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Growing Up Sisters

Posted: August 31, 2012

Do you celebrate Sister’s Day? Growing up with sisters, for me is the most precious of childhood memories.

By Aparna V. Singh

Did you know that August included a day called Sister’s Day? (On the first Sunday of the month, August 5th, to be precise). I didn’t, even though growing up with sisters is perhaps the most precious of my childhood memories. I have never wished my sisters on Sister’s Day, never really told them how much they mean to me, never thanked them for being there for me at the lowest moments of my life, because you know…isn’t that what sisters do?

We are three of us – my elder sister followed by the two of us, twins. A family with three girls. In an Indian family, everyone knows what that means. Although my parents have never believed that they have lost anything by not having boys, that doesn’t mean we never heard about it. We are after all part of a society that tells us again and again, that boys will be around to take care of their parents, while girls…girls will get married and go away to their ‘real families’.

As a result, all three of us have grown up with a fierce determination to ensure that our parents do not feel the pinch of being parents of ‘only girls’. We feel driven to prove to ourselves and to everyone else, that our family matters, that because we are girls, we have not forgotten each other in the excitement and responsibility of new relationships. We are family and will always be.

My earliest conscious memories are of my sisters. When we were very young, my twin and I used to play a game we liked to call Igloo Bigloo. We would pull a heavy razai over ourselves and pretend that we were ‘eskimos’ huddling in an igloo (back then, the word was still politically correct). I have always been afraid of the dark, but with my sister next to me, I could be brave for a little while and even stop thinking of my fear long enough to enjoy myself.

With my sister next to me. When I think of it, this has been a recurring motif of my life. Although my sisters have not been ‘next to me’ in a physical sense for over 10 years now, that has not stopped us from being present. Living in countries far away from each other, I still know that I can count upon them whenever I need. Some days, when the world seems to be conspiring against me, all I need is a phone call to make things seem brighter.

Last month, when I had sudden bouts of severe vertigo and had to undergo some tests to rule out problems, my parents were worried for me, but my sisters worried with me. That is the difference, and the reason why you can’t tell your parents certain things, but you can tell your sisters everything. As we grow older, we start treating our parents more delicately – like children who need to be protected from what can hurt them; with sisters, one can dish it out and assume that they will handle it. And what’s more, it’s not the same as telling a spouse because very often, your problems will impact your spouse too, but your sisters have the luxury of looking at it from a distance.

We have our roles. I am the forgetful one, the rebel, the outspoken one with a temper. My twin is a pragmatic, fun-loving, non-stop talker – the joker of the family. My elder sister marches to the beat of her own drum, sans fuss, and as the eldest child, she is also the responsible one. We have all our roles, but we pick and choose depending on the moment. Sometimes, even the joker needs consoling.

We have had our fights, we still do. But with whom else could I relive and relish the childhood joys of making ‘ice cream’ at home by pouring orange juice into kulfi moulds? The excitement of receiving another new episode of the Mahabharata issued by Amar Chitra Katha in a series over 42 months? The joy in making up a bed with pillows stuffed under a sheet, and hiding under the bed, giggling silently while my father tried to wake up the sleeping figure?

And the fights become memories too. My elder sister’s taping our mouths shut with cello tape to stop us from jabbering has become legendary in the family. Although she continues to deny that this ever happened. Who knows? Do the things that happen to us get reborn as memories or do the memories we build help us remember what happened?

In recent years, we have also talked about the more uncertain moments of our childhood – things that we cannot explain, people we could not understand; and while we may still not understand everything, looking back together does help us explain more than we could otherwise.

My sisters are my closest friends, the ones whom I can tell when I have behaved terribly, and yet expect that they will still love me. Unhesitatingly.

In a world where we are constantly trying to prove ourselves, how many greater blessings can there be, than to have the assurance of this unconditional love?

*Photo credit: lusi.

Founder & Chief Editor of Women's Web, Aparna believes in the power of ideas

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