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Aut Viam Inveniam Aut Faciam This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

It was a very warm night and my father was listening to his usual Bengali news before going to bed. At midnight, he came into my bedroom to check on me. I was studying for an eighth grade U.S. History exam. We conversed a little, and then I said, “Can you please close the door behind you, Abu?” At three in the morning, I was awoken by my mother’s shrieks. Running to my parents’ room, I saw a bluish body gasping for air. My brother began administering CPR, but I just stood in a corner, paralyzed. The ambulance took my parents to the hospital and I was instructed not to worry, to go to bed, to go to school the next morning. But how could I sleep? On my way to school, I saw a pigeon fly into a bus stand and die. An omen, but I tried to put it out of my head. Abu was pronounced dead at noon.

My family came to America because we won a visa lottery; a fluke. I was seven. My father had been a Bengali Literature professor in Bangladesh, but here he could only be a store clerk, a sacrifice that he made for the rest of us. My mother is a personal care assistant, and with three children to take care of, we had little to live on; still, we send money to Lohagara and Pachuria. My grandmothers and my family depend on it. We always felt that winning the lottery had nothing to do with merit; it was luck, so we spread it around.

Do you know the formula for converting Fahrenheit to Celsius? My father used to ask me questions like that every morning while I was still asleep. He drove me to school daily, and insisted on talking about whatever topic was on the BBC: politics, culture, the economy. My favorite subject was always Latin, and after Abu died, I knew I could turn there for wisdom, for a motto to keep going. Aut viam inveniam aut faciam. “I will either find a way or I will make one”. We buried Abu during a light rainy Friday, another omen, a Muslim day of purification. I stood there thinking about the name my father had given me. Esrat:light. Jahan: universe. Bristee: rain. That seemed an omen too. Abu was quiet, but he kept everything centered. In his death, he still does so. I now pray five times daily and fast during Ramadan. In my prayers, I make four specific petitions: forgiveness for my Abu on Judgment Day for any sins he may have committed health for my Ammu and Bhaias [brothers], to receive a good education and to be led on a righteous path. Less formally, I used to pray for the strength to continue to be my mother’s emotional partner, to keep her going, to make sure she didn’t cry all day.

My father immigrated to America five months before us, and although he was not the type to display physical affection, I have a vivid memory of him kissing me at JFK airport with his bushy mustache. Aut viam inveniam aut faciam. My father will not be able to see me graduate high school in person, but I have no doubt that he will be there; he will know that his death didn’t change my path or our shared sense of educational purpose and moral conviction. On the contrary, his death motivated me to make his life, and his sacrifices meaningful. After all, it all started with a lottery and it is my job to be a worthy vessel.

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