That night Baba called me to his room after dinner. Now baba when he wanted to have a "talk" had this way of calling our names which would send shivers down our spines. I automatically assumed that my mama must have said something to him. "Aaj annie ko koee ladka chornay ayaa tha" (trans: Some boy dropped Annie back home) or "Aaj may nay phir is kay bag say cigarette ka pack nikala hai" (trans: Today I found a pack of cigarettes in her bag). Thinking of what would follow I went to his room.
"Beta, Do you know what an inheritance is?" he asked me. Now I knew that he knew that i knew what the word meant and clearly that wasn't a literal question. "Inheritance, you see, is not just the property and assets one acquires from there forefathers. Its a grander thing than that. Its also a set of values your forefathers established for the coming generations to follow. You might not have any assets left behind for you but the greatest gift that has been passed on to you is that you have halal (pure) blood running through your veins. You weren't fed a morsel of food that wasn't hard earned through honest means. Now you have to work towards ensuring that you pass it on to your kids."
At this point I was a little lost. I mean it just sounded so much like he thought I was earning money through dishonest means and I knew that every penny that I had ever earned was hard earned. The students i had were quite a handful.
"Baba, per may tou hamesha haq halal he kamati houn. I have never earned a penny which wasn't earned through halal means."
"Beta, Have you ever seen Nafees Siddiqui come home during working hours and sleep? Have you ever seen your father miss a day's work cause he felt ill or he was sleepy. Every kid that a parent admits to my school trusts me with his most cherished belonging. Wouldn't it make me a cheat if I didn't stay vigilant and ensured that every kid was getting the best of education while he was in my school. How could I ever for a second become lazy and relax and think what I was earning was halal? Halal is not just about the means. Its also about how you do your work. Its about hard work and doing everything to the best of your ability."
Years have gone by and I still remember this conversation. Baba, my father, Nafees Siddiqui was an educationist. He passed away in 2010, leaving behind me and six of my other siblings. He had some odd change in his pocket and that was all that he left behind in terms of assets but when I look around and see the kind of corruption that I see, I often remind myself of my inheritance and six others who I share it with. Times can get worst but I like knowing that I have six mini Nafees Siddiquis who will never cheat, or be lazy at work, or be dishonest with their time. May that never change.