Sita watched as her cousin outshone her at every opportunity. However, her uncle advised her that if she worked hard she would get her reward. And so she did!

Sita was embarrassed. Her cousin Priya who had come from Dubai to settle in India had asked, “Who is this girl?” rather scornfully, when she saw her.

But Sita’s mother just smiled and said, “Priya, this is your cousin. Both of you are in the same school and the same class too. You can go together to school!”

Priya was not happy as she as she had taken a dislike to Sita at first sight. Sita’s father had died of cancer and she was being looked after by her uncle.

Sick!

At school, Priya attracted everyone with her beauty, her big car and her good English accent. She did not like to acknowledge Sita as her cousin.

Priya celebrated her birthday with great pomp and splendour. When Sita went for the party Priya, did not welcome her nor give her a slice of the cake. Sita was very upset when she got back home. Sita’s uncle understood her humiliation.

“It’s not beauty or money but your intelligence and hard work that counts. I am sure you will prove your worth,” he said.

Before her birthday, Sita asked her uncle to buy her masakali dress. Her uncle said, “Let me try.” But on the day of her birthday he gave her a small gift and said, “I am sorry I could not buy the dress because it was too expensive. But I have brought you this book.”

Her classmates laughed at her for not wearing a new dress. When Sita began to read her book The Count of Monte Cristo she found it was a very interesting story and she could not put the book down.

Soon it was time for her exams. Sita studied hard and her uncle encouraged her to study well. One morning, when he went to wake her up he found she was covered with boils and was running high temperature. Chicken pox! But she assured her uncle that she would write her exam. But she could not read anything because her eyes were burning. Then her uncle came and sat beside her and read out her lessons to her.

On the day of the exam she was given a special seat. Her uncle waited for her to finish her exam and come out. When the exam was finally over Sita heaved a sigh of relief.

One day, she was on the terrace at home when she saw her class teacher accompanied by her classmates coming towards her house. There were also news reporters and television crew. She was very surprised.

Her class teacher said, “Congratulations. You made it. You are a State topper.” Her classmates cheered and lifted her up. Priya had also joined the party. She said, “She is my cousin.”

One reporter asked Sita, “Who inspired you?”

Sita ran towards her uncle and said, “My uncle.” For the first time she saw her uncle’s face glow with happiness.

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A shining welcome November 12, 2012