A sister smiles when one tells one’s stories – for she knows where the decoration has been added. ~Chris Montaigne
Her childhood was terrorized by the fear that I can read her thoughts if I keep my hand under her pillow at night. I had told her that and she believed me. Just like the time when she tearfully kissed her fingers goodbye and signed a ‘No Objection‘ document (so that she can’t sue me later) and permitted me to break her fingers because I had told her that’s the punishment for losing a bet.
Sisters by birth, best friends by years of co-habitation and rivals by choice. I was four when my claim of exclusive attention from my parents ended. I distinctly remember holding the lump that was my sister covered in what seemed a zillion baby blankets and wondering how soon she will grow up and I can make her do all my work! And for the first ten years my wish did come true, forcing me into a false sense of security of my dominance; and then when I least expected it, role reversal! And it has been that way ever since.
She was an unusually quiet child and her obedience irritated me no end because my parents expected me to follow her example. No fuss, no tantrums, very kind, always smiling and had all the virtues that I lacked. My scheming mind took full advantage of the situation. If she chose something I liked, I would start acting as if I absolutely despised that object and she would promptly give it back to me, not wanting to keep the ugly thing anymore. I absolutely doted on my sister and was very protective of her but as an elder sister I felt it would be criminal not to utilize her obedience! One day she saw through my evil schemes and I can’t express in words my shock on the rebellion that followed. The fights that she earlier won by mere crying and thus earning my parents support, now she won by pure strength and evil strategies. I was literally dragged around the room when I angered her! So much for respect of elders!
When we were kids I’d often walk in on her wearing heavy jewellery, a black skirt over her head (to substitute for long hair, and if the black skirt had been sent for washing, she would wear a yellow skirt and pretend she was a blonde), dark red lip color and advertising a shampoo before the mirror. These things were normal, and didn’t induce any laughter or humiliation. Mathematics terrorized her, and tutoring her in math were the only blissful moments when I could scold her without her replying back.Once she scored good marks in math and she literally treasured that report card by ironing it every week to smooth out the creases and preserved it for years. (She’s so going to kill me for this!) Only I knew her quirks, and only she knew mine.
And there are the jokes, the conversations and the coded glances; that only sisters share. Our private jokes are a result of highly weird imagination and victimization of unsuspecting people around us. We laughed till we cried almost daily. It did help that my sister is a born mimic and comedienne. Growing up was never so much fun.
We didn’t have privacy while growing up. Sharing was the unspoken, unchallenged rule. One bed, one bathroom, one wardrobe. We would divide our space in bed equally by careful mathematical assumptions and even if my leg crossed over to the her territory it would be mercilessly kicked back. Just like the television remote use was divided into two halves of the day, till 5:30 pm mine and after that hers. While I gloated at first over the abundant number of TV hours I had, I soon realized that I was duped. I reached home by 4pm after school/college and barely got to watch any program when the clock rushed to 5:30pml and she would come towards me in a slow triumphant walk and with a sadistic smirk on her face and take possession of the TV remote. Even though we shared the same wardrobe, we had very strong territorial rights and I had to take due permission before borrowing her clothes.
The similarities of our interests we took for granted and the differences always shocked us. How can she not like reading books! I spent half of my life poring over novels and she prefers only ‘Archie comics’, that too on rare days when she felt like reading! And then she would watch few mind-numbingly boring movies (which I called ‘tertiary’ because that’ the degree of preference those movies received from me) that I won’t even recommend to my worst enemies. These differences made me wonder whether her birth was ‘staged‘, and she was actually adopted. She is quick to retort that it was high time I started looking for my ‘real‘ parents. She has a huge number of friends while I have a small intimate circle. She can adapt to any place instantly, while I take my own sweet time. Our mercurial temper and love for potatoes are shared vices though. And our fights as kids are legends in the family! Pillows sacrificed, hairs uprooted and on one instance she even chased me around the house with an extra-large ladle (‘heta’ in Assamese)!
We are sisters, secret-sharers, best friends, rivals, co-conspirators; all at the same time. After twenty years of being so, she had recently shifted to another city to pursue her higher studies. I was dreading the moment of her departure for months, and I felt worse than I had anticipated when she finally left home. But the very next day she started issuing orders over phone, fighting with me, cracking jokes and things were back to normal. I miss seeing her every day; but we have to follow our own course in life now. The bond we share is too strong to get affected by mere physical distance.
Even now we would rather have red ants crawling on us than admit how much we love each other. But I can’t deny the fact that she is the most important person in my life, a notch above my parents even. I look to her for sensible advice because my rashness often leads me to trouble, and she doesn’t disappoint me. There are times when I finally get to play elder sister and correct her wrongs. Even though I complain about her asking me to do her class assignments occasionally (that too, long-distance, damn e-mail!), I secretly enjoy being indispensable to her in these small ways.
We have shared a childhood; carefree, happy times; nitty-gritty of life as adults; and a lifetime of memories. I thank God that I was fortunate enough to share my life with a sister, even though I wanted to sell her off when we were young! I love you, Poochki!