progress in this nation, the attitude of it’s people and habits.

I saw Barack Obama get elected twice – never thought, a minority with a strange sounding middle name, would be elected as the leader (anywhere in the world).

However, now we know, even after all that, it’s not possible to let our guards down. We need to still teach our children to be aware, that there are people here (and many other modern industrialized places) where people judge you by the color of your skin, or what you wear, or how you speak, or what your last name is.

On this beautiful evening, it’s just sad that, instead sharing our joy and colorful experiences, I am scaring her into reality.

In her twenty-one years, I have never had to inject fear in our conversation to have her submit; it feels like one of those movie characters of the sixties, who taught their children, not to look into the eyes of the policemen, and to address them as “sir”.

I find my behavior and teaching method deplorable, shameful and very “un-American.”

But as a father, my first responsibility to her, is to teach her to survive, which requires moderation and modulation.

I am not proud of myself; just being pragmatic. I thought I was too liberal, too progressive for all this.

I never thought that I would need to speak to my children about the fear of being different.

I know this will come to an end one day. It doesn’t matter if its four years, or eight years. As a parent, however, you are often driven by a singular motive – wanting to see that your children are safe, happy and taken care of.

She calms me down gently, “Daddy, I know; don’t worry, I will be fine”.

I know you will be fine, Daiyaan. But I can’t be.

I am still mad, upset and just simply pissed. I want my America back where fear is not what I teach my children, but I teach them courage – to be the grand person they deserve to be.

daddydaiyaan-lunch-feb-2017
The conversation continues the next day

Rainbow Days and Sparkling Green Bows

Shania’s Sparkling Green Bow

There’s a sparkling green bow hair-clip on my kitchen counter-top; silently, it reminds of the day Shania and I found it in a boutique at Coco-Walk in Miami. I remember, Shania quickly put it on her hair and did a twirl !

Every time Shania is gone for a few days, I see this green sparkly bow, or her little flowery slippers, the stuffed toys on my bed, or her plastic juice glasses, that remind me of her big, beautiful smile – and her all-encompassing hug.

Next year, my seventeen-year old, Daiyaan, is likely to head off to college. While preparing for this inevitability, I cannot imagine when Shania (7) will move away from home!

Several of my friends have recently started experiencing their children leaving homes and heading off to college. This “withdrawal”, when a child is not physically present in your home any more, is a tough physical and mental experience to deal with, wherever you may be located.

Sometimes, I wonder how my mother dealt with this emptiness, the day I left home. With extended family and friends surrounding her, I wonder, if it was any easier or more difficult to cope with.

Last weekend, I talked to my sister, whose only child left for college recently, creating an empty-nest for them. She described how, the large glasses he drank milk from, sit on the shelves unused, and how the dinner that’s saved for him, goes un-eaten and thrown away. There’s no longer a reason to rush back home in the evening – or a need to check-in and see how the day was, with a third person in the house.

First generation immigrants, sometimes, have a slightly varied perspective when a child leaves their home, to build her own life; often, they view their children as manifestation of all their hopes and as a fruit of all of their immigration “struggles.”

The complicated nature of immigration, makes it difficult to question the fairness of this burden on our children. However, I know many, in our minds, feel a special link with our children who were not born in the same land as we were. There is an expectation that, by osmosis, these children understand our struggle and often, the culture or religion we left behind.

Even if our children are completely “westernized”, they empathize with our habits of drinking milky-sugary tea in the morning; or often converse with us in their accented version of our native language. Somehow, they “get us”; they tolerate our listening to high-pitched music in the car; when we pray in one direction or another – sometimes, they take part with us, or at least don’t look at us with complete incredulity.

As if, they are our bridge to this new land, and a bridge to all our future aspirations.

When this “bridge” moves away, there maybe an emptiness in our lives that’s not easily explainable.

I know families, when their children moved away to build their lives, eventually, the parents followed them to far flung places. In some ways, their immigration continued, from little towns of Nebraska or New Mexico where they started their journey, to some new destination like New York or Nevada.

Jhumpa Lahiri captured this nuanced expectation on immigrant’s children in her masterpiece The Namesake.

On this Saturday morning, I await Shania to wake up from her sleep and snuggle with me for a few more minutes and watch cartoons together. While Daiyaan may leave next year, creating her own vacuum, for a few more years, I want to continue to build memories with my other “bridge”.  We will go to some new store, where we will buy our sparkly hair clips, enjoy a DreamWorks movie, or simply admire a beautiful rainbow together, after the rain.

Shania with her Green Sparkling Bow!