There once was a man named Qutab Din who was a lower class farmer in India. He didn’t have much, but he was always smiling. He worked all day and lived in a very small house, but he was still always smiling. Sometimes in the street, people would ask him,
“Sir, why are you always smiling? It seems that you don’t have very much.”
To which he would respond,
“No, I have everything I need.”
I don’t know much about my great grandfather. The only way I could get information about him was from my father, and he doesn’t remember much.
But what I do know is that he was a simple man who lived right next to the river where the scent of jasmines floated in through his window in the late 1800’s of Amritsar, India.
Sometime in the 1920’s my great grandfather had a son, my grandfather, or Nana. His name was Ali Ghor.
My grandfather was also a lower class farmer in Amritsar, India, just like his father. In his free time, what little he used to have of it, my grandfather used to draw and write and he also loved music. My father says his father was an amazing writer and could create a story out of anything. Sometimes, my grandfather would spend the entire night listening to na’ats, which are melodic poems about the Islamic prophet, Muhammad (pbuh)
I was surprised to learn that my grandfather used to write, because I love to write. Maybe I got my love of writing from him.
My grandfather lived his whole life as a farmer in a small village in Amritsar, India.
In 1945, my grandfather got married to my grandmother, Mohammad Bibi.
The British rule over India ended in 1947 and the partition of India created the separate states of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. After this partition, riots broke out all over the Punjab Province. There were many fights between Sikhs and Muslims. Thankfully, my grandfather never had to experience this.
In 1947, Abdul Mehtab Razzaq, my father, was born.
The oldest of 7 children, my father wasn’t very close with his siblings. During his childhood, he remembered playing soccer and cricket outside with his friends.
His family practiced Islam, just like mine does, but they weren’t very religious, so there weren’t very many traditions going on in his house. Being in a lower class family in India, he didn’t get to experience the big traditional parts of religious holidays.
Every year on Eid, the only thing my father remembered doing was going to Eid namaaz, or prayer, and then coming right back home afterwards. Usually, Eid is a big holiday where you go to parties and eat a bunch of food and visit all you family and it lasts for 3 days. My father never experienced that until he started a family in America.
In 1971, my father graduated from the University of the Punjab in Lahore, Pakistan with a major in economics.
In 1972, my father decided to travel around Europe. He first stayed in the Netherlands for 1 month and it was then that he realized how much more there was to the world than just Amritsar, India.
He then stayed in Frankfurt, Germany for 3 years where he worked as a sales representative for a company that sold Pakistani products. While living in Germany he also visited England, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Spain in 1973. My father says that it was during his time in Europe that he met some of the most amazing people ever.
“I wish I was still in touch with them all. I want to know what they’re up to. They were all magnificent.”
My father decided to come to America in 1975 to pursue his dream of being a businessman, and he’s been here ever since. He opened many businesses during his early years in America. His first year here, he opened a clothing store called Razzaq Imports. In 1978, he bought a restaurant in Brooklyn, New York but then closed it the next year because it was a business failure.
In 1978 my father moved to Fort Lee, New Jersey. In 1980, he was employed by Dubois Chemicals as a sales representative. In 1982, he opened his own business; Sunstate Chemical Specialties which specialized in the distribution of industrial building maintenance supplies. He then retired in 2014.
He got married for the first time in April of 1980 and had 2 kids; Nasr Francisco Razzaq and Brenda Jasmine Razzaq. I’ve never met them before. His first marriage failed and he got a divorce in 1992.
My father then got remarried to my mother in 1992. He had my sister, Eram in 1993 and my other sister, Umber “Bela”, in 1995.
And then there was me. My name is Sidra Anam Razzaq. I’m almost 16 years old, I go to Teaneck High School, and I have the freedom to be whoever I want to be and become whatever I want to be.
I am here because of all the people who came before me. My great grandfather was a lower class farmer in India. He had my grandfather who was also a lower class farmer in India. My father came into this world in 1947 and came to America in 1975 and started his life here. If it weren’t for all who came before me, I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this right now.
I’m proud of my story.