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A Promise

By Rutagengwa Claude Shema

Regional Coordinator

Great Lakes Peace Initiative (GLPI)


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     "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. She particularly detested Curd Rice. My mother
and my wife are orthodox 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 mouthful 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 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. "Sindu, you shouldn't insist on
getting a computer or any such expensive items. Dad does not have
that kind of money right now. OK?"

     "No, Dad. I do not want anything expensive."

     Slowly and painfully, she finished eating the whole quantity.
I was silently angry with my wife and my mother for forcing my
child to eat something that she detested.

     After the ordeal was through, Sindu came to me with her eyes
wide with expectation. All of our attention was on her.

     "Dad, I want to have my head shaved off this Sunday," was her

     "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!"

     "Sindu, why don't you ask for something else? We will be sad
seeing you with a clean-shaven head."

     "No, Dad. I do not want anything else," Sindu said with

     "Please Sindu, why don't you try to understand our feelings?"
I tried to plead with her.

     "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 and its moral that we
should honor our promises no matter what?"

     It was time for me to call the shots. "Our promise must be

     "Are you out your mind?" chorused my mother and wife.

     "No. If we go back on our promises, she will never learn to
honour her own. Sindu, your wish will be fulfilled."

     With her head clean-shaven, Sindu had a round-face, and her
eyes looked big and 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 of 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

     "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.

     "My little Angel, will you teach me what love is?"

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