My father, affectionately called Zia Sahib by everyone, died on April 22, 2004, i.e. eight years ago, at the ripe old age of 80. That dreadful Thursday evening, he had his supper and medication; I was with him in his room and talking to him while he was sitting upright in his chair, listening with his eyes closed, and suddenly I realised that he had died. I found it all so shocking. Even today, I am torn apart to think that there was nothing I could do to help him. Literally speaking, he died peacefully in my arms.

With his passing away, the country not only lost a veteran journalist, but also a thorough professional. During his long association with The Pakistan Times, which he joined in its early days as a Sub-Editor, he became the Resident Editor of its Rawalpindi Edition when it was launched. He also worked as the General Manager of Progressive Papers Limited. He remained the publisher of weekly Viewpoint for about four years.

He was, indeed, a highly disciplined and balanced person, and tried to instil these qualities into all those who worked for him. He trained scores of raw hands in the intricacies of the profession of journalism. Many of those who were trained by him are working in different newspapers in the country and abroad. Not only that, he was for many years, a visiting faculty member at the Department of Journalism, University of the Punjab. Today, many of his students are eminent journalists.

Anyway, I often feel that if a loved one can disappear forever, then nothing is safe and secure. Although I had a loving father, I felt as if I was making my way in the world with a profound emptiness.

The feeling of being rootless, of having no solid ground, of being without an anchor was something that I have become uneasy with. I had no core sense of self and realise that something was absolutely ripped out of me that could not be replaced. When I began my search, I realised that there was something completely missing for the rest of my life and it affects, to some degree, every decision that I have made. Throughout my life I felt like I did not measure up, in part because maybe I was alien.

On April 22, 2004, the world as I knew and understood ceased to exist. My natural order of life had been replaced by an unnatural order of death. No aspect of my life was untouched by the loss of my father. I realised that anything and everything I hoped for was swept away in an instant. I felt as if I would not be able to overcome it. After his death, I remember feeling like the world had ended. I felt as if my world was shattered and like a small child who could not control his own movements, let alone comprehend the enormity of the event.

Now, however, I like the person I have become……an ability to be sensitive to the needs of others, a sense of independence and self-reliance, determination to preserve, especially during difficult times; fate has made me who I am. Don’t give up hope. Grief can feel like fear, I think the sensations are the same. When your search is completed everything feels so changed, so unknown, so awful. Yet, you will survive. You may struggle and , in the process, may be hurt and cry, but you will go on to become courageous and strong. There is a Chinese proverb that reads: “You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying overhead, but you can prevent them from building a nest in your hair.”

The true measure of a person is not his achievements, but rather the way in which he or she adapts to life’s changes. I know I have a choice to make my life different and I know that the anger and resentment would only lead to self-destruction. I am the only one responsible for my own destiny and my own future.