Thursday, 11 October 2012

Dad.

There are and will continue to be various dissections of David Cameron's speech at the Conservative Party Conference; what he said, what he didn't say, what he should have said, what he shouldn't have said, what he avoided saying and so on. So-called political pundits, most of them with very little at stake, armchair activists and indignant bloggers will second-guess and interpret what they read between the lines. We'll hear more about what they think he said instead of what he actually said, ignoring that he leads a party with a splintered opinion, which in turn governs a nation with an even more splintered opinion. Most of course don't have any idea how difficult reconciling everything into one coherent message is. But then that's just how the game goes.

I liked the speech. I liked it a lot. Pretty much all of what he said made sense to me. It would, after all I voted for him and his party. The direction we're taking and the things he said ensures I will continue to do so.


There was however, one part of the speech that hit home more than any other. It actually brought a lump to my throat, and yes, I gave in. I did cry a bit. It was the part about his Dad. It sounded like someone I know.


As it happens, I do have a hard luck story. My Dad was a buccaneer of a businessman in what is best described as the wild frontier of the wild, wild west. Except it was in Afghanistan of the 80s and the 90s. Of two decades of severe collectivist ideology - the first one communist (the Soviets) and the second religious (the Taleban and their predecessors). Having lost him over 22 years ago, I have learned one thing: The true value of the wisdom you consider overbearing preaching, the protectiveness you consider undue smothering and the boundaries you consider to be some kind of imprisonment only dawn on you when they're gone. Today, I would give anything for 10 minutes with him, if only to ask, "What do I do now, Dad?" and yes, "I love you Dad." Somehow I always feel I never said that enough.



The eldest of four, my Dad was afflicted with polio at a very young age, probably even before he learned to walk. He spent the rest of his life with one leg in steel callipers, a stick in one hand and in constant pain. His three siblings and his four children surpassed his height even before they hit puberty, but my Dad towered over everyone else. From less than humble beginnings, his indomitable will and determination built a business spread over five countries from scratch. He was a pioneer; among the first of a generation to travel the world, to own a colour television, to buy a Mercedes Benz, and to send his children to a boarding school - which he chose by simply asking, "Which one is the best?" instead of how much. He was going to find the money, somehow. While rockets flew overhead and bombs exploded at every street corner, he slaved away, in the snow, in the cold, against all odds, living for his family - his parents, his brothers, his children, his mother. All this despite his disability and his health. He wasn't an only child, but as I learned later in life, he was a lonely child - perhaps even a lonely grown-up. Even so, he was always optimistic, his glass was always half full. And yes, it was usually with something alcoholic in it. His peers called him 'Tiger', and the name stuck. He was just as rare as one.

In the end it wasn't his health or disability or refills of his glass that got him. It was the goodness of his heart. He gave. He gave like no other, while others took without as much as a 'by your leave'. It was his broken heart that slowly withered him and eventually his little frame gave in. As a teenager, I watched it happen before my very eyes. Today I am constantly surrounded by faces of those who took and though the rage inside me has fermented during all these years, I know how he would have wanted me to be. He'd want me to get on with it. He'd want me to know that I'm powerful beyond my wildest dreams and that all I need to do is work hard. He did it with one functioning leg while carrying his parents, his siblings, his children and a surprising number of dependant extended family members on his shoulders, in a country where if you don't work, you die. He turned his hard luck story into a hard work one. 


David Cameron's speech just reminded me that I have to do the same.
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