Trini Student’s Grandfather Inspires Her Doctoral Journey

Read Samantha Chaitram’s #DadsAndDaughters story. She is currently on a Fulbright Scholarship at the University of Miami in Florida where she is pursuing a Ph.D program in International Studies. She hopes to complete her program in 2017.

The State Department’s #DadsAndDaughters campaign is a global conversation that shows how dads and daughters buck stereotypes, change cultural attitudes, and support each other by advancing gender equality.

“When my dad passed away in 2001, my grandfather became the single most important person in my life. He became my father and my grandfather. When I was awarded a Fulbright scholarship in 2012, I asked my grandpa, what should I do? His response was, “Islam teaches that we must seek as much knowledge as we can find.”

My grandfather is the reason I am here today at the University of Miami pursuing doctoral studies. An Indian Muslim born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1931, my grandfather Emamly Hosein spoke English, Hindi, and Urdu – and read Arabic. He was one of the few of his generation who was literate, and while he never had the opportunity to attend high school, he read everything he got his hands on. While many Indian men of his era only educated their sons and married off their daughters, he broke that tradition. He educated as best as he could his sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters equally. His dream was to see me graduate from an American university with a PhD, write my first book, and see my picture on it.

The advice I would give any father is to give your children a lifetime of commitment and support in whatever they do, to let them know that nobody or nothing else is more important than family. I return to Trinidad every holiday because no matter where you go, home is home. My home with my grandpa and my family gives me a space to rejuvenate, to get a feeling of belonging, love, and security. There is no greater comfort than knowing that your father or grandfather loved you unconditionally – and more than anything in this world. While he is no longer here, he lives on in my heart, as my guiding voice to complete my doctoral journey. I hope to make him proud – as much as he made us proud of him.

On July 25, 2016 my grandfather passed away at the age of 85. He did not live to see that dream, but he knew at least I was almost there. I learned so many lessons from him, but there was one thing he always repeated. He told us that we needed only five things in life: health, strength, knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. If we are healthy and strong we could seek knowledge, and with knowledge we could find wisdom and understanding. His life was one of pure love, personal sacrifice and devotion to his family. It was during his last days and his moment of death that I was most proud of him. He lay on a hospital bed praying and blessing his family with God in his heart to the very end. His every act on this earth was an act of worship. His reward was the joy he gave his family by taking care of us.