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           Volume 10 |Issue 10| March 11, 2011 |

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A Daughter's Search for a Missing Father

Shudeepto Ariquzzaman

In1978, he came to Bangladesh from the United Kingdom (UK). Since then his son and daughter have not heard of him. But there was always a need to find him. More than three decades later, his daughter Netha Begum Islam came to a foreign land with the hope that she might find her father Fakrul Islam. Islam divorced his English wife and the mother of Netha and her brother in 1974.

Fakrul Islam, before he left the UK, more than three decades ago. Photo: courtesy

"They separated due to religious and cultural differences. My father tried to maintain contact with his children, but my mother was afraid that he would take us away to Bangladesh and refused him access. I know my mother did what she felt was for the best for us," says Netha. However, it was only with immense misery that Netha had to accept that she could never enjoy the affection of her biological father. She wanted to find her father because she wanted him to know how much she loved him and how much she had missed him. "Imagine having a daughter coming to find him after 30 years," she says.

Netha had very little information concerning her father when she came here. She did not know her grandparents's village home except that he might be from Syhlet which is plausible. The majority of immigrants from Bangladesh who went to the UK during those times were overwhelmingly from the region of Syhlet.

It would probably have been better if she had tried to contact his old acquaintances from UK, more specifically in Luton, the city where he settled after landing sometime in the mid 60s.

Unlike nowadays, the Bengali community in Luton and other British cities was small. So those who settled in Luton were a tightly knit community where everyone knew everyone. Netha knew little about her father, but she has heard from her mother that her father had many Bangladeshi friends in Luton.

Although the search for a man who has not been in touch with his family for almost four decades seemed well nigh impossible, Netha was not about to give up hope when she visited The Daily Star office on Saturday March 5. "I am aware that this is a seemingly impossible task," says Netha, a few days before she would get some news of her father. "But my belief is that if it is the will of Allah, I might find him. So I pray for His guidance."

Netha Begum Islam, the search is finally over. Photo: zahedul i khan

Sadly Netha will never see her father again. He died in 1983 of some kind of ailment. This information came out quite unexpectedly after Netha had spoken to a Prothom Alo journalist about her case. The story of Netha's search was printed and by some quirk of fate a relative of Fakrul Islam, his cousin read the online version and immediately recognised his deceased cousin. He called the Prothom Alo office and soon a meeting was arranged between Netha and her paternal uncle. It was devastating for her to know that the person she had been waiting to meet almost all her life, her father, was no more.

Even then Netha does not believe her expedition to Bangladesh has been in vain. She has discovered the heart of Bangladesh, her father's homeland and she is proud to be half Bangladeshi. The willingness and warmth of the Bangladeshi people have moved her. "I have made friends and they are so hospitable," she says describing her Bangladeshi friends. "They have become like a family to me. I believe I see my father's heart reflected in the kindness and hospitality that is mirrored in all those I have met here, and I feel so proud to have Bangladeshi blood running in my veins."

Netha acknowledges the loyalty and depth of bond that is apparent within the Bangladeshi family values. "We call the West a developed country, but when it comes to family infrastructure, Bangladesh is light years ahead."


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