A GUEST POST from my aunty Dr. Bindu on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
On this International Women’s Day I greet each of you as I recall a year of loss, of persons very dear to me and of my sister Jyoti whose name meant light and who was older than me by 4 years. She got up one Monday morning in late June, made her bed, brushed her teeth, and put on her spectacles. Maybe she felt giddy so she sat down near the wash basin, never to get up again.
Its been 8 and a half months since she’s been gone and her absence pervades my life today. So what is a sister? I am the youngest of five and all 4 of my older sibs are indulgent to me. Jyoti used to, quite often, in a matter of fact way, even gleefully tell me that I looked like an oonderdi (little mouse) as a baby. Even as a child when I heard her say this, though a bit puzzled and annoyed I was not offended by her remark, sensing a truth that was nevertheless mixed with affection. That is a sister. Someone who at times, as an after thought, included you in a trip to the cinema, or let you help her with an album she was putting together about her favourite movie star (Rock Hudson). With whom you followed his love-life, divorce and still remember the name of his wife Phyllis!
Who told you family secrets when she felt you were old enough to know them, now how did she get to know them? Unanswered question!
Whom you instinctively went to for help when puzzled by the onset of menarche, who reassured and guided you properly then. Who critically eyed you in your awkward teenage years but sort of believed you might finally turn out okay! No pretense ever, straightforward even blunt advice given, sharp rebukes for oversights or slights to others pointed out. Above all else a deeply enduring friendship with few spats, each visit to India marked by at least one, rarely none at all! Guidance for gifts to be given, tours to be taken and plans for dinners with long discussions later as to how it went, how much fun it was or was not, whether the food was excellent or horrible, who was a stuck up snob, who was a colossal bore, who was genuine, who was far too inquisitive, many a judgement shared, agreed upon, others fiercely argued about, opposed with zest. And this taken for granted for 7 decades.
Numerous talents displayed daily and part of the routine of life, no special praise just took it in and feasted: among many other items she made excellent bhel-puri chutney, pani puri, idlis, dosas, hara bhara kababs, vataana na ghughras, toover na dhekras, Surti undhiyu, wadas of all sorts, baked Indianised Italian dishes. Thought nothing about taking notes, yes she would die in some distant decade but now??!!
Keeping up with friends and family news, whispering facts she had artfully uncovered that were juicy for sure! Knowing all sorts of restaurants, shops, and bargain craft fairs. Sharing these with anyone interested in them. Getting along with younger people, no generation gap for her! Keeping up with the computer age too, special table, printer, daily scanning of news sites, showing photos of natural and other disasters to the household help who miss that now. Oh and other skills, need an electrician, plumber, painter, tailor, she could be your personal “Yellow Pages”.
So how can I NOT miss her? Many of you have sisters and will recognise them in my description of Jyoti. Relish the days with them, and exult in their presence in your life. Take note of their culinary and other myriad skills for sisters are here today and quite suddenly without so much as a “by your leave” sail off to eternity tomorrow…