You brought us up on a diet of beer and bacon.
Your enjoyment of both these items was so intense throughout my childhood that I still drink Guiness as a tribute to you, and whenever I sniff the heavenly scent of frying bacon, I remember you, preparing bacon ‘n’ eggs in a small student flat, somewhere north of England, shrieking with my mum about how delicious this stuff is.
We grew up in an intellectual climate that associated religiosity with old people, provincial people, ignorant people, selfish people, delusional people, hypocritical people. We grew up learning that it is possible to lead good, responsible, productive lives without being religious. You were the shining example of this. You were the best person we knew, that we still know, and you refused to wear black during Ashura at work, and you refused to pray in the public university prayer rooms, despite harassment from the university basijis. You were the shining beacon of modernity and public service in an atmosphere of crude theocratic repression, corruption and madness. You still are.
We grew up free to enjoy beer and bacon. And I do, regularly. We grew up free from saying ya hossein with every gulp of water that we drink, and we don’t say it. None of us. Never.
So now, it is not ok that you whip around and pull the rug, as it were, from beneath our emotional ground.
It is not ok that you gallop off delightedly to Mecca.
You renounced the beer and bacon, but we didn’t and that’s not ok.
It is not ok to tell us, by your actions, that you had got it wrong, we have got it wrong, we were all wrong, all along.
You can’t fuck us up like that.
Look. Look at other families, other people around you. They’re either mazhabi, or not mazhabi. Either they drink beer, or they don’t. Either they fry bacon, or they don’t. None of this messing around and backtracking and dreaming. And see how happy they all are? How much they all approve of each other, how much they massage each others’ self-esteem and ego?
Whereas we, for how many years now? We have to pretend that we don’t exist. For years and years now, we simply have to pretend that a large chunk of us- the chunk that you raised, that you nourished, the beer-and-bacon part simply doesn’t exist.
So, Dear Dad, I am not particularly happy for you, that your Mecca trip has finally come through and you have gone where you wanted to go for so long. I would have been far more happy if you had decided to come and visit me and my children here in Halifax.
And I could have bought you a pint of Guiness in my favourite bars.
In my dreams.