Hi, I got this forwarded by a friend. May be long but I feel it's worth a read. The Promise - by Varalotti Rengasamy in Sunday Herald "How long have you been pouring over the newspaper? Why don't you help me in making your darling daughter eat something? Sindu adamantly refuses to touch the food, WILL YOU COME NOW OR NOT?" Well, I tossed the paper away and rushed to the scene. My only daughter Sindu looked frightened. Tears were welling up in her eyes and when she looked at me through them, my heart went out to her. Before her was a bowl filled to the brim with curd rice. Sindu is basically a nice child, quite intelligent for her age. She has just turned eight. Her teachers are all praise for her. The only problem is her eating habits. To make her eat required a lot of story telling, coaxing and promises. She particularly detests the curd rice. She relishes rice with dal and chapatis. But rice with curds? She would rather starve to death than eat it. I had told my wife and my mother umpteen times that if Sindu did not like curd rice, then so be it. As long as she eats something there was nothing to worry. My wife and my mother, both very orthodox, could not digest this laxity. "Without the cooling effect of curd rice the body heat will build up so much that the child will suffer” was their argument. I could never appreciate the logic in that. But they were adamant. I cleared my throat, took the bowl with curd rice and approached Sindu. I knew for certain that Sindu would never yield to force or violence; with love and affection I stood a fair chance. "Sindu darling, please dear, why don't you take just a few mouthfuls of this curd rice? Just for Dad's sake, dear. And if you don't, your mother will shout at me and beat me too." Without turning around I could sense the scowl on my wife's face. But at this time the only strategy was to make Malathi, my wife, a common enemy. This approach softened Sindu's stand and she wiped off her tears to talk to me. "OK Dad, for your sake and only for your sake I will eat. Not just a few mouthfuls but the whole of it. But.. but.. you..." When Sindu hesitated I guessed something big was to come. "Dad if I eat the entire curd rice in this bowl will you give me whatever I ask?" "O sure, darling, whatever you ask." "Promise?" "Promise." I covered the pink soft hand extended by my daughter with mine and clinched the deal. "Ask Mom also to give a similar promise." I glanced at Malathi. She went to Sindu and slapped her hand on hers muttering 'promise' without any emotion. Now I became cautious. If Sindu was extracting a promise from both of us then what she had in mind should be something very big. "Sindhumma, you should not insist on getting a computer, immediately. Or a keyboard similar to the one your friend Nithya has. Those are all big things and right now Dad does not have the money to buy them. Understand?" The sternness in my voice was easily dissipated by the disarming smile of my daughter. "No Dad, I will not ask for anything that is expensive. OK?" "OK dear. If you understand that, I stand on my promise to give whatever you ask." "Thanks Dad. Let's start. You feed me." She opened her mouth. I took a spoonfull of curd rice and placed it in her open mouth. I could see how she found it difficult to eat even a mouthful. Her face turned red and her eyes welled up with tears, I thought she might throw up. But she made a Herculean effort to contain the first mouthful of curd rice and then slowly swallowed it. Seeing her I felt angry with my wife and mother for forcing this lovely child to do something she had been detesting all her life. Slowly and painfully Sindu ate the entire curd rice in the bowl. After the ordeal Sindu came to me and gracefully sat on my lap. "Sindu dear, now tell me whatever you want. Your Dad will get it for you in no time." I was willing to beg, borrow or steal and see to it that I got whatever Sindu wanted. All our eyes were on Sindu's beautiful face. "Dad, I want to have my head fully shaved off. And before this Sunday." "Atrocious," shouted my wife, "A girl-child having her head shaved off. Impossible." "Such a thing has never happened in our family for generations." This was my mother's reaction. "She has been watching too much satellite TV where girls with clean shaven heads appear for pop songs. It's the TV that spoils our culture. Otherwise will an eight-year old girl insist on her head being shaved off? Don't allow this." I approached Sindu again. "Sindumma, to see you without hair on your head! O God, that will be a horrible sight to all of us dear. Why don't you ask for something else? I will relax my conditions. Even if you want the computer or the keyboard, I will get them for you." "No Dad, I don't want anything else." "Please Sindu, please. Why don't you try to understand?” Sindu burst into tears. "Dad, you know how difficult it was for me to eat the damned curd rice. You promised to do whatever I asked for. Now you, you, Dad yourself are going back on your word. It was you who told me about King Harischandra. You told me that the moral of the story was whenever you promise something to somebody you will have to do it, come what, may. But you yourself are going back on your......" She could not bring herself to complete the sentence. I realised that it was high time that I called the shots. I could not bear Sindu looking at me through tears and talking in an accusing tone. I turned to my wife. "Malathi, there is no point in going back on our word. We should have thought over it before giving our word. Now it is too late. Let Sindu have her way." "Are you in your senses?" Malathi shouted. "Vasu, this is an outrage of our sacred tradition." Mother remonstrated. "A word given is a word given. If we do not agree to Sindu's request she will never learn what it means to stick to the word given. I am with her. Sindu, it is my duty to see that your wish is fulfilled. Now wipe off your eyes and go to bed." Early Sunday morning I fulfilled my promise to Sindu. When Sindu came into my room with a clean shaven head I could not help notice that the beauty of her big eyes and round face was enhanced by the tonsure. As she came to hug me I gave her a new frock and a chocolate bar. Why had she insisted on having her head shaven, I asked her but got only vague smiles in reply. The whole thing had something to do with her school, I decided and set out to find out. I dropped Sindu off at her school. It was a sight to watch my clean shaven daughter walking to the classroom, every now and then looking back and waving at me. Just then a boy alighted from a car. He sighted Sindu and shouted at her, "Sinduja please wait. I will come along with you." Sindu turned back and smiled. She was waiting for him. The boy was also clean shaven. A childhood prank, I deduced and was about to kickstart my bike when I heard a lady's voice near me. "Sir, your daughter Sinduja is really great." Without any formality of introducing herself she just blurted out. "The boy who is walking along with your daughter is my son Harish. Harish is suffering from.... leukemia." She paused to muffle her sobs. "Harish did not attend school the whole of last month. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Thank God, there is some remission and the doctors have allowed him to attend school. One of the side effects of chemotherapy is hair loss. When Harish saw his image in a mirror last week he was shocked to find his head bald. He cried and adamantly refused to go to school again as his friends would tease him. I advised him to talk to his best friend about that. He talked to Sinduja who promised him that everything will be all right. She would take care of the teasing problem. No need to worry. I thought they were just empty words of consolation given to a sick boy. I never thought your daughter would sacrifice her beautiful hair for the sake of my son. I never thought a child could be so selfless and so loving. Sir, you and your wife should have done penance for a thousand years in your past births to have a daughter like Sinduja." With tears rolling down I looked at the direction in which Sindu had gone. The picture of her struggling with a mouthful of curd rice was still vivid in my memory. I started sobbing. 'My dearest one, where from did you get all this love and compassion? My little angel, will you grant your poor father a boon? If there is to be another birth please grant that I be born your son. Please teach me how to love, my little angel!' I was shamelessly weeping in the school's parking lot.