• Reading Level 5

Age 14 – 16: Winner

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Aradhya, Abu Dhabi Indian School – Al Wathba

Winner of the 14 – 16 age category, Celebration Day writing competition 2022

I don’t remember a time without my grandmother, Nani, we called her. She’s in every memory, but this one I remember vividly.

I asked her once, sitting on a mat under the sun, warmth spilling on my damp hair, the result of a swim in the lake, and small body, who she had inspired her when she was little.

“When I was your age?” She’d asked, making something out of sun-dried mango.

“Or maybe a little older or younger. Was it your mumma?”

She’d shaken her head at that, which took me aback. Who else did she have to look up to? I didn’t think there were that many people as successful as my grandmother.

“Back when I was in school,” she’d dropped the mango, and had settled back, legs crossed, which meant that this was going to be a long one. I’d shifted, too, now lying on my stomach, the sun felt tingly on my bare legs, but I didn’t mind.

“I had this cousin, she’s gone now, Lord have mercy on her soul, but then she was the same age as me. Our parents didn’t let us do the same things as our brothers, like play sports or go out, you know what I mean?”

I’d nodded slowly, even though I hadn’t understood at the time.

“Good. We were supposed to get married right after finishing school, in fact, the only reason we were in school was because it was illegal for us not to be,”

“That’s messed up,” It was. I’d never heard of something so preposterous. I understood not wanting to go to school and being forced to do it, but being held back from school? It made no sense.

“It is. She didn’t get married, she promised her parents she’d only marry if they let her go to college, otherwise she’d run away. She was a bold one,”

“Then what?”

“Oh,” she’d laughed, throwing her head back, sun pouring on her bare neck and raised cheekbones, into every wrinkle and crease, “It went on like that. Just another year of college, and then I’ll marry. She became the first lawyer in our family,”

“You were the second,” I told her, and she nodded.

“She ran so we could walk,”

I frowned up at her, “They didn’t stop her?”

“Oh, they tried. Not just our family, but society as a whole. There’d been a plan to kidnap her, so she’d miss her exam, and another to get her secretly wedded off. Both failed, obviously,”

“They tried to kidnap her?” It sounded incredulous, like a cheap movie plot.

“They were eccentric, dear, but she was fierce. Broke more bones than they could count,”

“That was so cool of her, I’d have loved to meet her,”

“She’d have liked you, she liked goblin children,” she’d grinned, pinching my cheek as I squealed.

“What about you, who inspired you?” She’d asked later that day as we sat, filtering rice and stuffing our faces.

I’d answered her almost immediately, “You!”

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