When parents put their faith above their child's well-being, they fail as parents.

Verogai was fast asleep but her ten year old elder brother Golat, lying still on his bed, was wide awake.

"Are you feeling cold, Golat?" asked their father.

Golat had heard this question many times, but today he didn't feel like answering. He could hear his father's steps, as he approached the bed and put a blanket on him. The blanket, made of yak hide, gave Golat much needed warmth.

Through the blanket, Golat could feel his father's eyes looking at him.

"Are you sleeping, Golat?" his father asked, tenderly. 

Golat didn't respond.

"Sleep. You have to get up early tomorrow." said the father, as he walked away to the other room.

Golat could hear his mother and father talking in low whispers.

"Can't we do anything to stop this?" his mother was asking.

"It is god's wish." said his father. "We are helpless against his wishes."

There was silence for a short while, then her mother started sobbing.

Golat thought of getting up and going away from all this. But he hesitated -- it was freezing outside, and he might not be able to reach even the end of the road. The gold route was much farther away.

Golat wished his father had a horse, like the other Rongchas. He could have then ridden it down the gold route, all the way to Trishala. 

"We had many horses when your grandfather was alive." his father had once told him. "We were the keepers of the gold mines. But then, the mines dried up. To punish us for our sins, the king took away all our money and horses."

"Our sins?" Golat had asked with surprise.

"Yes, it was our sins that made the gold mines go dry." his father had replied.

Golat sighed silently. He had seen his friend's father bribe the soldiers when his friend had been invited to the Prahuti festival last year. If they still had the gold mines, Golat thought, his father could have given the king's soldiers some money to go away.

Golat took another look at the front door. Maybe going away on foot will not be too hard. He was strong. He prayed to the Rongcha gods every day. Surely, the gods will help him.

He jumped to his feet in a rush, and opened the door. A harsh gust of freezing wind whistled by, and a painful shiver went down his whole body. He closed the door hurriedly.

He remembered the one time, when he had seen a scantly clothed frozen dead body on the road outside. It was of a runaway Rongcha man.

"Father, how come he is wearing so few clothes?" Golat had asked his father.

"He removed them, because he was feeling warm."

"But how could he feel warm, in this winter." asked Golat.

"It is God's punishment." his father explained. "He tried to run away from what our gods wished for him. The gods tricked his mind into feeling warm, so he removed his clothes and froze to death."

Golat was not ready for such a punishment. He walked back to his bed, sobbing silently at his helplessness.

"Brother, are you crying?" asked Verogai.

The sound of opening the door and the cold gust of wind had woken her up.

"No sister, I have a little cold." replied Golat, controlling his voice.

"Will you please give me a little part of the sweet that father gave you in the afternoon?" Verogai asked.

Golat's father had given him new cloths and sweets as a gift earlier that day.

"You can take it all." he replied.

"I don't want all, just a little. I tried to eat it, but mother became angry at me."

"You can eat it, I won't be coming back tomorrow." replied Golat, his voice trembling with self-pity.

"Why?" asked Verogai. "Where are you going? If you are not coming back tomorrow, then when will you be back?"

"I won't be coming back ever. I am going to the Prahuti festival."

"Like uncle Brost, and like cousin Sekas?" she asked. "Can I come, too?"

"No, you can't." said Golat, angrily. "Girls are not allowed in the festival. Only boys. Now you sleep, or I will beat you."

His sister became quiet. Golat felt guilty at becoming angry at his sister. He loved her dearly.

"Sister, you can eat all those sweets tomorrow." said Golat, tenderly.

"Thank you, brother." said Verogai. "You are the best brother in the word."

There was a silence, nobody spoke for a long time, then they both were asleep. 

When Verogai woke up the next morning, Golat and her father had already left.

Later that day, she and her mother moved to her uncle's house. Her uncle had also gone with Golat and her father, and had asked her mother to stay at his house while they were away. Verogai and her mother, carrying her baby brother on her back, trudged slowly in the knee-deep snow to the house in a far off  Rongcha settlement. It was a tiring walk, but Verogai was happy. She liked playing with her cousin sisters.

For the rest of their stay, her mother remained aloof. In her own thoughts, she did not pay much attention to Verogai and her baby brother.

Verogai didn't mind, she loved her independence. But soon, she started missing her brother and her father. She felt angry with the Rongcha god for making her a girl.

"I wish I were a boy." she told her cousin sister, as they sat playing by the fireplace. "Golat gets everything. He gets to eat sweets, he gets to wear new clothes, and he gets to go to the Prahuti festival."

They stayed for a week at her uncle's house. When they came back to their hut, her father and uncle were back as well. Her father looked like an old man. He had aged a lot in the last week.

"How did it go?" her mother asked, her voice trembling.

Nobody spoke for a long time.

"Horribly." replied her uncle.

"When parents put their faith above their child's well being, they fail as a parents." said her father, overcome with grief. "I failed you, my boy. I should have protected you."

Verogai had never seen her father cry before. She found the sight funny.

"It didn't happen quickly." said her uncle. "We must have done terrible sins, so our god hates us. The executioner, who was supposed to give Golat's blood offering to god, was drunk. He couldn't do it properly. Golat suffered a lot."

"Golat, my child." her mother sobbed.

Hearing her brother's name, Verogai remembered that Golat had given her permission to eat his sweets. She went inside, took out the sweets and started eating them.

Her mother noticed this, and walked towards Verogai in a rage. She snatched the sweets from Verogai's hand and threw them outside.

"Brother told me to eat them all." Verogai shouted in anger. "I have his permission. This is not fair. Why does only he gets the sweets? Why does only he gets to go to Prahuti to meet god? I wish I were a boy, too."

Hearing this, her mother looked at Verogai for a moment, and gripped her tight. She let out a wail as she cried loudly, screaming Golat's name again and again.


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