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“My relationship with my father has definitely evolved, since I was in school or college. When you’re a child, you hardly know your dad. You take the pocket money he gives you and that’s it. But, when you start working, you interact with your father differently. I definitely wish I could spend more time with him. When I’m in a problem, the first person I think about is my dad. I can just give him a call and he will resolve it. Once, I had to make a very important business decision and I needed advice. He was there for me and helped me out. He told me what to do and I was grateful. He has always been a practical man and is quite frank, and I try to be that way with my children. Earlier, I was a mama’s boy, but when you interact with your father, things change. He’s more of a friend to me now, than anything else.”

Harmeet Rajpal
48-year-old Indian businessman based in Dubai

“My father is my hero. He had the strongest willpower. My parents separated when I was young and it was devastating for me as a child. But, growing up, my dad made sure that we felt loved and nurtured. He dedicated his life to his children. I still remember how he would try to spend time with us, even after a busy day at work. One tradition I won’t forget is how he would often order midnight snacks and we would watch movies together and catch up on how our day was. I now do the same with my children. I learned the value of spending time with my family from my father. I drew strength from him during difficult times. He was always by my side, loved me unconditionally and never judged me, no matter how bad my life choices would be. That’s why when he passed away three years ago, I was lost. I also wanted to give up on life, but somehow I feel my father is still guiding me through life. The values he taught me are what keep me going.”

Shafelyn Chu
40-year-old Filipino account manager based in Dubai

“I can’t imagine a life without my father. I might have grown into a man of my own but I will always borrow things I’ve learnt from him. Growing up, I had to directly rely on his guidance but even now, I apply the things I had learnt from him in the past. As you age, you might feel like your father’s presence is no longer needed but there will always be a time you’d need him or look back at the things he had taught you. Keeping control of your emotions and dealing with family issues appropriately are some things I’ve learnt. Now, I want to make sure I do that for my son, I want to make sure I’m the father he’d always feel influenced by.”

Osama Ahmad
31-year-old Pakistani senior transportation and city planner based in Sharjah

“A father-daughter relationship has to be one of the most special things in life. With my father and I, it is always about cracking jokes, teasing one another and having a good time. All relationships have their ups and downs, but there’s something about my father’s personality that always makes me feel protected. Even though my parents don’t live in the UAE anymore, he never made me feel like he was going away. He would say: ‘Don’t worry, I’m only a phone call away.’ These words gave me the confidence to go on and face my struggles. He knows me so well that he can understand my expressions and knows if something is wrong. When we are young, we don’t understand the importance of time and take things for granted. Spending 30 minutes with your father after a busy day is extremely valuable and small moments like these matter. Our relationship has influenced me to set a standard of what to expect from men. It has impacted my self-confidence, my ability to judge people’s character and has taught me to stand up for myself. My father will always be my hero.”

Sahar Shah
23-year-old Indian leisure group specialist based in Dubai

“My relationship with my dad changed as I grew up. At one point, it got a little bit rocky and we had our differences, but we soon found a balance again. I do not manage to spend enough time with him because of his work and my university schedule, but when we do spend time, we talk, play volleyball, go fishing and play cards. I am definitely close to my dad. Recently, I was having a lot of trouble at university and I just couldn’t get myself to focus. Things were spiralling out of control, but he was very supportive. Even when I did not pass some courses, he said I could do better and tried to help me figure it out. He was there for me. He would talk to me and encourage me. When things go bad, I just think of him.”

Maya Abdullah
22-year-old Egyptian student based in Abu Dhabi

“The one thing I have always appreciated about my father is that he diligently listens to all of my ideas and problems, and provides solutions accordingly. My father is a person who has always wished for a joyous life, without any greed or hassle. I, personally, as an ambitious teenager, was not a fan of this ideology, but as I grew older and opened up more to my father, I tried to understand what he was saying and view it from my father’s perspective. I found some things to be really inspiring, which I might not have realised before, like dealing with different types of people and keeping a balance between work and social life. There are some valuable lessons only a father can give to his son on the basis of his experience, love and care. Fathers are truly a blessing.”

