“Avni, Look who has come home.” I called out to my daughter. She came running out of her room directly into the arms of my husband’s sister. ‘Bua ji’ her voice downed as she hid her face in her bosom.
“My child, come here my princess, look what I brought for you”. Radhika picked her up and went to sit on the sofa. She was extremely fond of my daughter and had come this far only to see her. I lost myself for some time watching them bond. As they got busy putting the pieces together of the new puzzle she had brought, I woke up from my dream and went inside to make tea for her.
After a few hours, Radhika got up to leave. “Should I call Avni?” I asked.
“No let her play. I will say goodbye to her downstairs in the playground”.
Evening came and so came back Avni, this time holding hands with her father. “Daddy, you missed Bua, see what she brought for me” my daughter chirped elatedly. Our conversation was broken by a knock on the door.
“Hi Mrs Mathur”, our neighbor and also the father of Avni’s best friend Latha greeted me.
“Hello Mr Dhawan, come inside” my husband joined me at the door.
“Hi Sushant, actually it’s about Avni, I think she broke Latha’s Bicycle”. We were taken aback at this allegation and waited for him to continue. “Latha came back with this broken basket and handle and tells me that Avni was last putting stones inside them even when she told not to”. Mr. Dhawan was not a friendly man ,I remembered .
“Avni, come here dear”, we both called her together. She came out and stood before us.
“Child, did you break Latha’s Bicycle?’ Sushant asked her lovingly. She look quite perplexed and denied. My husband looked at Mr Dhawan and smiled. Then he turned towards Avni and asked her again.
“No one will scold you beta, you can confess. It’s okay.”
“But daddy, I didn’t do it. I don’t know” she replied confidently.
“Maybe, it’s a confusion Mr Dhawan. Did Latha see her break it?” My husband now questioned back.
“Yes, and that’s why am here. Maybe you should start teaching your daughter not to lie “, he spoke angrily.
“Okay Okay, we will sort it out peacefully. I’ll pay for its repair. “ Sushant went outside with him to settle the bill.
“ Are you telling the truth Avni?”, I asked my daughter sternly. I recalled that few days back she had broken my glass utensil top and had tried to hide it from us. I was scared that she might be learning some bad manners from somewhere and it had to stop.
"NO Mumma, I haven't. how many times will you ask me?, she replied angrily and stormed towards her room and banged the door shut.I was appalled by her behavior and instantly knew she was hiding something. I expressed my concern with Sushant when he came back.
"You should talk to her and get it out of her this time.Its not right for such a small girl to lie so easily." I was a bit anxious.
My husband walked in Avni's room while I stayed back to let them be alone.after 15 minutes, I heard a little shout and saw Sushant coming out of the room. he looked at me and shouted.
"That little girl has become so smart. and the way she talks back.What has gotten into her? what are we doing wrong Smitha?"
Avni followed her father into the living room and I saw no regret in her eyes. Sushant picked her up and again asked
"Why are you not you confessing you did it? Its OK. we wont shout on you even if you have done it. but its bad to lie.tell us na beta, please" My husband Begged.
"But daddy I didn't do it" she was adamant.
"Then how did Latha see you break it?, Is she Lying?"
Avni became silent at this question and stared at her father. " I ,,I,,I put", she mumbled something in her mouth.
"see, now she's silent. what should I think about it? He looked at me bewildered.
"let her stay in her room and we wont talk to her till she accepts her mistake", I passed my judgement.
Avni silently went into her room and I could see tears in her eyes. How much I wanted to go hug her and forget all this but I resisted. its time she learnt her lesson the hard way. its one think to do something but to lie about it at his young age, It has to stop,
Next day while I was putting my husbands breakfast on the table . I felt a tug on my salwar. It was Avni. Her face was dull and eyes were swollen. I couldn't resist and picked her up and kissed her on her forehead.
"Mumma, I did it.Okay. yes I broke her bicycle. please don't be mad at me. Sorry"
I couldn't even hear the last part and I jugged her tight.
"Its OK, my dear.you accepted your mistake. that is more important. Promise you will never lie about it".
Through the corner of my eye,I saw Sushant listening to us and smiling. he too came and kissed Avni and promised her favorite pastry for her apology
All got settled and we got busy in our lives.
A month passed and Radhika gave us a surprise visit. it was Sunday and we all were enjoying our hot Bhajjis and tea.
"Hey Bhabhi!, which is the apartment of Avni's friend.? that small girl with spectacles?" she enquired.
"Latha?, why?" I asked her.
"Arey! nothing. remember my last visit here.when I had gone to playground to tell Avni goodbye , I fell on that girls bicycle and broke its handle and basket. Nobody had seen me so I just went off. but today again I saw her and felt bad. so wanted to give her some chocolates and a new basket if her parents agree."
My husband and me were shocked to hear this. we stared at each other and then looked at Avni .She was looking down and tugging at her skirt while biting her lower lip.
My world got silent for sometime as I heard Radhika's voice going milder till I could hear nothing but my daughter's Sorry ringing in my ears.