Alisha lived in nice neighbourhood of Lahore. She was an energetic eleven-year-old girl with big brown eyes, which sparkled with mischief and adventure. However, despite her lively nature, she had the habit of complaining — a lot.

Every day, she would grumble about the same things: having old toys, not having a new dress and the limited variety of food her mother cooked. No matter what her mother did to cheer her up, Alisha remained discontent.

One day, when Alisha’s complaints had taken an extremely long toll on her mother, she felt it was time to teach her daughter an important life lesson. The next morning, she awoke Alisha early and informed her that they were going on a delightful trip.

Feeling both confused and delighted, Alisha followed her mother through the city’s crowded streets, until they finally arrived at a neighbourhood she had never seen before. The houses were small and crowded, with children playing in the narrow streets and clothes hanging on makeshift clotheslines.

“Where are we, mama?” Alisha asked, wrinkling her nose at the unfamiliar environment.

“This is a neighbourhood where some people like us live, but they cannot afford the luxuries we have,” her mother replied with a gentle smile. “I want you to see how others live and be grateful for the blessings we have,” she continued softly.

As they walked through the area, Alisha’s eyes enlarged in astonishment. She saw children playing with makeshift toys made from old bottles and tin cans. They entered a small house resembling a shanty. Inside, was a joyous little family of four: a young girl, around the same age as hers, with her parents and her grandmother. Between laughter and small talk, they were having breakfast, of tea and rusks together.

Alisha saw the smiles on their faces, filled with a kind of delight she had never witnessed before.

The girl’s mother greeted Alisha’s mother, and they started talking to each other. It seemed Alisha’s mother knew the lady. The little girl came to Alisha, offering her some rusks which were very few in quantity. Alisha took a small bite, thanking her. She noticed there was hardly any furniture, just a charpai, an old cupboard and a dingy table with some stuff on it.

They had spent some time together and then it was time for her to return home. As Alisha got up to leave, bidding the girl goodbye, the girl’s grandmother hurried into the room.

“I have been working on this since your mother told me that you were coming,” she said, handing over a lovely hand-stitched dress to Alisha, “Take this as a gift from me, since it is the first time you visited us.”

The dress was so appealing that Alisha took it at once, greatly thanking the old lady. As they sat in their car, Alisha felt a strong sense of guilt in her heart as she realised how selfish she had been, complaining about her own life when others had so much less. She looked up at her mother, her eyes full of sorrow and shame.

“I’m sorry, Mama,” she whispered. “I didn’t realise how lucky we are.”

Her mother had compassion and warmth in her eyes, “It’s okay, Alisha. The important thing is that you’ve learned a valuable lesson today.”

Alisha’s attitude significantly changed after that day. She stopped complaining about her outfits and toys, or demanding new ones. Instead, she valued them as blessings which so many others didn’t have. Every time she would be about to complain, she would remind herself of the people she had met in that poor neighbourhood and would be thankful for what she had.

Published in Dawn, Young World, May 18th, 2024

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