“So, winter holidays, huh? What are you ladies planning to do during these two weeks?” asked Jawad, keeping his eyes on the road ahead, so as not to bump into anyone accidently. He could feel the girls’ happiness permeating the air and he smiled.
“Yes, papa!” Said the youngest, Aisha, who was seated right beside him, bouncing on the car seat with excitement. “I am going to watch all the movies that Baji downloaded for me, and play Ludo and Carom and Scrabble and call Sarah over, too!”
“I am also going to call my friends over, and we are going to have so much fun. I bought new computer games yesterday, so I will be quite busy!” chimed the second eldest, Maryam, whose eyes shone with excitement at the thought of no school for two whole weeks. The eldest daughter kept quiet, smiling to herself. At home, she had a pile of books waiting to be read, and she could hardly wait to get started.
“Papa, papa, papa!” exclaimed Aisha suddenly, “can we go have ice-cream, please?”
The eldest daughter raised her head up in anticipation. She eagerly looked at her father’s back, hoping he would say ‘yes’. They had not had ice-cream for ages!
“No darling, I’m sorry, but not today,” said their father, “I am getting late for work, so I need to drop you off at home; maybe some other time.”
Humaira’s heart sank. All that happiness she seemed full of just a few minutes ago had vanished, only to be replaced with bitter feelings. They never went out. Why couldn’t they go eat ice-cream? It was the last day of school after all, and all of them had gotten such good grades! They deserved some treat! All her friends used to go out with their parents all the time, but she had never complained. So what if father was late for work one day in a whole year – he could say he was caught in traffic!
She was in a bad mood all the way frowning and looking out of the car window, when she saw something that made her feel really guilty and ashamed. A small, thin boy was sitting at a bend in the road, clutching his stomach, his face drawn and eyes sunken, as he stared ravenously at a group of four people coming out of a shop holding delicious, mouth-watering burgers. This scene made Humaira realise how selfish she was, crying over ice-cream when she was not even hungry. She straightened her face and silently thanked Allah (swt) for all that He had given her, pleading forgiveness for her unacceptable behaviour. Instead of her hunger for ice-cream, she focused on the book she was going to read when she got home, and soon she was lost in thought.
Their father dropped them off at home. They went to their rooms to change clothes and then had lunch. As they sat down for lunch, the three girls saw, to their utmost disappointment that it was all vegetables. They made faces and would have left the table, if their mother had not just come in at that moment and glared at them angrily, commanding them to eat. The mood around the table was sour, as every girl took out a minute amount of food in their plates and started eating. Humaira was just about to grumble that everything was so unfair, considering that it was their last day of school, when she remembered the scene she had seen from the car. Her head dropped with feeling of intense shame. How pathetic was she? And how much did she take things for granted! So many people were starving, and here she was being picky about her food! Despicable. She was so ashamed of herself that she ate her lunch quietly and then went to pray.
And the rest of the day passed by uneventfully.
Aisha and Maryam spent their time playing board games, while Humaira curled up in her bed and started reading her books. Quite a few times their mother entered the room and scolded them for not tidying up the room or not washing the dishes or cleaning the table; but Humaira made sure that she did not whine, grumble or complain, because she knew she would be wrong. She had to learn to be grateful for the blessings that Allah (swt) had bestowed upon her, rather than taking them for granted. How many times had she complained of wanting her own room, when she was pretty sure that the boy she saw on the street today had no room at all? How she had insisted on having her own desk, when that money (for the desk) could have easily fed fifty starving children? So she kept her silence and obeyed the commands without once questioning them, all the time thanking Allah (swt) for His blessings.
At night, when their father returned home, he had a surprise for all of them.
“Girls, look what I have got for you!” He shouted, and the three girls clamoured up to him trying to see what he had brought.
“Ice-cream!” they shouted happily; and that too came along with fries and pizza! Humaira smiled and whispered a silent ‘thank you’.