Remona AlyMonday 06 February 2017 The Guardian
A letter to my parents
Dear Mum and Dad,
Thank you for inflicting on me that god-awful bowl haircut as a child. It was character building. Truly. As were the black fishnet tights, red shoes and frilly dress. But beyond the questionable apparel, you gave me an ocean of life lessons, raising me on a diet of dhal, alphabet spaghetti, social justice, and C&A sales.
Even though we were of different worlds, I never felt worlds apart from you. Dad, when you came here on a boat in the 1960s like a proper FOB (Fresh Off the Boat), you had left your bustling city in India to move to a quiet, working-class village in Kent to start your teaching post in the local school. You arrived with £3 in your pocket and a head full of dreams. You worked your guts out, and then, Mum, you came over, and had to learn fast. You only ever gave – to me, my brother, my sister. Your sacrifices make me want to deserve them.
But it wasn’t always perfect, was it? There were times I questioned your take on stuff, times you upset me, times you drove me downright flipping mad. I’m sure I did the same to you. But you know what, you kept me grounded, gave me stability, and never stopped loving me.
One of the best gifts you passed down was the value of friendship. Dad, you made me think it was a given that everyone had best friends who were Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Sikh, atheist, Muslim. You even had time for Tories. You made me believe that building bridges between different people was part of everyone’s goal in life. You taught me to be respectful, bold in my faith, and made me feel that being born a girl was the best thing ever. You made Britain your home, so it could be my natural home. But it’s not always been easy for me, for you, for any of us. That’s where resilience comes in.
Dad, you lost both your parents when you were only 12, and had to look after your sisters and brother. Mum, you lost your father when you were a teenager. Both of you saw siblings die in front of your eyes. Your experiences, your dark days of depression that you hid so well from us, taught me how to bear the pain when I lost you, my own dear Dad. And you both gave me the tools to rebuild my broken heart when I lost my niece, your granddaughter.
So I want to thank you, for giving me the oxygen to be myself. For putting trust in me, for fixing each wing so I never crawl through life. You taught me compassion, perspective, struggle, conviction, faith, loyalty, love, humour, honesty. You taught me humanity.
Your (favourite) child, Mona xx