Oh! Father I miss you

Habib Tanvir had extraordinary strength of character and zest for life that inspired him to love more than one woman and be the father of two daughters and an affectionate grandfather to three grandsons

Anna Tanvir France

My father was not only a father figure to thousands of people but was a real father to me and a fond grandfather to my three sons.

As a boy, he dreamed of having a large family and living a simple life amid the tranquility of the countryside. He imagined himself surrounded by wildlife that he would observe and from which he would learn. He also longed for a small wooden hut in which he would write. His love of nature, humanity and simplicity would have been fulfilled by such a way of life. But it was not a dream he was to realise in the literal sense. He did not know then that he was destined to become a legendary figure in the world of theatre and that he would not fulfil his childhood aspirations. Indeed, he travelled constantly, worked ceaselessly in a mostly urban context, and had very little time to himself. As he grew older, there were further demands on his time and he became increasingly keen to find a peaceful place to write in.

Two years ago, at the age of 84, he set himself the enormous challenge of coming once again to visit me, his three grandsons and my mother Jill Christie, whom he fondly referred to as his "first wife", in the middle of the French Loire Valley. His other daughter, my sister Nageen, came for the first time. Had anyone looked through the window of my French farmhouse home, they would have seen a grandfather sitting by the fire smoking his pipe, alongside his first wife, daughters, and three grandchildren as he talked to them about the lives of monkeys. Nageen and I sang, and my mother, too, sang and we ate together and lived a fortnight of real family harmony. Each day he walked very slowly and carefully around the field to visit the ducks and hens. The wooden house that he dreamt of as a boy was being built in the field next door; he took real pleasure in discussing its design.

He had hoped to come back later this year to see the wooden house completed and to spend more time surrounded by family. Sadly, despite his extraordinary determination, tenacity and marvellous enthusiasm for life, he did not live long enough to return. I am so grateful to have had that precious time with my father before it was too late, and I feel that somehow, his boyish dreams did come true.

My father led a rich and colourful life in which he achieved huge professional success which is widely acknowledged and about which I do not need to write.
I am hugely grateful to his extraordinary strength of character and zest for life that inspired him to love more than one woman and be the father of two daughters and an affectionate   grandfather to three grandsons.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: NOVEMBER 2009