There's absolutely nothing like being sisters. And Thank God for that, eh?!
I have a little sister, and this is our story (partly).
One of my first early memories is Mum disappearing abruptly for a while and my grandparents looking deliriously happy. It was somewhat comforting to find out later that they were not just pleased by her disappearance but by the pending arrival of something which they kept calling 'Chaand' - I remember wondering what on earth the moon had to do with our conversation. I didn't understand it until I saw this tiny, cranky, wizened creature - I must admit I took an instant but momentary dislike to her but that's just because she was so clingy with my mother.
But that was only the beginnning - it was all uphill from there (for a while). I think it began with her first sentence, where she strung together the words 'shut' and 'up', and directed this message to our teasing elder brother. And that's where a lifetime bond was forged between her and me.
There's a lot she should be thankful for when it comes to me:
- I made childhood interesting for her - I was an imaginative child who made the most out of limited resources. For example, baths were not just baths. They were Events called 'Funbaths', involving creative performances of song, dance, drama and the flinging about of wet underclothes to leave splotch marks on the bathroom ceilings and walls (there was nothing more pleasing to the ear than the 'thwaapacck' when each missile struck a dry spot) until the entire place was dripping, to our immense satisfaction. It's true - Life was anything but dull.
-I taught her some key lessons of life, such as enterprise and business - to supplement my own meagre pocket money, I would make artful greeting cards (which all involved slight variations of a rose, the only thing I could draw) - and sell them to her for a reasonable five rupees (Or ten, depending on the customer's choice of size). She did not always take this lesson well, and was less than amused when after she presented a purchased birthday card to Mum, she discovered the legend 'Made by Y Lal' on the back. Hey, it was the makings of a future marketeer! We like to call this little phenomenon 'branding'. However, after this incident, business became slack and the enterprise eventually dwindled and died.
But apart from this, there were some things that she had to endure - though even these, one may argue, have made her the strong, resilient character that she is today:
- I experimented with almost everything on her. When she wanted to cut her long, long hair, and Mum refused, I was happily there to oblige her. I really didn't see what all the fuss was about later - all the crying, the scolding, the further cutting to 'even it out' by Mum - I thought the style I gave her was funky but no one else agreed.
- I did tend to be a bit of a bully. One time, I woke up in the middle of the night, in the freezing winter of Delhi to find that she had stolen my blanket. I was not in the mood for explanations or forgiveness, and snatched it off her, the late hour causing me to punctuate this gesture with an overly dramatic 'Shame on you!'. She half-woke, hoping it was just a bad dream, and subsided quickly. That's when I turned over and discovered my blanket lying on the floor next to the bed - to rectify the situation, I immediately restored her blanket to her, tucking her in with the loving words 'There - you cosy?'. She claims that this is the sort of crazy extreme behaviour that has scarred her for life.
Before you feel too sorry for her, let me tell you, she got her own back in her own subtle manner.
-At the tender age of ten, I was once gazing critically at my face in the mirror, when she sneaked up behind me - she thought it would be very funny to surprise me by smashing my face right into the mirror - always being one to follow her plans through, this is exactly what she did. Luckily, because she was an unusually small six year old, all this did was to break my front tooth right in half. The pain of this event was not just restricted to all the humiliation I endured for weeks in school, but in later years, resulted in the most painful root canal ever.
-Then there was the Pants incident. Mum obviously thought it quite endearing and convenient to dress us up in identical clothes, and we would often wear each other's clothes. So I was wearing her little pink pants when we were all on a car ride to distant Kashipur. During a long ride, irritation levels and tempers are high, and for some obscure reason, the little one got peeved with me. The next thing I new, there was a clammy little hand not belonging to me, in my front pant pocket. And nothing for the next half hour would convince the blister to remove it, her sound logic being 'they are my pants, it's my hand, so why should I move it?'. With the parents in the car, I was not allowed to maul her, and this made for a very frustrating time.
So you see, it all evens out. And obviously, there were great times too. This is the stuff that memories are made of. And trauma.