A letter to my sons MH and Maanoo
You are young. Born into a world which changes by the day, if not the minute. And as much as I would love to slow down these precious years, freeze-frame them and treasure them, this is your 100% life to live. My role as your father is to guide you through the turbulence, to be there to introduce you to the dynamics of life, love and relationships, to be a constant voice of reassurance and support as you carve out a life of contentment, happiness and success.
I was just 20 years old, barely a man, when my own father, your grandfather, passed away. I remember him each day and there isn’t a moment that goes by when I don’t wish he could have known you two. He would have been so proud.
But recent events here in South Africa have made me realise that I am even more grateful that you grew up in a household where your grandmother, Zarina, was a loving presence. Where you could see, first hand, the respect afforded to her as a pillar of the family. I burn with pride that your own mother, Saj, is a source of confidence and pride, of ability and intelligence and capability. These are the female role models you will take into your life, which will help to determine how you, in turn, venerate your future wives, your future mothers-in-law and, who knows, maybe even a daughter one day!
Right now hushed conversations about gender violence and women’s rights around the world, and particularly here in South Africa, won’t penetrate the bubble your mother and I have created for you, but one day they will and you will stand appalled at how some men treat women. You will come to realise that other mothers and grandmothers struggle to be heard, must fight tooth and nail for their rights and dignity, and deal with abuse, fear and aggression on a daily basis. Women and girls face a daily battle simply because of their gender.
I have always told you both that I want you to live a 100% life, but that is not to be achieved by stepping on anyone else’s neck in the process. To be happy and contented, to live in a space of abundance and confidence, you first need to empower those around you to be equally gratified. How can that be possible in a world where your future partner is regarded as less than you, or your future daughters are regarded as chattels rather than people with dreams and ambitions?
Mark my words, time and experience will show you that women are not our equal as men. They are superior in so many ways: Women are, on average, better at remembering words and faces than men; they score higher across the board when it comes to leadership skills; they work harder; they handle issues with unending diplomacy and they are phenomenal at building and creating teams around them. They outshine men when it comes to muscle endurance and stamina, not to mention their phenomenal capacity to nurture; which is so fundamental to growing future leaders.
As you get older, you’ll hear men criticise me for saying these things, they’ll respond by highlighting all the ways men are superior to woman. They’ll tear concepts like feminism apart and they’ll make derogatory and degrading comments about women. You handle this by always, always speaking up when you see injustice. You respond with conscious awareness and you never, ever engage in hurtful or demeaning conversations or actions.
Your grandfather, HM, always impressed on me and your uncle the importance of maintaining an impeccable reputation. “My sons are not worth their weight in gold, they are worth their weight in diamonds,” he would tell us. He never wanted to hear that we’d disrespected a woman, used profanities when dealing with colleagues or staff or behaved in a dishonest manner. Ultimately, I hope your mother and I are able to provide you with the foundations you can build on to become men of value – men worth their weight in diamonds.
So much of this will depend on your ability to behave in an exemplary fashion, but also to be sensitive to the challenges and personal difficulties of the people around you. You will encounter women (and men) who have been damaged by life; don’t turn your backs on them, rather make it your business to buoy them up. Show them how men of integrity behave. Show them what respect looks like. Be consistent and caring, allow them to trust again and never break that relationship by treating it as something disposable.
As you begin to understand the world of abundance, you’ll come to put judgement aside, to deal with each person based on their merits and to consciously fill their buckets with positivity to help them grow firm, strong and in confidence.
To do this you need to know yourself, you need to know the people around you, you need to be honest with yourself and avoid self-deception. This is how you honour your own legacy. This is how you become men of value.