This Father's Day, I baked a batch of rollout cookies for my dad. I cut them into the shape of letters that spelled B-A-B-A, which is Persian for 'dad'. Not only do his children call him 'Baba' but so do his grandkids, and even some friends and in-laws. I wonder how long it took before he stopped hearing 'dad' and starting hearing 'Baba' as a name of its own.
My dad prefers sweets made with honey and pistachios, but in the fashion that he has followed since emigrating to this country nearly fifty years ago, he gamely smiled and ate a yellow frosted 'B'.
He did so to acknowledge my endeavor. That too has always been his way. He was a strict father yet he let me be me. I joined Girl Scouts, twirled a baton, went away to summer camp, threw parties after high school football games, drove carloads of kids to midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, camped on the beach for spring break. None of these activities had any foundation in Persian culture but they formed my identity.
Which is why the Ted Talk of Ziauddin Yousafzai struck a chord. The Pakistani educator speaks about his daughter Malala who was targeted by the Taliban and shot aboard a school bus for daring to go to school. Malala survived the attempt on her life and became an even more outspoken advocate for a girl's right to an education. When her father is asked why Malala is so strong, he says, "I didn't clip her wings."
Happy Father's Day to all of you who strive in that role. It is most important.
For a funny story about my Baba and his attempts to quit smoking, click here.