This show of appreciation is long overdue. My parents are the best parents one could ever be blessed with. With Mother’s Day gone and Father’s Day coming up, I appreciate my parents more and more. Words cannot describe the love I have for them. My parents don’t need gifts to feel appreciated. I know when I express my feelings for them, that is a present that not enough money in the world could buy.
My father, Amjad Chowdhry, is an immigrant from Pakistan. My mother, Almas Chowdhry, is an immigrant from India. They met in New York City, fell in love, got married and had two beautiful, smart, funny, amazing children. Okay, okay, so maybe I am being a little bias on that last one!
Growing up, my parents had a great work ethic. They always wanted my big brother and me to strive to be the best we can be. If we got an “A” on an exam, they wanted us to study a bit harder and get an “A+” on the next test. Sure enough, my brother and I would deliver.
Just as hard as they wanted us to work, that’s how hard they wanted us to enjoy life and be happy.
Weekends were spent socializing with cousins and my parents’ friends’ children.
Each weekend was a new adventure. My father would never be too tired to take us anywhere.
He is the “man of the house” and made sure his family was taken care of, financially and emotionally.
I would be lying if I said I am NOT the apple of my father’s eye. I am Daddy’s Little Girl, forever. Ever since I can remember, my father never said “I love you.” Instead he would address his affection for me with the greatest phrase I will ever hear for the rest of my life: “Dadda loves you!” In turn, like in my father’s fashion, I would respond, “Baby loves you too!”
Do you know that we NEVER ever part ways or get off the phone without saying that to one another. Even after a heated argument or if we are in a bad mood, neither of us have it in our hearts to part without saying that. Till this day, he never just describes me as his daughter. He says I am “Daddy’s Baby.”
I am so blessed because not one day has gone by without me feeling loved, all thanks to my family.
When I was younger, I grew up in what seemed like two different worlds: the “American” world outside of my home and my “Indian and Pakistani” world inside the home. Imagine the film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Remember the scenes when Toula Portokalos (the main character) was growing up and dealing with cultural issues? That was my life, except it was not from a Greek background. The funniest part is when Toula was a child and she would bring Greek food for lunch at school. Imagine my lunch breaks when my mom would put Indian food in between two slices of white bread and called that a sandwich. It is kind of hard not to be made fun of by kids when you lunch box smells like curry! Looking back, I think I should have appreciated the love my mother put into making sure I had a great, hearty lunch everyday.
She could have easily just given me a few bucks to buy lunch. Although as a child, I may have wanted that instead, to save myself the embarrassment and eat pizza everyday, but the love she put into meals gave “soul food” a whole new meaning.
Participating in sports, cheerleading and other extracurricular activities was a foreign experience for my parents. Back in their day (in their respective countries), they did not have organized activities in their schools. When it was time for my brother and me to join different clubs, my parents had no clue how to partake.
My brother joined a little league baseball team. Baseball is a sport you don’t find in South Asia. My mother and I went to every single game. At first, she didn’t know how the game worked. She would sit near parents of other boys who were on my brother’s team. When they would cheer and clap, she would look over and start to clap. When they seemed displeased with the umpire’s call, my mother would give the “ump” disapproving looks. This went on until she finally understood the game! She was so devoted to doing things that would make her kids happy.
In my late teens, I decided to start competing in pageants. That was something I didn’t think my parents would support because they were somewhat conservative. Sure enough, since they realized it was something that made me happy, they automatically supported it. It also helped that some were scholarship competitions. Plus, it was a great asset to my career since it helped me with stage presence and overall presentation. Besides it is a great “feet-wetting” experience. Once you trip in front of hundreds of people on a stage, stumbling over your words on live television is not that bad!
During these competitions, family and friends can purchase a limitless amount of tickets to watch the show. Some contestants had cheering sections that could put fans of professional sports to shame. I am talking about signs, blow horns and pom-poms. Others were not so lucky. Some contestants didn’t have that kind of support from their family or friends. Others could not afford tickets to cheer on their girl.
One of my favorite memories of my father that I will cherish forever involves pageants. When I would take the stage, I felt lucky because my dad would get out of his seat and holler loud enough that people in China could hear! The cheers from my friends and family always resonated and echoed in the auditorium.
But when my fellow competitors would take their turn on stage and the claps for them were weak, my father would stand up and start cheering their name and getting the crowd clapping for whoever was on stage! He was relentless in making sure the entire audience would cheer on that contestant.
Sometimes it would be louder than it was during my turn, but I never cared. You would think I would be embarrassed to hear him (with his Pakistani accent) yelling and screaming, “Yeah, you can do it, Gooooo (insert contestant’s name)!” Instead, I would be backstage telling others, “That’s my dad! That’s my dad doing that!” He made me so proud to be his daughter.
This became a tradition in the New Jersey pageant circuit. People knew that if I was in the competition, my dad would be in the audience. If my dad was in the audience, many other contestants felt so happy knowing that “Mr. C” (as some of them would call him) would be there to cheer them on too.
Because of his cheers, (without him even knowing it) my father taught me about integrity and sportsmanship. It showed me that win or lose, never forget about having a good heart. Pageant sashes and crowns will come and go, but my self-respect should always be top priority.
Now that I am “all grown up,” sometimes it is hard for my parents to accept that I am an adult. In their eyes, I will always be that curious child who would follow them around the house. I will always be that little girl who wanted piggy-back rides as soon as my dad walked in the house (not to embarrass myself, but those rides lasted until 6th or 7th grade). I will always be their little girl.
As the years go on, I slowly have to deal with the realization that my parents are not immortal. I wish they were and if I knew how to make them live forever, I would. I don’t think it is possible for them to truly know how much I love them and how much I appreciate what they have done for my brother and me. I try to treasure every moment I have with them and hold onto these wonderful memories I have of them.
I am not a parent yet, that’s if you don’t include my dog Nala. But when I become one, if I can be 50% as good as they are, then I know my children will be in good hands.
In conclusion, with Father’s Day this weekend, remember to cherish your dad, your mom, your entire family.
And a direct message to my parents: I cannot thank you enough for giving me this life. Without you, I would not be who I am today. Without your sacrifices, I would not be successful. Without you, I would be nothing. Thank you! Baby loves you!