It took two years after our marriage for our little angel to arrive. And she was pampered and loved like no other child. I guess it was natural for that to happen, since she came into our life after a lot of prayers to the Almighty. We named her Inchara, and she lived up to her name very well. Sweet and angelic, she was very mischievous and very demanding of us. And we did give her what she asked. She loved us a lot, and as she grew up, the love grew too.
We sent her to the best school, spared no expense to get her the best that we could. She settled there very quickly; finding new friends who we knew were from good families. I was happy for her, until yesterday. Standing in the verandah of our house, I heard a little voice crying. When I looked, I saw Inu standing over a little boy, the dhobi’s son, holding a toy. It was hers, an old one that I’d given away that morning. The boy was reaching for it, eyes splashed with tears. I saw her just walk away with it, and come back to the house. I quickly went back inside, but she just went straight to her room. It was one of my biggest fears; that our pampering would make her selfish.
I went back into the room. My wife was folding clothes and putting it in a suitcase. Looking at me, she asked, “What’s the matter Aji? You look worried. Are you unwell?” I shook my head. “Neetu, I just saw Inu take away a toy from another child. It was her old train engine. She’s becoming selfish.” I expected her to go to Inu and talk to her about it, but Neetu didn’t seem to care much. “Of course not dear… You knew she had an attachment to that train engine. I told you not to give it away without telling her. Good she’s standing up for herself. I should tell her not to go near “that lot” again. Now, how many sets of clothes do I put for you? Trunks are necessary of course, the beach at Vasco is beautiful this time of the year”, she said and went back to packing. I just shook my head, went back and sat on the verandah ledge. Inu came and sat next to me. “Inu, it’s not right to take away someone else’s toy dear. You should share things too. You’re really a sweet girl. Understand?” I asked. She nodded, and said,”Of course Daddy, but it was my broken train engine.” Jumping down, she went back to play.
Even on the train to Vasco, my mind still was on Inu. I didn’t want my only daughter to turn out like her mother. I looked at her, and she was sitting with her two friends from school, talking and playing snakes and ladders while Neetu talked with the boys’ mother. I had to do something soon. It was evening when we reached Vasco, and we headed straight to the cottage we had booked. It overlooked the beach, and the sea looked dazzling in the sunset. The kids took off to the water’s edge. They happily jumped in and out of the small waves that were coming. From a distance, a little girl watched them. Dressed in oversized black shorts and a tee that she was clearly forced to wear; she was a ragamuffin, one of the fisherman’s daughter no doubt. Inu saw her too, and she went toward her. I thought she’d push her away maybe, and I walked toward them to prevent any altercation. Halfway there, I stopped as Inu got there first. To my delight and surprise, she took the girl’s hand and walked with her toward the boys. The four of them stood there, happy as though they’d been friends all their life. Strange how it takes only an instant to become friends doesn’t it? As they rejoiced, waving their hands in the cool evening breeze, I was reminded of my own childhood.
A shout came from behind me, as Neetu ran toward them, admonishing Inu loudly. When she neared me, I caught her hand and pulled her back inside the cottage. Neetu was standing behind me, and we just saw four kids, playing happily. No differences separated them. “Perhaps it is just as well. She’s a really sweet girl. I’ll not let her become like me when I was a child”, Neetu whispered. I smiled and put my arms around her shoulder.
When she came back inside, Inu ran to me and sat on my lap. I gave her a hug. “Had fun?” I asked. She nodded, smiling. “But what about the train engine?” I asked her. “Daddy, it was my broken train engine. How will he play with it? I gave Raju one of my new ones”, she replied. As she drifted off to sleep, leaning on my chest, I slipped my hand through her hair. Tonight, I was proud of my daughter.