Chapter seven: Beauty.
When Aliya remembered her biology teacher and Bunmi in SS3, she didn’t think she could be like the black man, and she told her father so. They had both body shamed her (it started at the beginning of her SS2), according to Mr.Bello and he quoted her Gandhi: nobody can hurt me without my permission. The biology teacher had even called her Fatima and Latifat, using her as an illustration of an ugly endomorph he had drawn on the board. Her dad then assured her that she was the most beautiful girl in the world and that the media’s representation of beauty was narrow. Mr.Bello affirmed that all shapes and sizes were beautiful. As a matter of fact, there was a time when Mauritania had ‘fat-farms’ for force-feeding girls. Among the Efik people of Calabar, girls were secluded and fattened as well in preparation for marriage. So standards of beauty varied with culture.
Inner beauty was said to be important. In her letter, Aliya was told to expect to be treated with respect. Muhammad Ali had told his daughter to expect to be treated like a queen. Aliya’s father explained that this respect came only from self-respect and Bunmi only bullied her because she felt Aliya was better than she. Aliya always topped in school. You didn’t want to drag something beneath you, only above you. Aliya said she was going to be the Head girl and would like to donate a nebulizer to the school.
Again, Mr.Bello told a story. It was of a hunter, who, having promised his family of returns that they might feast, went thereof.
As he went, in hopes of catching a prey, the stiller the forest became, and he began to starve, almost to death. Then, he saw a signboard that read: Food is ready. All you can eat for free, your ancestors have paid for your food. Ecstatic, he ate to his fill and packed some for his journey. As he was about to leave, a voice jolted him back, saying that he had not paid and albeit his ancestors had paid for him, he had to pay so that the children coming after him would enjoy a free meal like he did. Mr.Bello said to his daughter, that the conversations they had had with the letter were the values passed down to him by his parents. He had also passed it down to her, and she must pass it to her children who must also pass it to their children as it was the price every generation must pay for the future ones to be better.