It was exactly this day sometime in the 1970s ( Sorry can’t reveal the year you see) that grandfather told me about her arrival. He did not seem as enthusiastic as I felt when we went to see her at the hospital. But I was really thrilled! I could tell that Srivatsan and Tiklu ,my neighbours (and tormentors) that I also had a sister now!
Wondering why Amma was looking so tiered and sick, I followed the nurse into the room where the babies were kept. She was lying among them –a tiny bundle wrapped in cloth. “Don’t touch her” warned the nurse. So I had to be content just gazing at her from a distance!
My head was filling with possible names for her. Somehow my grandparents were not participating very actively in this discussion. I realize now that they were disappointed – disappointed that their daughter had given birth to yet another daughter and not for the much hoped grandson. But I the six year old obviously did not care. She was the new doll that I had been given to play with.
However doll she was not, I soon realized. She cried whenever I tried to hold her and as she grew older became a competitor for my parents’ attention. I was constantly asked by my mother to fetch and carry her things which I did not like.
But as she grew older I began to adore her. She had a lovely mass of brown curls and a pink complexion. She was very different from my dark self with springy black hair. So I decided to tell my friends that she was a “foreign baby”. The foreign baby on the other hand grew into a regular bully. I gave her my prized stuffed doll with the plastic face which she smashed against the wall breaking along with its face my heart!
As she grew older she became more and more of a pest than I could imagine. My mother insisted that I take her downstairs with me to play. She on the other hand had other plans- she used to pinch and beat up the other kids and they used to come crying to me with complaints about my terrible sister. I dreaded the day she would join my school.
But join she did and what an embarrassment she was! I had given her strict instructions NEVER to approach me while we were in school. But she made it a point to come along with a bunch of her friends during every lunch break and call out to me loudly. Ofcourse, I ignored her! But ignoring was often not possible – especially when she came and stood outside my class room wanting 10 paisa to buy “chooran” from Mrs Rice. I used to studiously ignore her until whichever teacher was in my class started to ask the kindergarten kid what she wanted. The kid used to point at me silently and I would be sent out to deal with the matter. After a few minutes of arguments in hushed whispers with my entire class watching I would hand over the prized 10 paisa to her and rush back into the class.
She continued to be a pain right through our school days in Calcutta. My parents had within a year hit upon a fantastic economy plan ! Her school used to get over by 1.30 PM and instead of taking the school bus she was to stay back until 3.45 PM when mine got over so that we could travel back together by tram. The plan was alright by me but I had not bargained for the havoc she would cause in the two hours or so that she was hanging around in school. She used to decapitate all the flowers in the school garden and had the various nuns and nuns in training complaining to me!!! Finally when things got to be too much I revolted and told my parents that I was not having the sibling stay back in school and cause me trouble. So she was back to the school bus!
There was suddenly a gap in our interaction during the days we moved to Hyderabad. I was initially in a different school and then in college. Our timings were different and I was too stressed out in the evenings to bother spending time with her. But she continued to trouble me during the nights. She used to sleep near the window and had a fear of the tree outside. So she used to bug me through the nights saying “Turn towards me and sleep”. It was quite annoying especially considering that I was getting a crick in the neck by the mornings!
Thankfully she found her own group of friends and I was spared the pain of having to take her around with me wherever I went. No longer was she “Meera’s tail”. She had become a person on her own right.
I also realized that she was growing up. She was reading romance novels and I could finally discuss things with her which until now I thought she was too young to understand. I remember those summer afternoons during those rare occasions when our vacations actually coincided - she used to cycle up to the video rental shop and get us movies to watch. Together we discovered the “Carry on” series!!! Hilarious and filled with risqué humour, we watched them quietly in the afternoons when Appa would be away in the office and Amma would be asleep!
But the fights continued. Who would answer the phone when it rang in the afternoons? “Please answer I am sleeping” I used to order closing my eyes. “How can you be asleep when you are talking?” she used to argue defiantly. “Well, I talk in my sleep” I used to clarify. This would go on until Amma would wake up and take the call ( most often a wrong number) and give us both a sound scolding. This time, BOTH of us used to pretend to be asleep.
The years went by. I went away to a hostel and she was alone at home and then later she was away in a hostel and I was working. During those later years we were together in the same town but rarely had time to meet as our regimes were again different.
Then came marriage and motherhood ( mine). I remember how she “rescued” part of the bridegroom’s party who were stuck in an elevator during my wedding. She sped downstairs and brought an electrician around who got the fault repaired. Ofcourse I was unaware of this until the wedding was over.
She is a second mother to her niece – they even look alike! People often mistake her for the mother when the three of us are together. I have no problems because in many ways she is also the mother. When my daughter was younger it was she who used to care for her if I had to go out of station anywhere. She hears things from my daughter that I often do not get to hear about. She also maintains confidentiality I guess unless it is something really serious. The daughter’s favourite past time is to zip around with her “chitti” on her scooty across town.
|Appa with his two girls|
While I am technically the older one among the two of us, I find these days that she is actually the more mature one. I am proud of the person that she has grown into. A true Leo, she is a natural leader! I guess it would have been sometimes difficult for her- being the younger one. For starters, she had to grow up wearing my “hand me downs”. I was an easier child to manage and my parents often compared us not only in terms of behaviour but also I guess in terms of academics. I was more into the traditional subjects like maths and science but those were obviously not her forte. They must have realized their mistake in her later years of education when she shone like a star in her chosen subjects.
Whenever it is “Rakshabandhan” I think about why it has to be love between a brother and sister that needs to be celebrated? Why not love between sisters? I guess it is because the love between sisters is constant – it does not change when they get married or when there is property to be inherited. So we do not need artificial things like a “resham ki dori” to keep us together.
It was my sister who got me into blogging. And I must say she writes really well! You can read her posts in When the Muse Strikes .
I will end this post with a quote “You keep your past by having sisters. As you get older they are the only ones who don’t bored when you talk of your memories” – Happy birthday kiddo..!