The little daughter

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The moment she is born, her smile, brighter than the sun, more beautiful than a flower, refreshes the senses of her parents and anyone who holds her. She brings in joy in the home every moment till the time she grows up and is given away so she could start her own family.

Here is a tale of how a daughter loved her father even at the cost of her life and yet she smiled till the end.

In those ignorant days of old, it was customary to bury female children for want of sustenance or just plain peer pressure. Fathers, when they saw that there were more daughters than sons, would quietly take their daughters and bury them alive: All this, without the slightest remorse. What an awfully evil tradition, indeed!

It is evening. The father gets up, holds the little hand of his four-year old daughter, carries a few ploughing tools and departs from home. They take the path which leads to the jungle.

His sole intention is to bury her and come back home.

Perhaps, he is short of sustenance and cannot keep up with the demand of food and clothing. He is too much under pressure. The debt has been rising consistently. He has received a counsel from his friends, which made sense to him. The justification is that he could save on some food if he gets rid of his daughter while his sons will bring him lots of provision once they attain their age. He is convinced, yet, hesitatingly. He is in two minds but the words of the counsel have made a deep impact on him.

As they walk, the only thing he could notice is the occasional queries from the little one whose hand he is holding.

She looks up to her father, smiles and asks, “Dear father, are you taking me to show those nice birds in the jungle? It is so nice of you. Can we bring in lots of flowers back home? I will play with them.”

“But isn’t it strange that we are going to watch birds in the night? But, I don’t mind!” she says with a smile on her face. While being oblivious to the fact that she will never see the return path of her home, let alone the home where she was born and the family that cuddled her as she grew up.

The father was silent as stone and never looked at her fearing that an element of compassion should enter into his mind and compel him to abandon his mission. He walks insolently, like a charging soldier would, with tools in one hand and a frail child in the other.

As she tries to shoo away the jungle mosquitoes while they walk, she occasionally would peek at him, anticipating a reply but would get none. She doesn’t mind the answer now because she is happy that her father is taking her to a place where she can have fun for a time. She starts to imagine all that she will do once they reach there. It is going to happen in just a short while from now. The blush on her face bears witness to it.

They stop by a huge tree where her father starts to dig a hole in the land. The kid doesn’t say a word. She trusts that her father is doing something that will benefit her and make her happy.

Her father used to bring her sweets and used to feed her with his own hands. She would sit on his shoulders and they would take a walk or just play until they laughed out aloud. He even picked a thorn which had entered her foot while she played outside. Since, her father picked the thorn, it didn’t hurt. Later, she had slept by his side peacefully and rested her little head on his strong arm.

As he dug the ground some soil flung over his sleeves. Before he could react, he saw that his daughter, with her little hands, started cleaning up the soil. He looked at her and found a smile on her face. She cleaned up the entire soil from her father’s clothes and signalled him to continue without a hint of an idea as to what he was up to. If she were strong and old enough, she would have helped her father in digging the hole.

For the first time, a drop of tear formed in the stone-hearted man’s eyes who ploughed like a soldier, except that the enemy this time was his own little daughter who was standing besides him.

Daughters usually stand by their fathers in everything that they do. They look at them as role-models, heroes; and are very proud of them. If the world were to turn against her father, the daughter will be the first to stand in defiance in order to protect him even at the cost of her life.

He dug the land while his daughter cleaned up his clothes continuously. She couldn’t tolerate even one speck of soil on her father’s clothes.

Finally, the hole in the ground was big enough for the frail little child. Her built was such that it didn’t give her father a huge task of digging up a bigger hole. A small hole in the ground was enough for her to go in and play.

“Go and lie down there”, her father commanded, albeit with a tremble in his voice.

“Father! What are we playing?”

“Just keep quite and lie down there.”, her father barked.

“Do I have to close my eyes?” said her as she closed her eyes and smiled again like all the kids do.

There she lay in the hole with her eyes closed and her little fists working hard to keep itself in a closed position while occasionally she would cheat by opening up her right eye and shutting it immediately for fear of being caught.

Her father looked away for a while and took a heavy breadth. He was here on a mission and he must accomplish what he came here for.

“Father! Hurry up. Let’s play. Let me know when to open the eyes.”

The four-year old thought her father was playing a new game, may be something like hide and seek and she was looking forward to it. She trusted her father. What’s the matter? Today, he appeared different.

Fathers are looked upon by their kids as a source of trust and security. Something like a fort with an army that can keep them safe. When they are in the arms of fathers they feel a serene sensation of peace and of being protected.

He started pulling the soil over her little one as she lay in the hole. She had a naughty smile on her lips and every time a particle of soil would hit her face she would contract her eyes shyly and smile.

‘Seems like the game had started. My father will hide me in the soil and then teach me the game’, she thought.

The game had indeed started. The ‘Game of Death’, but she was oblivious of the plot her father had in his mind.

He kept pulling the soil over with frenzy. Looking away; while his eyes would continue shedding tears and moisten the soil below. He couldn’t see the tremble in the hole as the child suffocated. Her muted call for help lay lost in the wilderness of the dark jungle. He waited till there was no shaking of the earth.

Silence!

Except the occasional echo of the wolves howling behind the mountains or the sounds of the bats taking their flight as they flap their wings or the groaning of the owls. Without giving a second glance he walked away towards his home. The path was barely visible on account of a crescent moon.  He walked like a looser, who has just been defeated in the battle, laying low his arsenal. He felt the tools he was carrying were heavier than ever.

For the child who was returned to the soil, there was no butterfly, no colourful bird, no flower, no game. She lay there silent in the very soil she cleaned up her father’s sleeves. Without complaint of any kind. Just a smile, even as she laid herself in the trap of her father.

The last hope of her life gave her the last breadth of life.

Now, the game was over. An evil game indeed!

That was the last time a girl child was buried alive in that village.

His soul made him restless. His guilt started consuming him vehemently. He repented to God day and night. The Almighty did forgive him seeing how he repented and gave the man a change of heart.

He went far and wide preaching against this senseless violence of burying girl child alive and would himself stand guard to protect these little angels from meeting the devastating fate at the very hands that are supposed to take care of her.

His message was simple for the world to hear, “Protect and love that which brings joy to you. That which is a source of coolness for your eyes. That which loves you for what you are and stands by you even when the world were to desert you. The first one to run for help if you are to get hurt. The first to wipe your tears if you are abandoned by fate. The one who stands by you at all times and believes in you even if the world were to reject you. The one who will still continue to love you even when you do not deserve to be loved. All this for the return of a simple price: ‘A smile on my father’s face!’”

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