Herb (hardyharhar) wrote,

Greetings From Bury Park by Sarfraz Manzoor

So I just started reading this book yesterday (Thanks for the recommendation Preeti.) and then my mom called this morning to tell me my dad was crying again because I refuse to get married and have kids, which provided me the perfect opportunity to read these passages to her:

Once a month I would make the three-and-a-half hour train journey back to Luton to see the family but only out of a sense of obligation.  I was barely on speaking terms with my father and most of my conversations with my mother were about how I hardly talked to my father.
I defined myself in opposition to my father.  All that he believed, the values he upheld, the ambitions he cherished I rejected as embarassing and outdated.  When he said he was Pakistani, I declared I was British; he was Muslim, I was confused; he believed in family, I championed the individual; he worshipped money, I claimed it meant nothing.  I convinced myself that we were so different, the notion that I might have inherited anything from him apalled me.  The sooner I could shed my past the better.  When I was younger I didn't want to know who my father was because I believed my father had nothing to do with me.  How wrong can a son be?
My own father used to be a mail man and I remember sitting in my room on stormy days and praying for his safety (and that of my sisters and me, because he was the only buffer between our mean mean mother and our tender bones.)  He used to work a lot of overtime from what I recall, too.

So, the last time I went home I interviewed my parents about their work experiences--how bad the racism they experienced was and that kind of stuff.  My dad said he only ever had one problem with one coworker--a white guy who felt like he'd deserved the promotion that my father got.  They had some sort of scuffle one day when they were drinking at the bar the mailmen sometimes frequented after work.

A bar?  I couldn't believe it.  I didn't know my father ever went to bars!  "Why pay five dollars for the drink you can have at home for one?" is his attitude.  So, all that time when I was at home praying for his safety, for the mean attack dogs on his route to leave him be, for him to find shelter from lightning and flash floods, at least some of that time he was col' kickin' it at the mailman watering hole!  But learning that made me happy, for reasons demonstrated by this last quote from Greetings:
Unlike some other Pakistani men my father was not frittering his wages.  His only vice was smoking...I am pleased my father smoked; glad that there were some things he did purely for pleasure and only for himself.

So, like Manzoor, I, too, am happy that my father had some private pleasures.

Oh, ok, just one more.  This is a memoir about loving Bruce Springsteen as much as it's about growing up Anglo-Paki, so:

At college I discovered Bruce Springsteen.  In his music I found a new way to understand my relationship with my father.  In "Independence Day" Springsteen sings in the character of a son speaking to his father.  Springsteen's father had been a bus driver and he never approved of his son's rock and roll.  Springsteen described his father as taciturn and unemotional.  I identified.  "Independence Day" is the story of a son trying to tell his father that he is now his own man and that the old rules don't apply any more.  When Springsteen sings it he doesn't sing with anger, he is not taking any pleasure when he tells his dad that "they ain't gonna do to me what I watched them do to you."  What most impressed me was the empathy that Springsteen had for his father...That was what made the song so important; it opened my mind to the pain that my father was feeling and it made me think of what he might have been feeling.

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