The article describes how a father used his love to shape the character of his daughter. This is a story of great parenting.
She was running as fast as she could, panting for breath. Her heart was pounding. Her cheeks were a shade of crimson, her brown eyes wet. Tears ran down her cheeks while the droplets in her eyes made everything hazy. Unable to see a big stone in front of her, she tripped and rolled over. Her little self was gripped by shock resulting from the fall.
She rose as quickly as she could. Her head was dizzy, and there was blood on her elbows. The skin on her knees burned from the bruises she got from the impact. On the ground beneath her, she saw the fence where she had landed. Flowers that were trampled all around looked as appalled as she did.
Alisha was ten years old when this happened.
Angry and hurt, she wanted to find that boy and take revenge. That is all that Alisha could think of while she stood next to the playground’s boundary that hot, sunny afternoon.
Playing Cricket in the Morning
In the morning that day, Alisha was playing cricket with her brother and the other kids in the colony.
Further ahead, little girls were getting ready for an imaginary party. It was their favorite game — decorating dolls and setting the toy kitchen up. They pretended to be the moms waiting for dads to be back home so that they could simmer tea in their shiny toy utensils.
Alisha hated the game. And she hated the fairy tales and all other stories that kept the princess waiting for a prince to take her away so she could live happily ever after.
Longing for a Fair and Honest Challenge
Alisha liked other games.
She wanted to run, throw the ball around and hit it with the bat to see it go far away. She loved to run after the ball and aim for the wickets. She wanted to be the hero of her game, in the thick of action every time she played cricket.
Alisha’s nine-year-old brother, Addy, knew this very well.
Whenever she wanted to play games with the boys, they said, “She won’t be able to play. The ball may hurt her.”
“I don’t want her on my team. I don’t want to lose the game.” said the captains of the two teams.
Alisha’s brother, Addy, was was a smart boy. At nine, he knew more rules of the game than most older kids did. He used to read, watch, and learn everything he could about cricket. That made him the little kingpin of the local cricket group.
“I will play only if Alisha plays. If I don’t play, I will see that nobody plays on this ground today”, he would announce.
And there he would stand, with eyes wide open, head held high, one hand rotating as if he was spinning a ball, and the other digging the bat firmly into the ground. Standing there, he would challenge everyone to dare and make him move from where he stood.
His tactic worked, and Alisha played with the boys, every game, almost every day.
Many times when she held the bat, she heard giggles of some mean boys say things like, “Bowl slowly.”
“I told you, she won’t be able to handle the speed.”
“We lost the match because of misfielding.”
“We are actually ten of us playing against one whole team.”
Every ball that she left was because she did not field well. A miss on their part was because even the Gods of cricket would not have been able to make it happen.
Of course, there were friends too.
But her hands trembled many times, although she had scored boundaries and sent the ball up in the air to score the sixes many times, like any other player. Nothing could convince some of these young boys that the only girl in the team could play cricket well.
Alisha longed for one fair, honest challenge!
Now and then, her younger brother would cheer her up from a distance, “Alisha, you can do it. Hit the ball very hard this time. My sister is the best.”
And she would go on.
Raising Her Hands Like Claws
That afternoon, it was the last over of the game, and her team needed the wicket badly. The batsman hit the ball while Alisha saw the ball rising in the air. It was about to land straight into her hands. She focused on the ball. Hell, she was great at fielding. And that was such a simple catch.
With her hands raised like claws, ready to grip the ball, she was slowly stepping towards the ball when she felt a jab on her back. Her head fell backward as she lost her balance and fell on the ground.
Leaving Him and His Bruised Child Ego in the Park
Alisha got up quickly. Her attempt was made futile by the nine-year-old Billy, from the mean boys club.
He took the ball and threw it towards the wickets. Alisha saw the batsman, beaming.
Billy tried to catch the ball but failed. He shouted, “I was about to get it, and she blocked my way.” Alisha was angry. She stepped forward and landed a hard blow on this face. He hit her back. Knowing she was going to hit him again, Billy started running.
