In November 2011, a mere two months in my new post as a university lecturer, I had clarity about my life purpose: I was here, in this life, to teach and to write, but this was not the right content. I knew of no other content I could take on. By then I had been teaching law for 10 years. I was stuck doing this job forever, I reflected gloomily as the first term drew to its close.
In December 2011, I decided to take a trip to Azerbaijan where I originally come from. I had a property to sell and family to visit there. More importantly, I was on a mission to find my father’s grave. My parents were divorced when I was a mere two week old baby. I had never met him. Despite trying to heal this open wound for years, nothing helped. Perhaps, finding his grave could bring some closure, I decided.
All I knew about my dad’s side of the family was that I had an auntie called Tahira who lived in the city centre of my hometown Ganja. On an impulse, I went knocking at people’s gates.
‘Does someone named Tahira live here?’ I asked over and over again.
Eventually, someone pointed me to the gate I might have been looking for. Standing in front of rusting brown gates I wondered whether it was too late to turn around and walk away. What if she despised me? What if she treated me with a sheer contempt? She did not know me after all.
An old skinny man came to the gates. I asked the same question I had been posing for the last hour. Yes, he nodded. Impossible, I thought to myself.
‘Did she have a brother called Nizami?’ I asked doubtfully.
He nodded again. My throat dried up.
‘Can I see her?’
‘Today is not a good day. She is busy. Come back tomorrow.’
‘I will not be here tomorrow. I have to see her now.’ I insisted half-wondering whether I should run. Reluctantly, he shuffled away.
A few minutes later a woman came to the gates. She was in her fifties, wearing a black dress with short black hair. She peered into my face.
‘You look familiar, but I can’t recognise you,’ she said.
‘That’s because we never met before. I am your brother Nizami’s daughter,’ I tried to keep my tears back. I was finally meeting my auntie at age 36! ‘I just want to have his photo,’ I added hastily in case she wondered why I appeared now.
Her response was completely unexpected. She hugged me tight and sobbed heartily. She said she had been waiting for this day for a long time. When tears subsided, she took me through to the house. It got better. It turned out that the family was celebrating her 58th birthday. There were 40 relatives on my dad’s side of the family that I had never met. The love I was showered in was like a healing balm on the part of myself that felt abandoned and not loved for years. That day, I got my dad’s photo and visited his graveyard.
I returned to the UK as a different person. The love expressed so generously transformed me. I did not feel my feet for days. I walked in the cloud of memories, until I decided I did not want to miss a single detail and had to write it all up while it was fresh in my memory.
And just like that my writing journey began.
How did yours start? Please share in the comments section below.