1. The Letter
Aliya will soon turn 16, two days before her end of term examination. She had before read a book titled Sweet sixteen when she was 14 and had thus imagined what life would mean for her attaining that age. She is the only child of her parents. Her mother is a nurse and her father is a journalist. Her father, Mr Bello didn’t really fancy birthdays as something worth celebrating, for he always tries to remind her that she should not be deceived by her body size for she is still a child. He anyway makes it a point of duty to always send her birthday greeting cards ever since she turned 12 in JS1, with the following words on it:
“Happy birthday my first lady. Remember that only God is greater than you”
But on that day the principal who used to hand her the greeting card from her father acted unusual as he was busy scolding a teacher. This made her afraid that something must have happened to her father. While in her Geography class, she appears inattentive. She remembers a gift she had once received from a boy called Tokunbo Alabi (a.k.a Bobo). It was a teddy bear with the inscription “I love You”. On telling her father about the gift during one of his visitation, he had told her that she should be mindful lest Bobo had given the gift for the sake of getting something in return (which is her accepting to be his girlfriend). As a result she decides to return the gift to Bobo, but was interrupted at the point of doing so by the arrival of the duty teacher. In the end Bobo travels to Ireland without her being able to return the gift.
Immediately after the class she rushes to the principal’s office. The principal gives her the parcel from her father . The parcel contains a portable digital camera (LCD monitor), a birthday card with the words ” happy Sweet Sixteen”, and a blue covered spiral bound document with the words ” Letter to my Daughter ” written, which is the same title of a book written by Maya Angelou. The letter contains 16 pages which represents each year of her life.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ( The Letter)
1. At what age did Aliya read the book titled Sweet sixteen ? (14 years)
2. What word was used as a compromise between her and her dad over the issue of being called a child? (Young Adult)
3. Aliya hated the word “child” because she feels it equates or means being what? ( stupid)
4. Who twisted the word measuration to menstruation? (Akin)
5. Akin in Aliya’s class calls himself (The king of boys)
6. Who is regarded as smart but unserious? (Akin)
7. Aliya used to score what grade in her most challenging subject, Chemistry? (C)
8. What sort of characteristics does her room mate Grace have? (Quiet, nice, generous)
9. Who gave Aliya a teddy bear on valentine’s day? ( Tokunbo Alabi )
10. Aliya suffers from what medical condition? (Asthma)
11. Aliya uses a ( Ventolin) inhaler.
12. At what age did her father start to send her greeting cards during her birthdays? (12 years old while in JS1)
13. What game was her father playing when he came to visit her? ( chess)
14. The contents of her father’s gift are:- ( a portable digital camera (LCD monitor), a birthday card with the words ” happy Sweet Sixteen”, and a blue covered spiral bound document with the words ” Letter to my Daughter “)
Aliya starts reading the 16 pages letter and in it, her father recalls a particular point in time when she was just 12 years old in JS1 and on holiday, when he had taken her out on a drive around. Then she wore a Chelsea FC jersey which had on it the inscription ” First lady”. It was a gift to her after her father returned from London some months earlier.
During the drive, they come across a lorry with the words: “No condition is permanent”. The ” No” appears already washed off that all that now appears visible is ” condition is permanent “. Aliya envies the girls who sells in the traffic, for she feels they are living their lives freely. But her father tells her she shouldn’t be too sure, for even the girls do wish they could switch places with her. Aliya’s family happens to be living a comfortable life in a house that has high fences that their Grandma once said she would not stay because she felt the house looked like prison.
Aliya’s father tells her that he believes those girls would climb out of poverty if only they were educated. According to him, ” it is easier to climb up on an empty stomach than on a full one”. He narrates to her how poor he was while growing and how he is now fortunate as a result of education.
