My mother was reading a story in the paper aloud today, in shock - something about a 2.5 year old girl being dropped off by her school bus at the wrong bus stop, a couple of kilometers away from her home, and wandering around lost and scared. Thankfully, she was returned home safely after a shopkeeper spotted her passing his shop several times, and her father's number was found in some diary in her bag, or something like that. I barely had time to wonder what a 2.5 year old was doing in a school bus in the first place, when I suddenly had a flashback.
I wrote a post about early memories earlier, but omitted to mention this one which is also a vivid early memory - it was one of my first days in the 'big school'- and at the end of the school day, ''Nisha Ma'am'' escorted me to my bus to be dropped home. I was fine as long as she was around, because she was a very nice lady - but started to panic when she started to leave me, after depositing me in my seat in the bus. I think she then asked an older kid who looked absolutely gigantic to my 4 year-old self, but was probably just a regular skinny kid in the 10th class or something - to sit next to me, take care of me, and make sure I was bunged off at the right stop.
I remember how scared I was, blubbering with tears at all the noise and unfamiliar faces around me - and also remember how the fear eased up over the course of the short bus ride as that boy chatted with me and told me stories. My tears dried up and I became quite absorbed in what he was saying and soon I was at my bus stop and he helped me get off the bus and waved bye to me cheerfully. I was picked up by our maid Saraswati at the bus stop, and life was looking pretty good to me again.
I don't remember seeing ever seeing or recognizing that boy again, but he sure made a difference to me. Bus rides were never a problem again for me.
So anyway, I was thinking about all this, recounting the incident out loud to my mother and sister, and then I asked my sister about whether she had any such early memories, about the trauma of being a small kid going to a big school for the first time.
I was slightly irritated by her breezy answer 'Nope!'
All my irritation disappeared when she elaborated further on this with a highly matter-of-fact 'I had you, na!'
And it's true. I've bullied her, fought with her, made her run around for me far too much - and still do all of these things. But it's kind of good to know that when she thinks back to her earliest days, she remembers me looking out for her and says in all simplicity 'I had you, na!'
P.S - I've written this post for somebody I know who is expecting her second child soon, and has had some mixed feelings about the timing, finances, and overall practicality. Don't want to downplay any of those things, they are realities. But it's also a reality that there's nothing like having a sibling you can always count on. And of course, you know this already, but it's nice to remember it sometimes, anyway - right?