May 31, 2007
Sister of My Heart
I remember that hot summer afternoon when I was finally taken to the hospital to get a glimpse of my much-awaited sibling. I had a baby sister and in my five-year-old mind what was of utmost importance was that now I had my very own playmate at home. My father and I waited outside the hospital room for a few minutes before we were ushered inside. I walked in and ran to my mother happily; even those 2 days without her seemed endless. My mother said, “Come meet your sister”. I tiptoed and walked over to the cradle when I saw this red woozy ball with black hair and eyes closed. I bent down to touch her and as her eyes opened all wide I saw the thick-fringed eyelashes and her shining black eyes looking back at me. I think it was at that moment I knew that I found my best friend , my buddy, my lifelong partner in crime .
My sister and I have been a trial for my mother. We were a pair of monkeys and the stories of our escapades are part of the family folklore. My father being in the army was not around too often during our growing up years so my mother brought us up almost single handedly and it must have taken some strength of mind to bring up two such naughty and stubborn children who got out from one trouble only to get into another. My mother saw to every little thing, be it our school, to our meals, our clothes, down to the last tee. She was very affectionate but there were times when she would loose her cool cause her daughters would get into some soup and there is only a certain limit till which one can be patient. Like the time when we drove the neighbor’s young son up the wall with the incessant cat calls or the time I refused to attend my tutorials and locked the door of my house shut and went and sat on the terrace till the tutor came home, saw the locked door and went away. This other time when my sister hatched a plan with the maid and they got together and threw eggs on the innocent passers by who couldn’t quite figure who was chucking eggs on them. My mother who was also a schoolteacher came home that evening to be greeted by my grandmother’s perplexed face.
Bonu [my sister’s name] and I weren’t scholars either. On the contrary we hated studying and Ma always told us that this is the only route to doing something worthwhile in life. We were forced to spend time with our schoolbooks all out of the fear of Ma’s anger. I loved reading but when it came down to Math’s or the Sciences I dreaded having anything to do with these subjects. I almost did not make it to 10th grade, a consequence of taking it too easy and I had to pay a heavy price for it. That entire summer Ma saw to it that I did my sums regularly and read my biology and physics from the very first chapter till the last. To the surprise of a lot of people I did not do too badly in my first public exam all thanks to Ma of course. My sister too was no better than me. I left for college at 18 and she was left alone with my mother. She often complained saying Ma is so over bearing and bosses over her.
In my second year of college while I was studying for my final exams I got a phone call from Ma one evening saying my sister had failed her 9th grade exams. Ma was heartbroken. Nobody in our family had ever flunked an exam before [though I had almost done so myself but got saved] . My mother was an English teacher in a reputed school in the city and it was a let down for her and more than anything it was humiliating. My sister did not speak to me that day, apparently she cried herself to sleep that night. Thus started another tribulation for my Ma. She had always had to listen to outsider’s complain about the both of us or people expressing their doubts on how could Ma let me go away to college in a far off city at the age of 18. There always seemed to be people who would come and talk about how well their children were doing while my mother would be having a tough time making sure we stay on the right path. Ma was determined though that we would do well for ourselves and that’s how she dealt with my sister’s setback. She never let my sister feel that she had lost out on something and always told her that “ Let this be a lesson. We are going to work really really hard. Even if the world seems to be coming to an end now. Circumstances will change”. My mother and sister formed a team and they systematically got around to changing my sister’s academic skills. Times did change but very slowly and gradually, one little step at a time.
Yeah it has been a step at a time. I finished with law school last year and finally started working. My mother’s belief in me paid off .It has been 4 years since that fateful day when I got that phone call. My sister is 18 now. I got another phone call a few days back. My sister’s school leaving results were coming out on the net. I was waiting for Ma and Bonu to call me that afternoon and couldn’t pay much attention to my work in office. The phone rang and as I picked it up apprehensively only to hear Ma’s sobbing in the background and my sister’s anguished high pitched voice saying “ Didi I got a 88%”. I exclaimed “ what?” I could not believe my ears. She had passed the exam with flying colors and could not now make it to the best of colleges in the country. My little sister whom every body had written off had done amazingly well and could now go to the best of the educational institutions. My mother was in tears. She was overwhelmed as it took some time to sink in. Later at night while speaking to her I said, “ Ma your two little failures, didn’t do as bad as everybody thought they would.” Ma laughed and said, “You are my daughters and I knew both of you the best. I always knew that you were never failures. It was just a matter of time.”