The Grandfather I Never Knew

by | Jul 20, 2011

The following content is the opening of a book I am working on. It is my property and copyright protected, any unauthorized reproduction will be subject to copyright laws.

Every now and then, when my family got together for dinner, I would stare at his picture on the wall. As the naans and biriyani and dal were being passed around, I would find myself glancing over to his portrait. There was something so familiar in his eyes, something so warm, like I had met him before. And yet, it was the only picture of him I had ever seen. It was a black and white portrait. He was wearing a white collared shirt. He was slightly balding but his hair was still deep, dark, and black.

His skin was dark like mine.

His name was Bashir-Ud-Deen but my father called him Abu. He was my grandfather and mere months before I was born he passed away from complications during heart surgery.

Bashir-Ud-Deen. It’s a Pakistani name. Everyone was shocked to hear of his passing. He was well loved, charming, and bit of a jokester. He was highly respected and always surrounded by people. My family says he had a big heart. When I was a child I thought they meant that literally. I thought they were saying that his heart was just too big for his chest. I remember thinking: maybe that’s why he passed away.

At 28 years old I still sit and wonder about this man that so many people liken me to. I try to imagine the way he spoke, what his voice sounded like. And what about his hands, were they large? If I held them would they be smooth or rough? And what about these jokes? Would I find them funny? Would I be retelling them to all of my friends?

A family portrait shared by my great uncle, Muneer.

Researching really is what I do best. In a feeble attempt to find out more about the grandfather I never knew, I tried to Google him. Did you mean Basher? No Google, I meant Bashir. Did you mean Paula Deen? No, this is useless.

And then, on the third or fourth page, at the very bottom of a scanned book, I find a picture. Could it be him? I can’t tell, I have only ever seen the one picture of him hanging on my grandmother’s wall. And the caption reads: “Club President and sawmill operator, Bashir-Ud-Deen.” It is the back of his head and the picture is grainy but I can tell it must be him.

This picture could maybe lead to more answers, answers about a man I know nothing about, and yet feel like I owe the world to. For if it weren’t for him, I would have never existed. And so begins a journey to find this mystery man…the one with the big heart.



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