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Tribute to my Tiger Dad

Oct 09, 2023

In September, 19 years ago, my father, Dr Zahurul Hoque Bhuiya, tragically passed away in his mid-50s. 

I wanted to pay tribute to him as his parenting style helped me become who I am today and will be a lesson to many…

Because, you see, my dad was …..

A TIGER DAD! ­čÉ»

Old school from Bangladesh (so he was a ‘Bengal Tiger’! ­čÉů

He grew up in a village so small and so poor that there was often no electricity; you needed a boat to get to the nearest town; and he went to school on horse!

Dad was ferociously ambitious. He trained hard to take his family out of poverty and after decades of hard work, graduated from Dhaka Medical College.

By the late 70s, he had trained as a GP and set up his own private practice in Preston, Lancashire. 

From my youngest years, Dad set the highest expectations of me. 

‘You have to get As.’

‘Advanced studies. You must study in advance.’

So keen was he for my education that he would have me read broadsheet newspapers to him every evening and test me on challenging vocabulary!

By the age of 7 I had to copy out thick science textbooks; by the age of 9 I had read the entire collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories (over 1000 pages).

When I was 11, I remember him buying me a boring looking Letts GCSE Geography Revision Guide, and saying. ‘Study this. Advanced!’  ­čśä

Though his methods were unconventional and impractical, they definitely left their mark. 

I often was the hardest worker in the class, and I could easily outreach or outwrite anywone. 

No doubt this led me to straight A’s in English both at GCSE and A-level, before becoming one of the UK’s most qualified Muslim male English teachers and tutors.

Although he would have been surprised that I became an entrepreneur, I think his courage to set up the business of a doctors surgery without any support/guidance was extremely entrepreneurial.

My dad’s lifestyle and habits have influenced my coaching in other ways as well. 

Despite working long hours, he was fanatical about taking us on weekend outings, annual holidays and social gatherings. 

We visited countless National Trust sites, museums and tourist attractions around the UK (Mum, brother and I were sometimes bored out of our minds, but you look back and really appreciate the effort he went to). 

He was an active member of the Bangladesh Doctor’s Medical Association (BDMA) and also met up with classmates from Dhaka University. Every few months there would be fancy reunions in 4* hotels, Indian restaurants or doctors’ mansions. It was an impressive network of Bengali doctors and I could enjoy this parallel universe of chilling out with rich doctors’ kids. 

No doubt his social dynamism has influenced my own ability to bring people together, organize gatherings and proactively nurture my friendships. 

And he was pretty active in his home life. I can always picture him sat on the living room sofa, with a pile of books and his Bengali newspaper covering his face. He played cricket for a county club, was skilful at badminton and wrote poems, essays and articles. He invited friends over regularly and contributed to the local Bengali cultural events. And we travelled to India, Bangladesh, Paris, Switzerland, Umrah, Italy and Holland.

This is possibly why I have always fiercely guarded my free time outside work. Alhamdulillah, my wife and I are one of the only couples I know who consistently spend hours every single evening playing board games, reading, conversing or watching movies together. We also are addicted to having cottage holidays several times a year and have had our fair share of foreign travel to Malaysia, Turkey, Hajj, Umrah, Switzerland, Jordan, UAE, Kuwait and Bangladesh. 

Dad was very generous. Aside from regularly contributing actively to Bangladesh flood appeals, he spent freely on his family - both abroad and home. We had anything we wanted and he rarely refused a request. Almost 20 years on from his death, we still are benefitting from his mubarak financial inheritance. I think I’ve taken on this spirit of giving; my wife and son will often boast of the number of dinners, holidays and treats I lavish on them. And I’ve been moved to do a few charity appeals in my time. It’s funny, but only now, by writing this, am I realizing how much I learned from my father. 

Dad was not religious, but, I thank Allah, he had a spiritual awakening close to his death and died in a state of dhikr. He was not perfect by any means, but the many, many good qualities I recount above outweigh the bad. I am truly grateful for his loving, intentional parenting and pray Allah grants him. 

Although this article is about my dad, I must briefly mention Mum - who’s still alive, Allah shukr. They say ‘Behind every great man is a great woman’ and she was the picture of a stereotypical, hardworking housewife who made all dad’s crazy dinners and socials possible. She was an amazing cook, homemaker and supporter of the family. Whereas Dad was the ‘jalal’ - the tough, dictatorial authority figure, Mum was the ‘jamal’ - loving, soft and attentive to our needs. 

And she taught me Deen. Out of the 100s of doctors wives, she was the only one who wore hijab. Every day, I heard her chanting of Surah Yasin, Waqiah and Mulk. Every day she prayed for my guidance. 

So my religiosity - the ‘Islamic’ part of my time management - is down to her influence. I would have been completely lost without her. 

I hope my story inspires you with your own parenting. I’ve learned a lot just writing this! My enduring reflection is that as parents, our ACTIONS speak so much louder than any nagging, any scolding, any words. 

Dad lived work-life synergy. He showed a passion for study, learning and erudition which backed up his high expectations. Today parents complain and tell off their kids for not reading or studying, when their own bookshelves are empty and they themselves spend more time on social media rather than gaining beneficial knowledge. 

If we want to continue the great legacy of previous generations we must be attentive to their great traits, while avoiding their errors. 

My dad was an epitome of vision, courage and massive action. 

I fully intend to live those traits, add to them, and pass them on to you, my readers and my clients. 

Pray for my father, all our deceased and our Ummah, and let’s strive to unlock our unlimited potential for the sake of Allah.

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