While Aliya had her Vanilla and chocolate Ice cream, her father uses it as an opportunity to talk about menstruation. She converses to her father that she already knows about sex from TV, classmates, books, magazines etc. She equally narrates how she had stumbled upon a copy of Cosmopolitan magazine which she had found at Auntie Molara’s room after she left for school. Her father appears visibly worried when he hears these, and even more when she tells him that there are other avenues like NETFLIX where people download and watch any video they want. Her father advises her not to expose herself to such influences.
“Your mind is like a beautiful room, you have to be careful what you let in”. He talks to her not to allow pressures from friends make her engage in wrongful habits. And equally not to allow anyone touch her ” private parts”.
While reading the letter she compares her dad to prophet Lukman who was sent by God to teach his son. She therefore values the letter and promises to share it with her future kids.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS (The drive )
1. Aliya’s father is a fan of what football team? (Chelsea football club)
2. What was the inscription on the Chelsea jersey she had on during the drive? (First lady)
3. Give the original inscription on the lorry which Aliya saw during their drive? (No Condition is Permanent)
4. Why did Grandma not want to live with them? (…because she felt the house looked like prison)
5. What situation did Aliya’s father use as an opportunity to talk to her about menstruation? (Vanilla and chocolate Ice cream)
6. Who owns the magazine Aliya found and read? ( Auntie Molara)
7. What was the statement a mother told her daughter after she started seeing her period? ( ..that since she has seen her period, if a boy touches her she would get pregnant)
Aliya finally arrives home for holiday and wishes to ask her father more questions as regards the contents of his letter to her.
After making tea for her dad which she had painstakingly learnt from her mother, she told her father that she does not want to be a doctor anymore but wants to be lawyer. Her career choices had often changed over time. First, she had wanted to be a pilot, but instantly changed her mind after she heard of a plane crash. She later wanted to be a musician and song writer, but after asthma attack she made a switch. She decided to become a doctor. But that soon changed after she started reading John Grisham’s books in the library; which made her to suddenly want to become a lawyer. Her father sees no issues with her decision. Instead he says that it doesn’t matter what career she chooses as long as she enjoys doing it. She tells him of a girl in school who she saw cheating during a Physics exam; all because she was tired of being compared to her young ones by her parents.
Her father tells her that it is better one fails and learn than to cheat and pass but never learn. He mentions the poem “Ulysses” by Alfred Lord Tennyson, quoting the following lines to his daughter:
“To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield” in order to emphasize the importance of never giving up whenever one fails.
Aliya tells her father of another of her classmate, Sogo who says that his father wants him to be a lawyer because he is a lawyer. Her father condemns the idea of parents putting pressures on their children to be like them. She raises the question of children must always obey their parents as being the reason why children find it difficult to ignore their parent’s wishes. Her father responds by citing a poem by the Lebanese poet Gilbran Kahli:
“For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow which you cannot visit even in your dreams” (meaning parents should not try to determine the future of their children much of which they will not be part of).
Aliya acknowledges her dad’s wisdom as a result of books which he widely read. Her father talks of current generation that know how to read but yet refuses to read as a result of social media . Quoting Einstein who predicted that technology will surpass human interaction and as a result create a generation of idiots. She tells her dad that technology is not to blame but the people who use it the wrong way. Her father agrees with her.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS (Work)
1. Give the colour of dad’s, mum and Aliya’s mug in the order presented. (Dad’s blue, mum’s red, Aliya’s Orange)
2. What is the make up or content of dad’s tea which Aliya had learnt from her mother? (2 tea bags, 2 cubes of sugar, 5 tea spoons of milk, and the hot water for the tea must be boiled from a kettle)
3. What are the various professions/careers that Aliya had chosen along the way? (Pilot- music- doctor- lawyer)
4. What did Aliya get in her last Chemistry exam? (A)
5. What lead to Aliya wanting to be a lawyer?
6. Who referred to the future generation as being idiots as a result of technology, supplanting human interactions? (Albert Einstein)
7. Mr Bello had compared his wife’s love for shoes and bags to who? (Imelda Marcos, First Lady of Philippines with over 3000 pair of shoes)
4. The Gandhi Test
Aliya further asks her father concerning the things he had written to her in the letter. She seeks to know what his father meant when he says she should apply the Gandhi test whenever she has doubts as regards what is wrong and what is right.
