Old endings and new beginnings
I am a middle child. So is M (hubster) for that matter. I think that’s what we must have bonded over. Our dukhbhari kahani of a childhood filled with negotiations and compromises. Because that is what a middle child ultimately faces, doesn’t he? “It’s okay, woh bari hain na?” or “It’s okay, woh chota hai na?”
My sister disagrees. But she is 4 years older than me and had all the privileges of a first born. I was 3 and a half years old when our baby brother was born. That means for 3 and a half glorious years that I hardly remember, I was the youngest!
Growing up I wanted everything that my sister had or did. Her stationery stash was the stuff a 6 year old’s dreams are made of. I always wanted to play with her things. It didn’t help that I was super clumsy and broke a lot of things. It annoyed her to no end and she was pretty vocal about it. Just like a typical sister relationship. We used to watch a lot of Full House back then and relate to. That made our brother Michelle, but we were pretty ok with that.
I was 4 years old when our family went on a trip to Northern Pakistan. My first cross country train trip. We were a large group of people travelling together, my grandparents, 2 phuppos, a mamoon, few cousins and a manservant. Trust me; it was exactly like Full House. It was loud and chaotic and simply wonderful. I get a warm fuzzy feeling just thinking about it.
My sister was lucky that she had company in the form of a cousin of ours. They did everything together and were old enough to play Ludo, Uno and various card games. Most of which I didn’t understand. They would pair up and leave me alone. They weren’t mean as such but to a pesky 4 year old, even once or twice a day seemed a lot. It was beyond tragic. I was inconsolable. I desperately wanted to belong to that clique!
I still remember when we left Abbotabad and were en route to Murree. On the way, we stopped at a bustling marketplace. Lots of colors and lots more noise, hawkers advertising their wares, dhaba chai being passed around in shot glasses and the scent of peshawari karahi lingering in the air. My dad bought all of us sunhats. You know, those straw hats with wide brims? I was overjoyed. I loved it! Mine even had a silk bow. We traveled on in one of those half open jeeps or was it a truck? (Please excuse my 4 year old self’s hazy memory). It was quite windy. Suddenly a gust of wind came and with a whoosh! my sister and cousin’s hats were gone! Sailing through the valley like two kites without a string. Everyone laughed and settled back. I looked over and saw them both laughing and talking about it and felt quite left out. I did what any sane 4 yr old would have done next. I took my hat off and threw it out of the jeep like a Frisbee. Everyone thought that was quite silly of me but I didn’t care. Now I could talk about it with my sister too.
As fate would have it, my son is two and a half years older to my sister’s son. We are quite lucky to live close to each other. When I see our 2 boys hanging out, I see myself in my nephew. I can totally relate to him. He is now the pesky little brother following my son around, wanting to do and play with the same things that A has. Oh and he is as clumsy as I was if not more. He annoys A, repeats everything he says and tries to snatch things from him. Of course he’s smaller so doesn’t succeed much but he knows other ways to get under A’s skin. It’s quite endearing but then when I see A, I see my sister in an entirely different light.
I now completely understand where she was coming from. A has so much of her in him. He is more serious by nature, takes a lot more care of his toys and stuff, is quite content in his own company and has a love for reading as fierce as hers. They are extremely close to each other as well. She really gets him. Whereas Asad is the funny, totally silly, completely chaotic and whimsical child who has a knack for looking angelic after doing something naughty. They are poles apart and yet inseparable. A is the older brother teaching Asad ways of the world and Asad makes A laugh and let go of his fears. They need each other in the same way I know now I needed my sister and she needed me.
Looking at them, I have learnt that our own children have so much to teach us about ourselves. As a referee to these 2, I get a new found appreciation for my own childhood and a feeling of pure joy like no other.
“Like branches on a tree we grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one. Each of our lives will always be a special part of the other.”