Thursday, August 30, 2012

A story of my dad

My father passed away on October 3, 2010 from gall bladder cancer, a rare but serious type which had spread to his liver. He never realized the severity of the disease and died only weeks after being diagnosed.
It all happened so fast and it was difficult to accept the nature of the disease and the short time that my dad had. My dad enjoyed his life very much and so my siblings and I decided it was best that we allow him to feel that he could fight through the sickness. Although I do feel that in the back of his mind he knew he didn't have a lot of time left.

My dad was born and grew up in Uganda. He was the youngest of 11 children. In his youth he loved to be with his friends and sometimes get into trouble. From what I gathered from his elementary and high-school report cards which he had neatly filed away for all these years, he never really cared much for school. I guess being the youngest of such a large family he wasn't the type to follow the rules and be obedient like his older siblings.

One summer day I was sitting with my sick dad at the lake, his favourite place to be on a warm day, and he told me a story about an experience of his during a time of political instability under the dictatorship of Idi Amin in the early 1970s. He was in his 20s and worked as an accountant for a travel agency in Kampala, Uganda. One morning several military officials barged in and demanded financial records from the owner. Of course my dad was questioned as he was the account manager and was soonafter taken away to a military base along with his colleague. Here they were put into a jail cell and forced to shovel manure in their bare feet. I remember my dad's facial expression as he explained this to me. He had been able to make a phone call to his older brother and in a few days he was allowed to leave. However he never knew what happened to his colleague. During his time at the base he mentioned that he was at one point help up at gun point when being questioned and his life had flashed before his eyes. He had a strange reminiscent look on his face as he told me this story like he was weary about his current situation. It was the first time he had ever told me this story and I knew why. He knew inside that he wouldn't make it this time.

He also went on to tell me how he managed to flee Uganda during this troubling time. All of the South Asians residing in Uganda were forced to leave the country and had only 90 days to do so. They were disliked by the African community and by the new dictatorship as they believed that the Indians were stealing their jobs and running the economy. It was a bout of racism that drove the Indians out and many of them never looked back, including my dad. His family knew an immigration official that happened to be managing the application forms to leave the country so they, my dad included, were bumped to the top of the line. What luck! There were still many complications along the way however. They could only take a few of their belongings and had to be creative with getting their money out of the country. My dad, along with his two brothers and a few friends came to Canada as refugees with little money in their pockets. His other family members went to England, India and Kenya. It was a tough time for his family but my dad, as optimistic as he always was, looked to the future and was eager to call Canada home.

He decided to head north after arriving in Montreal. His brother and his wife and some friends came soonafter. They all settled in Kapuskasing, the model town of the north, and made the most of the cold and long winters there.

It wasn't long before my dad would find a wonderful job in his profession. Canada, at the time, was welcoming many immigrants as a way of boosting its economy and promoting itself as a multicultural place to live. My dad was asked to be a guest at a community event about multiculturalism and it was there that he met the owner of an accounting firm, Collins Barrow. This man was very charmed by my dad and offered him a job at his firm which my dad happily accepted. He would work there for over 30 years as a very likable accountant with many long-time clients.

He met my mother through a friend and were introduced thereafter. They were very fond of each other and both wanted to start a family in the near future. They soon married at his brother's house and bought a house of their own in a nice neighborhood.

They had three children who they cared for and loved dearly. My dad was a very loving father. He would do anything for us and always made sure that we stayed on track. In contrast to his academic career, he guided us to respect education and achieve excellence for the benefit of our future. Although he wasn't so successful academically, he was a very wise man when it came to giving advice about organization and management. Many people would seek his advice about managing their finances and their lives in general.

My dad was a friend of the town. He was a life member and longtime treasurer of the Kinsmen club, which is a volunteer organization. One such effort helps to raise money for the low-income community every Christmas so the children of these families can enjoy the holidays as well. This was very close to my dad's heart and as such the Santa Claus Fund was named after him in memory of him.

I miss my dad every day. I used to talk to him daily no matter where I was or what I was doing. He made it a ritual to always speak with his children even if it was only for a few minutes. When I needed advice I would always go to him because he always knew what to say. He was the glue that held our family together and his optimistic personality always made everything seem pleasant no matter how unpleasant the situation.
We just weren't ready to let him go, his friends or his family. We were all deeply saddened by his loss and still are to this day. We all lost a part of us that peaceful Sunday morning in October-- an optimistic side that pushed through tragic times giving stength to never looked back. That was my dad.


  1. Hi. I knew your dad and was saddened to hear of his passing from my mother. He was a good friend of my late father Raymond. I found this blog while following up on a fb post from another Mehta from kapuskasing. I have fond memories of your father. He and my dad used to take me hunting for partridge when I was ..maybe..8. :)

  2. Thanks for your comment Alain. I do remember that your dad and mine were good friends. I miss him very much.