Her father explains to her that this idea came from the Indian called Mohatma Gandhi who she recalls by mentioning that Gandhi used to put on Harry Porter’s eye glasses. Her father explains to her that Gandhi had chosen a life of poverty to show that a human being doesn’t really need much to survive. He was not interested in being prime minister but sought for India’s independence.
According to Gandhi, “ you can tell what you are doing is good or bad if you want other people to know about it or not”. Whenever one hides or feels ashamed doing something then that thing must be questionable or wrong. Her dad refers to people who are shameless or do not have a sense of shame as animals ( they are guided by instincts instead of morals and ethics).
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS (The Gandhi Test)
1. What is Gandhi test? (It is a test to help detect if what they want to do is wrong or right by if it is something they would want people to know or not)
2. Gandhi’s eye glasses was compared to whose? (Harry Porters’)
She ask her father if she is old enough to date, since she is now sixteen. Her dad took some time to respond. He always applies a 5-why test whenever it has to do with finding justification for ones intentions. He seeks to know from her why people date. She ends up using acronyms like HAK (hugs and kisses) and KOTL ( Kiss on the Lips) as likely reason for dating.
Her father tells her that dating is not wrong but can be very demanding for a girl her age. He expresses that most young adults relationships are driven by infatuation which is too excessive and poorly controlled leads to a lot of issues. Her dad points out that because of the emotional issues involved it can lead to distraction for a boy or girl her age. Aliya remembers how jealous she felt and how it affected her emotionally when she saw Bobo with another girl, Morayo. Even though she still insist she had no feelings for him. She equally recalls a note a boy called Zak had copied to her:
“Do you know any cardiologist, because my heart skips a bit every time I think of you”.
She had tore the note to shreds for she wasn’t ready to suffer heart ache out of jealousy because Zak’s was also liked by so many girls.
Her dad explains to her the importance of staying focus using the word derailment. He states that as long as a train stay on the track it will get to its destination, but immediately it derails ” that should be the end of its journey”. He further says that gratifications or seeking for pleasure at the point in time when one needs to be focused leads to derailment.
She then informs her dad of a boy and a girl that were caught having sex at a basket ball court at night during prep. He responds by saying the girl will feel the regret for a very long time more than the boy who will only see it as one of his conquests.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ( Dating)
1. What is the 5-why test? ( it is a test meant to check if ones intended action is justified or needed)
2. Who had passed a love note to Aliya while in school? (Zaks)
3. How did Aliya feel on seeing Bobo with Morayo? (She felt a bit jealous)
4. What word did her father use to explain the importance of staying focused? (Derailment)
5. Where and when was a boy and a girl caught having sex in Aliya’s school? (At the basket ball court at night during prep)
Her conversation continues with her dad the next day as they start with her telling her dad of how a girl at school had said muslims will go to hell because they do not believe in Jesus or like to kill people. She was not happy with Rebecca’s comment but was restrained by her friends from commenting because they know Rebecca for her troublesome nature.
Her father responds by saying that reacting to provocations are mainly done by animals who cannot control their emotion. He was glad Aliya did not react , for doing so would have further confirmed Rebecca’s accusation. He further states that it is wrong to criticise peoples religious beliefs. Mohammad Ali once said:
“ hating people because of their colour is wrong. It does not matter who does the hating”.
Her father also tells her that if GOD had wanted one over the other he would have created all to be the same, but God knows that the most beautiful garden is the one with different flowers. Thus there is beauty in diversity.
He further tells her that those few people who commit wrongful act should not be used to generalise that all people are like that; for no true religion engages in the killing of innocent people. He advises her not to make up her mind on people before even meeting them to assess them fully. Chances are that she might be wrong.
