Hot Chocolate

Ibrahim Waheed “Kalaavehi”

One of my children came to me the other day. She asked me, “Daddy, I have been accused of not treating all of my friends equally. What shall I do?”

“My child,” I asked her, “Was that a just accusation?”

“Yes, Daddy! I do treat them differently. If that means that I treat them unequally, then maybe they are right.”

“You see, my child, there is a difference between ‘different’ and ‘unequal’ just as there is a difference between ‘just’ and ‘correct’…. But first, we need some hot chocolate!”

I poured our two steaming cups of hot chocolate. Then I began talking.

“I am, after all, a man. A man with feelings. A man with likes and dislikes. A man with a love of freedoms and a sense of justice. If I call my friend in times of need, if it is my friend who stays beside me when I am ill, then it is I who stay by his bedside when he falls ill….

“If it is my friend who comes to my house to help fix my plumbing, then it is I who help him pick up the sheets of a blown-away roof. On the other hand, if my uncle is too busy to call me on my birthday, I see no reason why I should drag my children to the other end of town to wish him on his….

“If my cousin refuses to see me as a relative at a party because his fashion-plate girlfriend does not like the gray in my hair, I see no reason why I should attend their marriage reception…..

“I stayed by my friend’s bedside. I helped my other friend assemble a new roof. …

“But I also took my kids to my uncle’s party…..

“I also attended my cousin’s wedding….

“That is what I am. And I am proud of what I am…”

My daughter looked at me with a strange expression in her eyes. She said nothing. All I saw were more questions in her eyes. So, after a sip of hot chocolate, I continued….

“I am, after all, a man. A man with many abilities. You know that. Many people know that……

“I can look at the world and understand how people communicate, understand, comprehend, evaluate…..

“If someone tells me what to do but does not ask for my opinion, then I am just his servant. Nothing more. He should not suddenly begin to value my opinion when all his friends leave him. If he treats me like cheap labor, he must expect me to walk, talk, dress and conduct myself in front him like cheap labor. He should not expect me to behave like a dignified and cultured diplomat…

“To that man, I am exactly what he saw me to be…..

“But I am always a lot more. A bigger, better, more informed me….. And I know it!

“But in front of our friend, I keep that to myself. And that is what I am….!”

My daughter had a smile on her face. She helped me pour a second cup of hot chocolate.

“I am, after all, a man. A man with needs. A man with mouths to feed, bodies to clothe and heads to shelter…..

“Any man who shows me the way to feed my kids has fed me with his own hand. A man who shows me how to clothe my kids’ bodies without putting them on public display is king in my eyes. A man who helps me keep a roof over our heads has found shelter in my heart….. But if he asks me to prostitute my values, sell what is right, then I would rather curse him and look elsewhere…….!”

Now I could see signs of respect in my daughter’s eyes. I could also see her gaining inner strength. So I continued…..

“It is only fair to look at others as they look at you. It is only correct to be fair to those who are fair to you. But that is just a beginning…..

“As you grow up, if you have the grace to forgive insult but never forget, then you reap greater rewards. If you have the gift of being grateful for even the smallest kindness, you have achieved greatness….

“I am thankful beyond measure, grateful beyond description, for what I have been given in life. Do you know what that is…?”

My daughter looked at me with a serious expression in her eyes. She had forgotten her hot chocolate and allowed it cool. The she said, “And what is that Dad?”

“The time and the opportunity to interact with other souls in this very short journey called life. And if I have made a good difference in their lives, then I am only more thankful…. And at my age, I am more than simply thankful. For I know many people in whose lives I have played a positive role……

“And I do not expect thanks in return……”

My daughter smiled at me and said, “And how shall I deal with my problem now?”

“That is simple!” I said, “If you can truly say to yourself that you treat your friends fairly, then you are fine. Do what you believe is right and you have nothing to fear from trivial accusations! Be true to yourself! Learn to live according to your measure. Not someone else’s. That is my advice.”

As my daughter got up to go, a radiant smile on her face, I added, “And if you can, my daughter, try to be a little bit of me!”

“Yes, Dad! I will! With pride! …..More hot chocolate, Dad?”

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  • Maeed  On April 17, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    @kalaavehi …

    very remarkable indeed!!! and good advice too … doing what you believe right is better than doing what others believe is right … need to believe in self …

    wonderful work … as expected !!

    • afrah  On May 1, 2010 at 8:26 pm

      So you expect quality from this man? Expect? It looks like you have seen a lot more of his work than what is shown here. It looks like maybe you believe that this man is a standard for others to follow. Can you explain please?

  • Aminath  On April 19, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    this reminds me of the guy Iago, in Shakespeare’s Othello. He is never is himself. n everything he says is ironic. in one scene he says:
    “But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
    For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.”

  • Small Hajja  On May 3, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Afrah. It is true you expect quality from this man. Mr. Waheed’s name means very high quality writing. He is also a high quality poet, television presenter, teacher, and musician. I am lucky to have a lot of his work.

  • mariyam yasmine  On August 29, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    nice advice..specially for kids and teenagers…

  • curious_mind  On October 4, 2010 at 10:34 am

    This is truly an inspirational piece…One of the best from you Mr.Waheedh..if only more people beleived in these values, our dying community, would be a full of life once again..thanks for sharing

    • ldive  On October 4, 2010 at 2:26 pm

      Thank you for sharing as well. Thank you for the encouragement.

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