My Father, Hussein

Next Sunday is Father’s Day. It’s a day to appreciate our fathers. A father is appreciated for many things. For his sacrifices. For teaching his children the right stuff. For preparing them to survive the constant danger they face everyday. And for being there when he is needed.

With close to 50 percent divorce rate, with wars, uprisings and terrorism, with famine and floods, through illness and accident, there are so many children in the world who have been deprived of their fathers. For them this day becomes even more special – to ask why life is unfair and what can we do to make this world a better place to live.

My father, Hussein, died on February 4th; 1991 in Calgary. He was 79 years old. He died the way he wanted to go – suddenly. He had a heart attack.

Hussein had a fair share of ups and downs in his life. Let me share with you Hussein’s journey through four continents in search of safety, security, prosperity and happiness for his family.

Hussein was born in Gujarat, India. He joined the work force at an early age of 13 when, in 1924, he came to Tanzania (then Tanganyika) from India with his older brother. His father’s business in India had failed, the local economy was bad, and the family needed financial help. So Hussein (after finishing grade four) embarked on a voyage of adventure to find work in Africa.

It took him almost a month by boat (across the Indian Ocean) and by rail (across East Africa) to arrive in Bukoba, on the shores of Lake Victoria, Tanzania. For eight years, Hussein and his brother ran a business in Bukoba and sent money to their father so he could support the rest of the family.

At the age of 21, Hussein went back to India to look for a bride. He married Sikina. Hussein stayed two years in Gujarat and their first child, Gulshan, was born. Sikina stayed back to look after Gulshan and the in-laws, and Hussein went back to Tanzania. This time he went to Musoma, another small town on the shores of Lake Victoria. He found a job, and Sikina and Gulshan joined him two years later when Hussein had saved enough money to get them over.

He was becoming restless again and wanted to start his own business. He did this in Kinesi, another small town across the river from Musoma. After five years in Kinesi, Hussein moved back to Musoma to continue expanding his business. Hussein’s family was growing in number (four girls and four boys). With the family manpower he had, at one time Hussein was running three shops in a fairly small town.

Life as a businessman was not always rosy. There were ups and downs. After 25 years in Musoma, he made another move to a bigger town (Mwanza) on Lake Victoria. Mwanza had a high school and it was good for his children. Perhaps Hussein’s best legacy was to encourage and support his children to seek more knowledge and strive for university education. For a man who had only grade four education, Hussein knew the value of higher learning – security.

Then came the era of Idi Amin and his terror in Uganda. In 1972, after 15 years in Mwanza, Hussein had to move again. First to England (three years) and then to Canada. Hussein and Sikina settled in Calgary.

As Hussein got older, he suffered from several health problems. He had heart disease for 20 years and was in pain with Rheumatoid arthritis. But he was a very strong, handsome, tall man. His appearance defied his internal sufferings.

He feared no one but God, and lived a very clean, sensible life. He believed in caring, loving and giving. He was a tower of strength to his family. He had no unfinished business left when he was summoned to his last journey on February 4th; 1991. He knew he had fulfilled all his obligations as a father. At the end he was a satisfied man. At peace with himself. A job well done!

May his soul rest in eternal peace! Amen!

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