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The emotional gap between us, which we created over years, was bridged in a few seconds. Why did it take so long for us to laugh together?
The alarm chimed and I switched it off in a jiffy, lest my family wake up. It was still dark outside and I tiptoed into the kitchen, made tea, showered and snuck out of my flat, making sure nobody noticed. I wondered if they would ever notice.
I quietly opened the building gate, the watchman was fast asleep. Once outside, I waited, anxiously. Finally I saw the car approaching and I waved. It halted and I peeped in.
“You are driving?” I am stunned. “Where’s the driver?”
“Please, you might not know but I drive pretty well. Hop on if you wish, or else you are most welcome to return,” she responded.
I dumped my bags in the backseat and joined her in the front. She had got her driving license just recently. It made me wonder how she decided to undertake the eight hour long drive from Vadodara to Kutchh, without any assistance. But then, she wasn’t like me at all, my younger sister. She always got to do what she wanted.
“They didn’t come downstairs to see you off? Your husband and his parents?” she inquired.
I answered in negative and thankfully she didn’t prod. Not that I was too keen on sharing my secrets with her, anyway. That the marriage was almost over, that there was not an iota of respect they had for me, that all this ensured that my son had no respect for me either.
I had left a note for my husband that I was off on a week- long trip with my sister. Not that it would make any difference to him, the maid next door would suffice for the week.
I shot her a side-ward glance. Dressed in shorts and a crop top, she looked every bit young and carefree. And here I was, tired and overweight, dark circles, bulging tummy, every bit the weary, neglected house wife I was.
It was strange how different we were, well I blamed my parents for that. She was always the better daughter. Smart, beautiful, studious, an all- rounder. I was considered the dull one, neither pretty, nor smart.
When I flunked degree exams the second time, my parents did the obvious, that’s how my handsome but financially weak husband married me. He set up his business with my father’s money. Not only did he do very well career wise but he was popular with the ladies too!
Initially, I did put up a fight, I spoke to my parents. But I was always met with the same response. I was told that I had no future without my husband and that it was best for me to keep quiet and accept my fate. However, the saddest part was that my son was turning out to be exactly like his father.
All this time, and even now, I rarely spoke to my sister about this. An eight year age gap was a bit too much. When I stepped into teenage, she was just so little. And while she was growing up, I was already married.
The constant comparison of our marks and talents only made me feel inferior and widened the distance in our hearts. There were differences and that’s probably why there was no affection between us. We did text at time, but there was none of the strong sister bonding like they showed on TV or in the movies.
Moreover, my parents had been completely different with her. She was still unmarried and my parents hardly ever brought it up. That she was career-oriented and free-spirited while being allowed to be so, was quite unlike how I grew up. Most of the time I ended up being jealous, and I guess Mom knew this. She ensured not to spill my marital woes to anyone.
But when my sister suggested this trip to Kutchh suddenly one evening, I had to admit I got all excited. Somehow, I didn’t seek my family’s permission, they wouldn’t take me anywhere. So I thought, I might as well travel somewhere by myself for once.
“I still don’t understand why you chose me as your travel partner? I mean, you have plenty of friends. Why me?” I needed to know, it was indeed surprising.
“Oh, all my friends are married, or engaged. Plus I thought some change could do you good. Trust me, I could never do what you do. A joint family, husband, kid, chores… It takes lot of strength and patience.” She said, casually.
It was the first time someone had paid me a compliment, I was touched.
“Where are we going? To the Great Rann Of Kutchh?” I asked excitedly.
“Not exactly, but close by. Dholavira, to witness the five thousand year old Harappan history, to visit the ancient city of Harappa.”
“What?” I was perplexed. “And all this time I thought we were off to enjoy, see the rare white sands. How did you imagine I would be even remotely interested in Harappan civilisation and stuff? Did you ask me once? Huh, but then you are used to having your way! Mom and dad always let you do what you wanted, pursue what you wished, always got your way. I, I…!” I couldn’t finish, I was so furious.
She stopped the car on the side.
“Listen.” Now it was her turn to be angry. “You think I liked engineering? I hated it, all the time. But then would our parents agree? No! Because all bright students chose engineering. I wanted to pursue archaeology, or palaeontology. It was my heart’s desire to carry on research, to study history, but would they let me? No. And to think you thought they were partial.
“For your kind information, they had their way, they decided stuff for me. As far as marriage is concerned, there was this guy from college whom I was in a relationship with. His family approved, but not ours. Dad threw a fit, mom threatened suicide, and my ‘boyfriend’ couldn’t wait for me forever. So I let go and thus my romantic dreams flew out the window,” she vented.
“Why didn’t you tell me all this? I could have helped perhaps. I could have coaxed Mom.” I expressed concern.
“How could I? You have been ever so distant. All my life I tried making friends with you, but you were so cold. You hated me. For what? I never thought I was better than you. And I still don’t. You know I read those poems you wrote, I found that book in mom’s cupboard. They are beautiful. And you let it all go.” She lamented.
“Oh that.” I was flattered. “Mom hid it because she thought it distracted me from studies. I scribbled post marriage as well but there was no encouragement whatsoever. And I doubt if I’m any good, and where’s the time now?”
She held my hand.
“So listen up now. We have a week’s time. Dholavira is a tiny village with limited mobile network, our phones are going to be offline. I’ll visit the site and see what I could learn and what research prospects I have. You relax at the hotel, write your heart out, like a writing retreat. No husband, no family and no phone calls to disturb you. Just you and your ‘tanhaai’.” She winked.
I could feel a little tear escape my eyes. And she smiled.
“You deserve this di, you are far more capable than you think. Just break free from your shackles for a while, everything will come around. Let’s start our relation afresh, let’s be friends for once.”
I was amazed at how, in that moment, we had transformed from mere sisters to soul mates. The emotional gap between us, which we had created over the years, was bridged in a few seconds. It was such a little thing, why did it take so long, we laughed together.
I was ready to give my life a second chance. My sister who had been a stranger all along, had finally been my saviour. Wonder, how many a relations could be saved if only we gave our egos a miss and conversations a chance.
Editor’s Note: This post was one of the short listed stories from the Muse Of The Month Contest for the month of December 2019.
Picture credits: YouTube
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