Dosie qualifies

WHEN I first met Dosie two years ago, her father had just become our gardener and had not yet requested permission to move his family into our compound in Lahore. He was working up to it gradually by presenting the children to us one by one. It was a sound strategy. They are a handsome and appealing family. After introducing the three older boys he brought Dosie, then almost three, with Fatima, her mother, to meet us one hot May evening. They wore Pakistani shalwar kameez -- long, loose dresses slit up the sides and worn over matching trousers.

Both jingled with bracelets, and Fatima had a gold and ruby nose-flower in one nostril. Dosie wore tiny gold earrings, and her dark eyes were rimmed with black antimony lines, creating the classic doe-eyed look seen on many Pakistani babies.

I scooped her up on sight and hugged her, though years of experience with children should have instilled more reserve in me. Her mother gasped, but Dosie didn't seem to mind. She accepted it as she does the affection lavished on her by her parents and brothers, with a calm graciousness. She is a self-assured, happy child.

Here children start nursery school at age 4. Dosie, the first little girl in her family ever to attend school, wore a white dress and hairbow and carried a rose her father had given her.

``She doesn't cry!'' Anwar, the oldest and most fluent of the boys, told me. ``Some of the other children cry a lot, but Dosie likes school.''

This augured well for the educational experience, but vacations posed problems. From May through mid-September, temperatures outside are seldom less than 100 degrees F. Even so, Pakistani children play out-of-doors in the cooler hours of the day. Cricket bats and a badminton set seemed in order for the boys, and a doll for Dosie.

At first Dosie trailed along after the boys to the park across the street, carrying her doll, carefully wrapped in plastic to keep it clean. Eventually she left the doll at home and joined in the game. Since I come from a baseball rather than a cricket culture, I cannot evaluate her performance. She seemed to spend most of her time chasing balls in what I would call the outfield.

This year hockey is the big game, and when we went to buy hockey sticks for the boys, Dosie came along for the ride.

``What shall we get her?'' I asked Anwar as I glanced around the store looking for something girlish -- a tea set, perhaps, or hair-curling kit.

``She wants a hockey stick,'' he said, giving me a helpless look. The salesman rummaged around and found one for her in the smallest size.

When we got home, Dosie was the first to show up for the game, smiling broadly and waving her stick in the air. But in spite of Anwar's expert coaching, she kept swinging and missing, reminding me of my own early days on the golf course.

I wanted badly to be able to say, ``Eye on the ball, Dosie!'' in Urdu or Punjabi.

We were in the monsoon season, and midafternoon rain interrupted the game. It seemed a good time to talk with Fatima.

``Girls American school hockey,'' I said, stretching my Urdu to the limit. ``Pakistani girls play hockey, too,'' she laughed.

I sighed with relief. I had not flouted local custom.

By evening the team was at it again. ``Dosie is good!'' Anwar called to me from the lawn. Of course. With the family support she has, it's hard to imagine that Dosie could fail to make the 1998 All-Pakistan Girls' Field Hockey team.

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