By Suma Varughese
The Sathe family discovers the importance of saying sorry when you are in the wrong, says Suma Varughese
The Sathes were just finishing their dinner one Sunday night when all hell broke loose. It happened thus. Alka, who had a knowing smile on her face, suddenly announced to no one in particular, “Nisha has a boy friend.” A fork clattered to the ground as an unnerved Nisha sat up bolt upright on her chair, with a shocked expression on her face. There was also a trace of fear as she sneaked a glance at her parents to see how they were taking this revelation. Dad and Mom were taking it rather calmly.
Alka was continuing, provocatively, “His name is Ashok, and he loves the way Nisha’s hair feels against his hands.”
With a strangled shout of rage, Nisha started towards Alka, ready to slap her. “You have been reading my messages, you beast,” she shouted.
Mom gently held her back, “Ssshoo,” she said, “Go back to your chair, and address this issue like the adult that you are. No slapping.”
“But Mom, she has been reading my whatsapps. I feel so violated. I am not going to stand for it. Even you and Dad don’t check my phone. How dare she?”
“Alka,” said Mom sternly, “You know that reading other people’s mail, looking into other people’s bags or personal effects is strictly a no-no. How could you do such a thing, and embarrass your sister?”
Alka looked mutinous, “Who told her to keep her phone lying around like that if she doesn’t want anyone to know about her precious Ashok.”
Mom’s lips began to tighten. “Regardless of where her phone was or was not, you had no right to peep into it. Apologise to her at once.”
“It’s ok for her to have a boy friend; it’s just not okay for me to know about it,” argued Alka. “Why are you not firing her instead?”
“Alka,” said Mom warningly, “I am reaching the end of my patience.”
Dad was listening to all this attentively. He leaned forward and spoke to Alka gently, “Sweetie, you are in the wrong. You need to apologize.”
“But Dad,” began Alka angrily, when he caught her wrist.
“Was it right of you to be peeking into your sister’s phone?”
“No,” admitted Alka reluctantly.
“Then what’s wrong with saying sorry?”
“But Nisha is doing a wrong thing too by having a boy friend.”
“Baby, that is not your business. It is up to us to decide if what she is doing is right or wrong. But you need to take responsibility for what you have done.”
Alka hesitated, then capitulated. “I am sorry,” she said reluctantly, looking over at her sister.
“I never want to speak to you again in my life,” Nisha retorted angrily. “You are sneaky and treacherous and just hateful.” She stalked out of the room.
“Oh, God, what a mess,” groaned Alka, pulling her hair agitatedly.
“If Nisha has got into a relationship with a boy, it is a very sensitive, tender subject for her. She probably is going through lots of emotions about it, even about whether to tell Dad or me about it. The last thing she needed to have dealt with right now is your breaking the news like that to all of us,” said Mom.
“You mean you are not angry with her?” asked Alka, surprised.
“Why should we be angry? It is natural for someone her age to have a relationship with a boy. Of course, it would be nice if she would tell us about it, but I am not going to rush it. I know my daughter. She will tell us if she is ready to, and if this boy means anything to her.”
“I wish I hadn’t been such a twerp,” said Alka, repentedly.
“What you did was bad enough, but you made it infinitely worse by not apologising. If you had apologized when Mom had asked you to, the damage would have been contained. Nisha may not have forgiven you then, but she would have come around. Now you will have to work extra hard to get her to talk to you. You have hurt your sister really badly.”
“Dad, I somehow just could not say sorry,” said Alka.
“It’s not easy to say sorry,” Dad added, “the ego comes in the way all the time. We get on the defensive instead, blame the other and so on, until we make a small offense a major injury. If there is one thing I want you to learn from all this, apart from the fact that you cannot look at other people’s phones, is that you recognise the importance of saying sorry when you are in the wrong.”
“All of us make mistakes, but when we acknowledge them and apologize, we make some amends for them,” said Mom. “People feel heard, and that makes them more open to going beyond the offense. Alka, you know that Dad and I never hesitate to apologize to any of you if we are in the wrong.”
“Yes, that is true,” said Alka. “I remember the time Mom thought I had broken her favourite crystal vase, the one shaped like a tulip. And she gave me a real dressing down. Then she found that I could not even reach the shelf that the vase was on. And immediately she came and said sorry.”
“How did it make you feel when Mom said sorry?
“I felt honored and respected, and I also felt vindicated. I felt so good for a long time.”
She stopped and paused. “I get it, Dad. I understand why an apology is so powerful. I will go up to Nisha once again, and make her see how truly sorry I am.”
“You are growing up,” said Mom, giving her a big hug.
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