'How long will you be poring over that newspaper? Will you come here right away and make your darling daughter eat her food?'
I tossed the paper away and rushed to the scene. My only daughter, Sindu, looked frightened. Tears were welling up in her eyes. In front of her was a bowl, filled to its brim, with curd rice.
Sindu is a nice child, quite intelligent for her age. She has just turned eight, and she particularly detests curd rice. My mother and my wife are orthodox, however, and believe firmly in the 'cooling effects' of curd rice.
I cleared my throat, and picked up the bowl. "Sindu, darling, why don't you take a few mouthfuls of this curd rice? Just for Dad's sake, dear. If you don't, your Mom will shout at me.'
I could sense my wife's scowl behind my back. Sindu softened a bit, and wiped her tears with the back of her hands. 'OK, Dad, I will eat -- not just a few mouthfuls, but the whole lot of this. But, you should...' Sindu hesitated. 'Dad, if I eat this entire bowl of curd rice, will you give me whatever I ask for?'
'Oh sure, darling.'
I covered the pink soft hand extended by my daughter with mine, and clinched the deal.
'Ask Mom also to give a similar promise,' my daughter insisted.
My wife slapped her hand on Sindu's, muttering 'Promise', without any emotion.
Now I became a bit anxious. 'Sindumma, you shouldn't insist on getting a computer or any such expensive items. Dad does not have that kind of money right now, OK?'
After the ordeal was through, Sindu came to me with her eyes wide with expectation. All our attention was on her. 'Dad, I want to have my head shaved off, this Sunday!' she demanded.
'Atrocious!' shouted my wife, 'A girl child having her head shaved off? Impossible!'
'Never in our family!' my mother rasped. 'She has been watching too much of television. Our culture is getting totally spoiled with these TV programs!'
'Dad, you saw how difficult it was for me to eat that curd rice'. Sindu was in tears. 'And you promised to grant me whatever I ask for. Now, you are going back on your words. Was it not you who told me the story of King Harishchandra? That it is moral to honour our promises, no matter what?'
'Are you out your mind?' chorused my mother and wife.
Then I said, 'Sindu, your wish will be fulfilled.'
With her head clean-shaven, Sindu had a round-face, and her eyes looked big & beautiful.
On Monday morning, I dropped her at her school. It was a sight to watch my hairless Sindu walking towards her classroom. She turned around and waved. I waved back with a smile. Just then, a boy alighted from a car, and shouted, 'Sinduja, please wait for me!'
What struck me was the hairless head of that boy. 'Maybe, that is the 'in-stuff','' I thought.
'Sir, your daughter Sinduja is great indeed!' Without introducing herself, a lady got out of the car, and continued, 'That boy who is walking along with your daughter is my son, Harish. He is suffering from...leukemia.'
She paused to muffle her sobs. 'Harish could not attend the school for the whole of the last month. He lost all his hair due to the side effects of the chemotherapy. He refused to come back to school fearing the unintentional but cruel teasing of the schoolmates. Sinduja visited him last week, and promised him that she will take care of the teasing issue.
But, I never imagined she would sacrifice her lovely hair for the sake of my son! Sir, you and your wife are blessed to have such a noble soul as your daughter.'
I stood transfixed. And then, I wept.
'You are my little angel', I told my daughter. Our roles had been reversed and I proudly shared with her how much her gesture had meant to me 'As a parent, I am honored to have you, my child, teach me the true meaning of caring. Thank you!'
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