Aliya’s childhood experience before she turned 16. The book she read when she was 14 made her realize that she was going to be a ‘young adult’ no longer a child as she was fondly called. She had a big size which gave her the excitement
anticipating when she would be 16. Her mum was a Nurse, and her dad basically was a Public relations officer, strict, but funny. Her dad loved her as much as she
loved him. He does not support birthday parties but always sends her birthday cards (since she was 12) in school through her principal. Her mum rather agreed
with her dad in these terms. The closest to birthday celebrations they had were
the elaborate dinners and elaborate prayers. Aliya had classmates like Akin who was loud but intelligent, Tokunbo (fondly called Bobo) who gave Aliya a gift; a teddy bear, on a Valentine day in school. Aliya being free with her dad, on one
visiting day talked to him about the gift. Her dad agreeing that as much as giving or receiving gifts is not totally out of place, reminded her that such often comes with a sense of responsibility, or desire to get something in return. He advised her not to be dumb to boys. With questions in her mind about the reason behind the gift from Bobo, she made up her mind to confront him on this, but could not get
the full chance because he had relocated with his parents to Ireland. As she anticipated her 16th birthday, she expected to have a feeling that comes with the new age. However, when the day approached, nothing changed as such.

A deliberate outing was arranged by Aliya’s father to get her into discussing things concerning menstruation, sex, and general well behavior. This was during her
holiday in JSS1, she was 12. The main discussion places were in the car and Aunty Gigis’. She had a chance to see people that she envied who did not live behind the fence and enjoyed the hustle and bustle. She felt they had the freedom to go anywhere they wanted and to meet different people. Trying to compare herself
with them, her dad reminded her how he had struggled to be where he is now, in spite of his poor background experience. He reminded her that her condition was not the same as he’s or those she envied, and that she should not take what she had for granted, she should work hard and harder. He reminded her of the saying that, it was easy to climb up on an empty stomach than a full one. She told her
dad how her mum and hostel mistress had taught her how to menstruate, which
her dad corrected to be that they taught her how to take care of herself during menstruation. Still on the topic of menstruation, Aliya told her dad how her
friend’s mum told her friend not to play with boys or let boys touch her, else she
will get pregnant. She talked about the Cosmopolitan magazine that she had read
from Aunty Molara’s room (Her mum’s sister), and about the new Netflix
innovation. However, in all, her dad advised that she be careful not to allow dirty
or filthy things into her mind which he described as a beautiful room. He
reminded her not to let pressures from friends, approval from people, or fear of
standing alone prevent her from doing the right thing. He advised that she should
not allow anyone touch her in her private part. Remembering what she had read
from the letter her dad gave her, which she saw as a textbook of life, she saw this
as the greatest birthday gift she ever received and was determined to keep it safe,
and show her children if possible. The letter raised questions in her mind to ask
her dad after her exams.

Aliya returned home for holiday and had more time to spend with her dad. She told her dad about her new choice to become a Lawyer triggered by John
Grisham’s books that she started reading from the Library. Her dad making sure that this was not her way to escape from Chemistry (which she proved wrong by presenting her latest A grade result in Chemistry), encouraged and reminded her
of the one and only way to success; hard work. He shared lessons with her from the poem Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson from which she got a personal motto;
‘To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield’. He encouraged her that the most important thing about choosing a profession is to love what you do, and have the passion that drives one to success in work, and that she should be the absolute best at whatever she does. Again, from one of her father’s reads; ‘The Prophet’ by
Kahil Gibran, he reminded Aliya that parents should not try to determine the
future of their children. He encouraged her to read, and not to use technology in the wrong way or abuse social media.

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Aliya and her dad discussed one of her questions from her birthday letter. She
asked her dad what he meant when he said that she should always try to do the right thing, and that if she was in doubt about right and wrong, she should apply
the Gandhi test. She wanted to know what the Gandhi test was about. Her dad however, explained that Gandhi was a man who chose to live a life of poverty, to
demonstrate that a human being does not really need much to survive. Mahatma
Gandhi was the one who fought for his country; India, to gain independence from
the Great Britain. He explained what Mahatma Gandhi meant when he said that ‘You can tell that what you are doing is good or bad if you want other people to
know about it or not’, to mean that; If you are doing something and you do not mind other people knowing about it, then, it is likely that what you are doing is good and vice versa. He also mentioned the place of ethics and morals in one’s action, and minding what others think about them or not.

