January 1, 2011 Off By Parijat Priyadarshini

As tough as it is – we all have to face the fact that we grow up and never see our pasts. Hard as it seems to see myself transition from a younger me to an older me everyday, it is even harder to see your most beloved people evolve physically and mentally year after year, until you just have a memory of how they were – many many years ago.

Once in a while, you are jolted by such realizations – like your kid’s first day at school. You being all apprehensive about how such a tiny little thing that you literally bottle-fed and potty-trained for the last 3 years would be able to survive the burden of so much homework and peer pressure. Your daughter’s first date and the day she came home much later than your curfew time. The first appearance of heavy metal boom-boom and rock band posters in your son’s room. Your first pair of specs….your first grey hair.

As I stand jolted myself by one such epic realization, I can imagine how it feels to lose time – when all I have is pictures and memories – of someone who was, a few years ago, a tiny bundle of flesh wrapped in a white hospital baby sheet, that I carried in my arms for the first time, when my mom gave birth to her second daughter.

Today, as my sister is getting prepared to start the most important venture of her adult life, I am sitting here mourning every single, irreversible moment that has gone by, that cumulates into today – the day of her engagement.

As I look at her – the absolutely beautiful bride with her mehndi adorned hands and twinkling eyes tinged with that heady mixture of excitement and coyness, I am transported back to the first day that I saw her in that hospital. I still remember how thrilled and confident I was that I finally had my best friend, but was so annoyed that my parents did not give me attention anymore, let alone trust me to hold her for more than five seconds!

She was absolutely adorable and cried surprisingly less. I remember me and my cousin trying to record her first baby wails – and how she just would not let go; not a single trick in the book would bring her first bout of tantrums! And believe me, we were a bunch of good-for-nothing hoodlums back then – we knew how to spurt tears in any kid around the block. Years later, another one of our notorious cousins and I had gone on our Tom Sawyer ‘adventure trips’ to the river next to our house. Kiddo (that’s what I call her – still) insisted that we treat her like a grown up and not like dudu-bhaat (that’s our baby lingo for ‘null & void’) we took her along with us on our hiking trip. On a very macho show-off parade of skills, as my kid sister tried to prove how brave she was, she tumbled all the way from the top of the hill to the bottom of a ditch. And she still did not cry – not a tear of fear or remorse. She was 7 years old. And badly bruised from head to toe.

As I look at her today, passing from one person to another, conversing with everyone, queen of the room and star of the day, all I see is that angel child, her cheeks filled with apple hues, hair tied into two tiny coconut trees and her eyes all dewy and pure and filled with her next mischief. Most of the times I also see a packet of cherries or some form of saltine in her palms…and she would be in an A-cut dress that makes her look like a Japanese doll. That’s my Kiddo. The cutest and purest kid ever born. My best friend and partner-in-crime.

We have sung probably millions of songs together. Even today, as we sit in two different rooms, we start singing the same line of the same song at the exact same instant! And then roll on the floor laughing at how this happens every time! Our days of bliss would be a great book, some good oranges and the sun in the garden. We knew what the other one was thinking and better still, we got the pun every time in each joke we shared. Our ambition was to be the next Bronte sisters.

As I watched her grow out of a pinafore into a faded pair of jeans, it would always surprise me when her intellect matched and then later surpassed many of my own peers. Her grace and elegance would always stand out as I fought with my own body issues, insecurities and a very resilient gangly teenage.

My going away to boarding college was the toughest thing she faced. Finding a girlfriend my age that was as intelligent and understanding as Kiddo, throughout school, college and work was the toughest challenge I encountered.

As we grew up to be separated by distance, experience and cultures, I still depended on her to keep me from losing sight. Kiddo was my mirror at every stage of transition, evolution – whatever you call it. And by that I don’t just mean that I see my childhood and the awkward years of growing up into the person that defines me today, when I look at her. She is the reflection of my conscience. Even without trying, she has made me confess. All these years! It really does not help that she knows my every thought from just a glance, and can tell me on my face what she truly thinks. At times, I hated it. But then I realized that she was the only person in my life who could stand up to me (as a fact, she IS taller than me now) and wake me up from whatever fantasyland visions I was suffering from at that point of time. In one such remarkable episode, she declared that she had put me on a pedestal but I was not there anymore. I wished she had not talked about that damn pedestal!

Today, as I look at her newly acquired family, I see the pride in their eyes – of gaining someone as amazing as her. And I feel really possessive. How can she go away? How can someone else hold her so close, as I stand by and watch? She is my Kiddo – the apple of my dad’s eyes, my mom’s confidante for so many years. We don’t even know how to buy a curtain for the house without her judgment.

And now I am going back again to the memories. Group photographs of the family – standing in the front garden, smiling in our new shiny dresses. The Vespa that carried us all till our dad called it a day and bought our first car. Our impromptu vacations and picnics – and mom’s snacks of boiled eggs and bread that we simply adored. Our dinners and the banter – school, books, music…undesired boyfriends, unwomanly behavior being brought into notice, etc. That rickshaw ride back from school on days of sudden holidays.

Us both fighting for mom-space and battling over who would sleep nearer to her and on which particular days. Note-book covers, tiffin boxes, phantom cigarettes and lollipop candies, Little Women, P.G. Wodehouse, MLTR…

Yes – we all have to face the fact that we grow up and never see our pasts. But now I know that we need to keep living our presents to be able to create such wonderful memories. So I get up from my reverie, take a glass of beverage in my hands, and go near her. She smells awesome with her new, imported perfumes that her brand new fiancé has loaded her dressing table with. She looks at me, winks and rolls her eyes, which I know means – get me the hell out of this heavy dress and stupid makeup, and let’s gossip about some of these guests! And I am ready to create some brand new memories for the future.

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