He tells her of a story involving a wicked Chief slave trader who raided a village and made lots of women, men and children slaves, and had them bound and put on a ship to be sold across the Atlantic. On the ship, slaves were killed and tortured by the slave traders. On the sea, misfortune latter struck as the ship capsizes with many deaths except for the Chief slave trader who appears seriously injured and then a black slave who was uninjured. The black slave without any grudge had nursed the chief slave trader to good health instead of taking revenge. The chief of the slave traders as a result of this kindness by the black slave returned home to fight for the abolition of slave trade.
Her father had thus used this story to tell her that it is possible to change people by simply not behaving like them.
QUESTIONS &ANSWERS (Stereotype)
1. Who had slighted Aliya with a comment against muslims and what was Aliya’s reaction? (It was Rebecca, and Aliya did not react after she was restrained from commenting by her friends who knew Rebecca was always troublesome)
2. Her father believes that people who react to provocations impulsively are simply what? ( Animals that cannot control their emotion)
3. The statement, ” hating people because of their colour is wrong…” was made by? ( Mohammad Ali)
4. In the story of the ship wreck, how many people Survived and who were they? (Two persons: Chief slave trader and a black slave)
5. The word stereotype means? (A set of idea that people have about what someone or something is like, especially an idea that is wrong)
Aliya tells her father of how she had been been bullied in school because of her physical appearance. Then a biology teacher had called her names like latiFAT and FATima in order to make fun of her. He equally body shamed her when he drew an endomorph on the board and had used her as example in comparison. There was another girl called Bunmi, who also insulted her because of her size.
Her father was not happy about this. he tries to convince her that she is beautiful the way she is “Beauty is nothing but character is needed” according to Muhammad Ali. Aliya’s father tells her not to allow anyone to hurt her just as in the words of Mohatma Gandhi ” Nobody can hurt me without my permission”.
Aliya raises the question of why is it that most beauty contestants are tall and slim. He replies by saying that everyone that comes in different shapes, sizes and skin colour are all beautiful. That feeling good about oneself with pride is what beauty is. He blames the media for the definition of beauty as being tall and slim and for the misinformation that fat and ugly goes together. Things like that has led to people using bleaching creams which often causes skin cancer and damage of internal organs. He further quotes Mohammed Ali who believes that every girl should be treated like a queen.
On the issue of bullying, he states that people bully others because they think those people are better than them in some ways or have something they cannot have . Bunmi for instance was rude to Aliya because she felt Aliya was feeling pompous and because of her academic performance.
Aliya tells her father that she is going to be a head girl, and wishes to donate her Nebuliser to the school clinic so as to help students with issue of asthma.
Her father ends the conversation with the story of a hunter who had lost his way looking for a hunt. He became hungry to the point of death when he dreamingly enters a place where an inscription tells him the meals are free for it has been paid for by his ancestors. He went in, ate and took some more food for his journey. As he was about to leave they asked him to stop and pay for his children just as his ancestors did for him. This story was meant to serve as a way of her father telling her to also pass on the lessons he had passed on to her.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ( Beauty)
1. Who had called Aliya names like latiFAT and FATima in order to body shame her? (Her biology teacher)
2. Who is quoted to have said that “beauty is nothing but character is needed“? (Mohammad Ali)
3. Who is quoted to have said ” Nobody can hurt me without my permission” ? ( Mohatma Gandhi)
4. Who believed that every girl should be treated like a queen? ( Mohammad Ali)
5. According to Aliya’s father , the wrong definition of beauty as being slim and tall is the fault of what? (The Media)
6. What could be the reason for Bunmi being rude to Aliya? ( …because she felt Aliya was intelligent and must be feeling pompous about it)
7. The story of the hunter who ate food paid for by his ancestors is meant to teach Aliya what lesson? (It was meant to serve as a way of telling her that just as she had received this piece of advice from him, she should also pass it on to her own children to come).