Aliya and her dad discussed in details about an important question in her mind;
Dating. She asked her dad if she could date or have a boyfriend since she was now
16; a young adult. Bringing up and discussing terms like ‘hang out and stuff like
that’, slangs and acronyms like ‘HAK’, ‘KOTL’, ‘OMG’, ‘53X’ and ‘KPC’, she joked
about them with her dad. Her dad however advised that dating/having a boyfriend is not bad in themselves, but that for her age, such mostly is ruled by
infatuation, which could lead to jealousy as a result of divide attention of one of those in the relationship, and further cause distraction, which was not one of
what Aliya could not afford at her stage in life. These discussions with her dad
reminded her of how much she felt sad about Bobo’s relocation, the annoyance she felt when she saw Bobo talking with Morayo her classmate, the:nightmare she had about both of them kissing themselves, Zak’s note to her, and the feeling of embarrassment she had for the girl that was suspended in her school alongside
the boy she was found having sex with in the basketball court of her school.

At breakfast one of the days in Aliya’s house, she overheard from the TV news channel about Boko Haram bomb attack at a local market, where several people
died. This reminded her of the comment from Rebecca; her classmate, that, ‘All Muslims will go to hell, because, Muslims do not believe in Jesus, and they like to kill people’. Though she was annoyed with the statement, she wanted to know how true the statement is, so she asked her dad. She expressed her annoyance, and said that she felt like slapping Rebecca (though she did not) for that
statement. Her mum was not happy with the statement, and her dad advised that
in all circumstances, she must learn to control her emotions, and that if she had slapped Rebecca, it would have just confirmed her notion of Muslims as violent
people. He made reference to the Danish Cartoonist who portrayed Islam as a
violent religion, and how his notion was confirmed because of the reaction of
Muslims who launched attacks on the basis of that, thereby killing people in the process. Aliya’s dad further made reference to the statement of Mohammad Ali;
‘Hating people because of their color is wrong. It does not matter who does the hating. It is just plain wrong’, saying that, ‘The most beautiful garden is the one
that has different colors and flowers’, that is to say that there is beauty in
diversity. He also pointed out that the generalization of Rebecca concerning
Muslims is called ‘Stereotype’, which he said is usually based on a wrong notion or
idea, and therefore is a wrong way to ascribe people, just because they belong to
the same tribe or religion. He spotted that it was easy for anyone to fall into the
stereotype trap, and advised Aliya not to make up her mind about people, including Rebecca, before she has the opportunity to meet them and assess them
fully. He further buttressed his point with the story of the European slave traders and the enslaved, which taught Aliya some good lessons.


The story of the European slave traders and the West African inhabitants drawn
to slavery and how the black man showed kindness to his captor after a huge attack, kept Aliya in deep thoughts. Her dad, meeting her full of thoughts, assured
her of the possibility to change people simply by not behaving like them. This reminded Aliya of her Biology teacher who made negative comments about her size, and Bunmi; her senior in school, who always picked on her because of her size, and because she felt Aliya thought she was better than everyone else. She told her dad about this, he however reminded her of one of Gandhi’s quotes;
‘Nobody can hurt me without my permission’, letting her know that, she was in control of how anyone makes her feel, and that, how she feels about herself is
more important. He urged her not to be deceived by what the media presents as
the standard of beauty. He said, Aliya was the most beautiful girl in the world, and
to him, feeling good and confident about herself was beauty. He also believed
that one who is truly beautiful is one who is beautiful in character and comportment. While the discussion was still on, Aliya remembered one of the
things her dad wrote in the letter; that she should expect to be treated with respect by everybody, which she considered to be in line with what Mohammad
Ali told his daughter to; ‘Always expect to be treated like a queen’. Her dad explained his statement to mean that, respect can only be commanded by self-
respect, and that if she expects to be treated like a queen, she must behave like
one. Aliya told her dad that she would become the Head Girl of her school soon,
this he felt would put Aliya in the position, and give her the opportunity to help
others. Aliya agreeing to this told her dad of her desire to donate a Nebulizer to
the school clinic to aid other asthmatic students like her. Her dad was impressed.
Aliya appreciated her dad, referring to him as the greatest father in the whole universe. Their discussion was concluded with a story her dad told about a hunter who lived in a remote village somewhere in Africa, who went for a hunting
expedition with the aim of returning with assorted games for a feast. Toiling for
several days and nights without progress, at the verge of giving up, sought for
food and water. He soon found a place where he had plenty of food and drink,
and to spare, free of charge because, all had been paid for by his ancestors.
Grateful and ready to continue his journey, he was asked to pay so that such could be enjoyed by his children sometime also. Aliya was confused about why
the hunter in the story had to pay, since all was already paid for. She was urged by her dad to pay her own dues to her children by teaching them all that her
father had taught her , because he had paid his own dues to her through all the conversations they had earlier and presently, and the letter on her 16th birthday. address in the
He further pointed out that, it is the price that every generation must pay, so that
future generations would live better and fulfilled lives. Aliya sincerely appreciated these, said a long prayer for her father, her teacher, and her prophet as she calls

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