She began…..in a dreamy voice…… “A long long time ago,” then she stopped and chuckled…. “Well not that long time ago, there lived a girl who was going far away from her home to study. She didn’t want to go, obviously, but her parents coaxed and cajoled her into going there, saying it was her lifetime opportunity to make it big in this world. She had fretted, fumed, thrown tantrums, threatened suicide…..but of no avail! Their decision was unwavering and unanimous. For every argument she put forward, they had only one answer…..you must go!”
So typical of parents, I thought. Then I said, “ oh mom, hold on, hold on! What was her name? where did she live? And where the hell did she go to study? And what was she studying?”. Mother laughed. The sound of her laughter was like that of glass bangles tinkling against each other….it was so sunny and warm! The hard lines on her face softened and melted away into nothingness as she laughed…her brows relaxed and her face changed completely! She seemed much younger now, just like a giggling teenager. The confident smile she always bore had vanished, and was replaced by a mischeiveous twinkle in her eyes and the polite distance she maintained from the world had dwindled considerably. Wow! I thought. She actually laughed out! LOUD!
Just then she spoke again, “ it doesn’t matter darling! They bear no relation with the story! It doesn’t matter where she lived…in Mexico or Madagascar, whether she studied nuclear science or modern philosophy…..she could have done anything!”
The jerk put his ugly nose in…. “ well, what matters is how did she look? Was she very beautiful? Was she very fair? With straight hair? Blue eyes?”. After a momentary hesitation he added…. “ did she….. did she have an hour glass figure?”
“ Whoa!” I protested. “ Who’s bringing in a princess now? Give your hormones some rest, you dirty psycho!”
“Look, who’s talking now? Why elder sister”, he mocked me….. “you jealous? Of course, of course, I understand… its only natural, you know! You are dark and plump and damn unattractive. The boys of your class never pay attention to you! And you secretly envy your gorgeous sexy best friend because your crush goes out with him! And o ya…you have pimples that leave ugly marks all over your face and you’ll probably die lonely, old and still a virgin!”
“B-A-A-P-P-A-A!”, mom shouted! I buried my face in my pillow. God please! I don’t want to cry in front of them! Please! I bit into my pillow to choke the uncontrollable sob inside my stomach! Just then, my father shouted from the living room…. “ will someone give me a cup of tea? Please! I have been asking for it since the last 1 hour!”
For once, mother made an exception. She rose from the bed…. “ all right,! All right! But this is the last cup! And you, children, you better make up before I come back if you want me to finish the story!”
Her saree rustled against the carpet as she went and there was a heavy silence in the room. Outside the gutters roared in rushing torrents and the rain beat down hysterically like a giant hammer on the windowpanes!
I kept my face buried. I could understand that my brother shifted weight once on his right side, then again on his left, then again right. Then he slid closer to me and began fiddling with my spectacles which I had kept beside my teddy bear.
“ Ahem!”. He cleared his throat. “I am…. I am…. I mean I didn’t mean it! It was just a reaction! In fact I would have told you that she was going out with him. I saw them yesterday at the CCD.”
“I know that they are going out…I saw them too!that was last week.” My voice was shaking.
“Now, didi!”, he said meekly…. “don’t be a cry baby! I am sorry.” Then he came closer and gave me a tight hug.
I couldn’t stop it anymore….tears came gushing down my cheek…. “ I am not that bad, bhai that I’ll be jealous of Tanima! She is my best friend no matters who she goes out with! I might be ugly, but I am not mean!”
“oh no no, you are not ugly at all, didi! In fact, that day Chatterjee uncle’s son was following you all around in the party! He only stopped when I looked at him menacingly! I just want you to find a good guy and not go around with those morons!”
“You possessive?” I smiled. “ Of course,” he said. “You are after all my only sister!”
We both smiled. Then we put our foreheads together and rubbed noses like kittens. When had we last done that? Not since I started having my…..well, I mean not since I became a grown up girl. It felt like we were children again, brother and sister…oblivious of anything else.
“M-O-M-M-Y!” We shouted!
“ I’m coming ! I’m coming!” We could hear her bangles jingling!
“Oh, and please bring the dairy milk bar from the fridge , mom! We are hungry!” I winked at my bro.
She came in with the delicious chocolate! “so let’s get on with the story!” She put a piece of chocolate into each of our mouth. “Let’s see, where was I then?”