He and my mother, Fauzia, divorced when I was three. My father was my primary care giver. I am sure it was unsettling, but my memories have always been with him. He would cut my hair, take me to school, do my homework with me.
My father raised me as a single parent until I was eight. He brought me to my love of books and writing. I remember being in Syria, where I grew up, and him promsing me, at the age of four, that he would take me to the school library. He built up the day and told me what a library was like – an amazing place for books that you could borrow and take home and borrow more if you took care of them.
My father never pushed me into politics; but whenever I gave him an outrageous suggestion of what I wanted to be – at one point, a swimmer – he would say, “What about being a foreign minister, like your grandfather?”
My dad passed on his love of James Bond movies to me. Even though Syria was a closed place in the 1980s, somehow you could still get James Bond films. We would watch them on VHS. There was always a debate around if you were a Sean Connery fan or Roger Moore. I liked Sean. He played Bond like a killer and Moore played Bond like a lover – which makes you torn between the two, I guess.
My father was shot and killed when I was 14, in 1996. I was just starting the ninth grade at Karachi American School. I had some great male friends around who were very kind to me at that period in my life. Their protective instincts kicked in.
After my father’s death, my younger brother Zulfi and I were sent back to Syria to live because we didn’t know if Pakistan was safe or what would happen to us.
I was very excited about having a baby brother. I always took on a very protective role – I’d get upset about his grades, or him not doing schoolwork. If he didn’t do well on a test, he didn’t have to worry about his mother, Ghinwa – it was me who got upset. He is now 29, an artist in San Francisco.
Professor Dennis Dalton taught me political theory at Barnard College in Columbia. At the time I didn’t think political theory was my cup of tea, but he was so electrifying.
He was also a political activist in America in the 1950s and ’60s and hid Malcolm X in his home. He introduced me to Malcolm X’s autobiography – a journey from anger and fear to openness and compassion. It was a real political awakening.
I was confused about my country at that time. I didn’t know how to feel about my father’s death, I was angry about his murder and Dennis was helpful in guiding my thoughts and evolution. I did my thesis with him and he influenced me as a writer.
A.A. Gill, the late British writer and critic, was also a great friend. I always admired his humour and ability to condense and observe life around him. I have never had a friend like him before and know I never will again.
I prefer not to speak about my private life. I have spent most of my 20s and 30s focused on working and writing. I guess marriage one day would be nice.
New Kings of the World: Dispatches from Bollywood, Dizi and K-Pop (New South Books) by Fatima Bhutto is out now.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale January 19.
Jane lives in Melbourne, spends her time collecting vinyl records, shops at Victoria Market and spends too much on shoes. She’s big on leopard print accessories, has been writing about fashion, music and lifestyle over two decades.