Two sisters and a broken family ...
|They say Life is not meant to stay in one place and die in a box. It should be one hell of a crazy ride, where you arrive at the end, sliding by your side, clothes torn and tattered , shouting, "What a ride." Nothing can be truer for my life. If life is a combination of ups and down, highs and lows, mine is a combination of every ride you see in a theme park. Yet, I have enjoyed it all.
I was born in a broken family. Only we knew it was broken. For people outside, our family was picture perfect. A well earning father, a lovely mother for a house wife and an elder sister. What could go wrong? I never saw my parents smile at each other or even share a few pleasantries for that matter. I never understood what the problem between the two was. All I knew was that a simple mundane statement like dad asking, "Where is my shirt?" or mom saying, "Sugar will soon be over" was enough of a catalyst to start off a fight. Maybe they could never fall in love with each other. Maybe they were stuck with their respective parents' choices. Divorce or separation were still taboo words in an Indian society, hence they did not have much of a choice. So they preferred hanging in there, but never shied away from expressing how difficult it was for both of them to live with the other.
So there we were my sister Rashmi and I, living in a house of extremes. It was either silent, occasionally filled with sounds of the television or the radio, or it was filled with the quarrelling noises of our parents. Rashmi and I had a choice, as we saw the mayhem in our house, which had become a routine. We could either grow up frustrated, fighting with each other as well (We did have extremely limited amount of patience in us) or we could do something different about it.
Fortunately, both of us chose the latter. We decided to look at the other side of life, which was, thankfully way beyond the constant bickering of our parents. Rashmi gently woke me up one Sunday morning and asked me, "Guess what’s exciting today?" Too groggy to understand her question I groaned and rolled over to the other side. "Neha!! Get up. Tell me what's going to be exciting today." "Nothing!" I said, irritated.
"Dad's going to be home all day and we will spend the whole day living in the fear of a war!"
"That's where you are wrong, sister!" She said. "We are going to make an elaborate lunch today and give mom some rest. Then when mom and dad will be busy taking their siesta, we will sneak out for an ice cream!"
I looked at her like she had lost it forever. "What is wrong with you Rashmi? We get just one day off from school, remember? “I said.
"Everything is right in the world sweetheart. Now get up. We don't want to eat a late lunch, do we?"
Reluctantly, I got up and prepared myself for the day. Besides already dealing with two fighting parents, I will now also have to deal with a crazy elder sister? I was not exactly in love with my life.
Even mom was surprised to see her two lazy daughters take over the kitchen. Unfortunately, our mother was among those who could not have a foreign element enter her area of dominance. It was a bigger effort to keep her away from "her" kitchen than to make the actual lunch. After a long haul, Rashmi and I made some really good lunch. We set the table, served our parents and ended up having a surprisingly good family time. Our parents, both proud and surprised with their daughters, were actually talking normally to each other. It was turning out to be a special Sunday after all.
Later, when both of them retired for a short afternoon nap, I decided to take one myself. I had, after all, earned it.
"What do you think you are doing?" Rashmi asked me as I was about to get comfortable under my bed covers. "Sleeping?" I said, confused.
"What about our ice cream plans? Come on!" She whispered, clenching her teeth.
"I am too tired." I cried.
"My treat!", she raised her eyebrows and smiled.
"What do you want from me, Rashmi?" I frowned and looked at her. I was honestly not getting this sudden change in her. Although it was infectious, it was still puzzling.
"I just want us to be happy. Now get ready. We don’t have much time."
"Are you not supposed to be the responsible elder sister? What if we get caught? “I was still too reluctant.
Now it was Rashmi's turn to be irritated. "That's where the fun is!" She said. "Do you want to come or not?"
I considered for a while. It might not be a bad little adventure after all.
"Give me 2 minutes." I rushed to change while my crazy sister smiled behind me.
The ice cream shop was just around the corner and fortunately, we did manage to get home in time. Not that we were doing something wrong. It was harmless fun and we had our little secret. It did turn out to be a fun Sunday!
The next morning Rashmi woke me up with the same question. "Guess what's exciting today?"
"It’s a Monday morning, Rashmi!" I almost raised my voice. "Nothing is ever exciting about a Monday morning! We have to go back to school." What a depressing thought! Did she have to rub it in, this early? I could have still caught up with 15 minutes of my precious sleep.
She was groggy in her sleep but was still smiling. "Well! I get to see Varun and don’t you have 2 free periods in a row today?"
Alright! My sister was officially crazy! But I had to smile at this remark.
"My two free periods in a row are fine. But Varun is a twelfth standard senior. He does not even look at students like you in ninth!"
"That's alright! But I still get to see him!" she winked and went towards the bathroom.
I found myself asking the same question. "What IS wrong with her?" But the thought of two free periods in a row did pep me up a little.
In the coming days, it had become a custom every morning to ask each other about the most exciting part of the day. If we could not think of anything, we would come up with our own. " I am going to sleep one extra hour today." or "I am going to go window shopping with friends after school." I was enjoying our game. In fact, we would look forward for a reason to celebrate that “happy moment” the next day.
Our lives never had a revolution. Our parents did not stop fighting. Sometimes it even grew worse. I went through my own life as any other girl. I had my share of success, failures, boys and heart breaks. But amidst all this, I did find my reason to be excited about for “today” even if it was, “Tonight I am going to lie down and watch Friends for the 100th time with a cup of coffee”.
Years later, I was to teach the same priceless lesson to my little one. However, she was not as easy to handle. One rainy morning, when I woke her up and whispered, ruffling her soft hair, “What’s exciting today, honey?” She looked at me with big quizzical eyes and asked, “what if there is nothing exciting for today, mamma?”
I brought her closer to me and kissed her little hand. “Every day, honey, even when you don’t really realize it, there is one moment to be happy about. You just have to look carefully.”
“But today is Maths test, it’s raining outside and I hate going to school wearing a raincoat. What should I be happy about?”
“Then you create one!” I said.
“Like when you come back from school, having done brilliantly in your test”, I said raising my eyebrows and smiling, “we can have lunch outside and you can play in the gaming palour”
Her mouth and eyes were widened equally and before she could jump high enough to touch the ceiling, I reminded her that she still had school to attend.
What started as a way to escape an unpleasant house became a way of life for all of us. Rashmi had taught me the biggest lesson of my life -- to hold on to what was mine and was in my control – my happiness.