Rayed Jawad
18-year-old Bangladeshi student based in Sharjah

“Growing up, my father was my first teacher. He guided me through all the obstacles of life, helping me to make the right choices and decisions. Even though he isn’t home all day, I wait for him to come back so I can share stories of what I’ve done all day. He taught me aikido, a modern Japanese martial art, and I can discuss sports with him. When I was eight years old, I used to go for ice skating classes. Once, I was practicing for a competition when I fell and broke my leg. I could not walk and was unhappy seeing other children running around. But, he lifted me, physically and psychologically. I believe that the first impression you get of any other man or boy is influenced by your relationship with your father. If it is good, you can cope with other men, too.”

Diya Mazumdar
13-year-old Indian pupil based in Dubai

“When he comes home from work, we watch movies together, we go swimming, walk and cook together. He also takes time to paint with me. I love him more than anything in the world and he always tells me he loves me, too. At bedtime, he doesn’t fall asleep until I do. He tells me: ‘Take care of all the things around you, like other people, and even plants and animals’. And that’s how I will take care of this planet. He always reminds me to say ‘thank you’ and ‘please’, when someone gives me something. He also always tells me that nothing is impossible for me to do and I can do anything in this world.”

Felicia Rajeev
Six-year-old Indian pupil based in Dubai

“Being the oldest of five children has had an impact on my relationship with my father. His expectations from me are different. I don’t spend a lot of time with my dad, but he has always been a balanced voice of reason for me. I won’t call him my friend, but he is a guiding force in my life. When I was in the fourth grade, I wanted to get selected for the interschool athletics team and he knew that I really wanted to participate in it. He’s not an athlete, but he would take me down to Muraqqabat Street, Dubai, where we used to live, and made sure that I was pushing myself to train. He would always say that I needed to be a tiger. And while running, all I could think about was being that tiger. I ultimately did get selected. Even though that’s a small incident, he has always encouraged me to really push my limits.”

Jasem Bangara
30-year-old Indian business development manager based in Dubai

“My father and I are really close and I tell him everything! Even if something embarrassing happens at school, I share it with him. Even though he works full-time, he finds time to be with me. We talk, have dinner and if he doesn’t have to go back to work, we go out. I am a swimmer and during one of my competitions, I was really nervous. He made it a lot better by motivating me. He’s a cricketer and is also interested in sports. He told me that I should never think negatively, know my goals and work towards them, without losing hope and focus. I was determined after that! Another thing we have in common is our fear of heights and so if we visit a theme park, my mum and sister go on the rides, while dad and I sit it out. Over time, a bond between a daughter and father gets stronger.”

Aardhra Sundar
14-year-old Indian student based in Dubai

“Our bond was deep and strong. He was affectionate but strict, too. There was a distance, between me, a child, and my father. The most important thing I learned from him was his care towards everyone in the family and his meticulous way of handling different situations. He took good care of every aspect of our lives and gave us everything he could afford. All my actions as a husband and a father are inspired by my memory of him. When I need to take decisions as a father, his example helps me prioritise. I have never felt that he wasn’t important in my life and it’s beyond my imagination to perceive that. His upbringing has helped me raise my daughters and maintain a strong relationship with my wife by giving them the respect they deserve.”

M. A. Josekutty
58-year-old Indian retired professional based in Dubai

“My relationship with my father has become much better than before. We are not very close and I probably won’t talk to him about things that are going on in my life. But, I get a lot of comfort from knowing that he’s around. When my mom moved away for work, it was just him and I. I had to build a relationship with him that was beyond just, ‘you are my dad’. I remember a time when I was moving abroad for college and he knew when I needed help. I felt like he just figured out that I really needed support for things like opening a bank account and other grown-up things. He stayed for a week after my mother visited me. He knew I needed someone from home to be around. We don’t have an emotional connection, but we spent a lot of time together. He has definitely taught me never to be dependent or indebted to someone else.”

Divya Suri
21-year-old Indian student based in Dubai


— Falah Gulzar is an intern with Gulf News.