They ran across the park, Alisha chasing Billy as fast as she could, panting for breath. Her heart was pounding. Her cheeks were a shade of crimson and brown eyes, wet. Tears ran down her cheeks while the droplets in her eyes made everything hazy. Unable to see a big stone in front of her, she tripped and rolled over. Her whole self was gripped by shock resulting from the fall.
Moments later, she saw Addy, and his friends, walking towards her. They were holding Billy, Addy on one side, his friend on the other. Three boys were following them. They all brought Billy towards Alisha as if they were taking a prisoner for execution.
Addy saw she had gotten hurt. He asked, “Are you alright?” His eyes were red, and he was fuming with anger. He said, “Here he is. Hit him as hard as you can.”
Alisha stepped forward. Billy’s small, fragile body was held by two people, stronger and taller than him. Alisha struck him, five slaps on each cheek and a punch in the stomach. Then, she held his arms and threw him on the floor.
They left Billy and his bruised child ego in the park, both of them crying in pain.
Narrating the Incident to Dad
Later that evening, Alisha was waiting for her father to tell him her story of revenge. She was excited but had a hint of self-doubt. She wanted to share the incident with her dad and get his approval.
When her father arrived, she sat with him.
“ Papa, I want to tell you what happened today….”. She narrated the incident and waited for her dad to say something.
“Alright,” he said.
She wanted acknowledgment from him. She looked at him, trying to find a smile in his eyes. No, it wasn’t there. She looked harder, probed a little more, and then went on to show her bruises. Alisha whined, wanting to show how much those bruises and cuts hurt her. She knew her dad did not like to see her in pain.
He got his medicine box from the medical drawer and dressed the bruises quietly.
When her father did not say anything for some more time, her heart started racing.
Just like the dot of ink spreads on paper, the hint of doubt swelled into a bigger circle of guilt.
“Papa, did I do the right thing?”
With a serious look that went straight into her eyes and a firm, deep voice, he said, “You should forgive.”
And then he left the room.
Alisha learned two things that day — one, he loved her, no matter what, and two, he used his influence and love to introduce her to the virtue of forgiveness.
The words, “You should forgive,” stayed with her. There were many times in life when she felt it was not easy to forgive. As she grew up, she understood that forgiveness is situation-dependent. Sometimes it is alright to let go and forgive, and at others, one must take a hard stance. Every time Alisha had a choice. She knew there existed an alternate path to revenge — the way of forgiveness.
Looking for an Alternate Path
Many years later, Alisha went to attend an annual function in a school. There, she had the privilege of listening to the speech of an esteemed journalist who covers stories in turbulent, crime-inflicted regions.
The journalist narrated the story of a young boy in his late teens who was arrested because he had killed two people.
While interviewing the boy, she asked him, “Son, when you did this, did you not think of the consequences even once?”
The boy started crying inconsolably.
He said, “I did this because they killed my family members. I was furious and hurt.”
Alisha felt a burning sensation in her knees. The memory of the revenge returned suddenly. She felt her heartbeat echoing in her head.
“But now that I did this, I am scared. I am not feeling well. I don’t want to go to prison,” the boy added.
She asked him, “It must have been tough when they killed your family. They did something very cruel. But son, did you not think of a different way of dealing with the pain? Did nobody tell you about Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela and their ways of dealing with unfairness? Did you not think of forgiveness?”He stopped crying and looked at her, his eyes filled with wonder.
“Nobody ever told me I could forgive. Nobody told me the stories of these people”.
Alisha had goosebumps when she heard this. She remembered her dad. His words, “You should forgive,” resonated in her ears.
Sometimes, things that look so obvious to us are not that obvious to others. One must be thankful for being in the right environment, with the right people, at the right time.
When to forgive and when not are the paths that some people have the privilege of choosing, simply because they know that multiple paths exist. One can only choose if one knows the options.
Unfortunately, some people know only one path. For them, there is only one obvious choice.
The journalist asked him,” Do you know what will happen to you now? Did someone tell you the consequences?”
Like a stricken deer at bay, he whispered, “No.”
Alisha was so grateful that day that her dad taught her an alternate path; he taught her forgiveness.