I didn’t even know your name was Nizami for the first few years of my life. My grandpa was my dad.
We had a health check at school once a year. That was the only time when someone would ask our father’s name. I said Heydar. They couldn’t find me on the list. But there was Gulara on the list and her dad’s name was Nizami. When the nurse said it was me, I felt awkward. My face was burning. What did my classmates thought of me? Anyway, I came home and found my birth certificate. Inside, your name was written in large neat letters.
One day, I decided I wanted to know how you looked. You probably knew about Azerbaijani superstition: If a girl looks like her dad, she’d be happy in life (translation: happily married when she grows up). Anyway, I raided all our photo albums, and eventually found a photo of a young man. On the back of the photo there was a short message: ‘From Nizami to Mehriban with love.’ Elated, I carried the photo with me everywhere. I carefully examined your photo trying to find some resemblance.
There was none.
I looked nothing like the man on the photo. Resigned to an unhappy future, I was still pleased to find that photo. On one occasion, the photo accidentally slipped out my book, and I nearly got in trouble for it.
‘Who are you dating,’ my mum confronted me.
I had to tell her it was your photo.
When I showed her the photo, she laughed.
‘You thought it was your dad? It’s my cousin. He sent this photo when he was serving his conscription.’
She said if I wanted to see you, she could arrange for us to meet up. Except… It would break my grandparents’ hearts. They might think they were not good parents to me.
I said ‘no.’
I didn’t want to be ungrateful towards my grandparents. And now you are gone for good. I will never see you in person. But at least I have your photos now. I was 36 when I found my auntie and she gave me two of your photos.
At least I now know I looked like you.
May you rest in peace. I’m sorry we didn’t get to meet each other in this lifetime. I’m so sorry, I never had a chance to get to know you. I’m so sorry, you didn’t get to know me.
Thank you for my life. Thank you for my name.