Today's the little sister's eighteenth birthday. She has specially requested a post on/for her as a present. As I'm currently too broke to buy her anything else, I shall oblige. But I'm not going to write her a eulogy or anything, she isn't Prithviraj Chauhan after all. I gave some amount of thought to what I should write, and I figured that the things we both remember sometimes are the ones I want her to have on her birthday. So, Pinkerton, here are some memories. Enjoy.
I remember the day they brought her home from the hospital, swaddled in blankets, looking cross even while she was sleeping. They wouldn't let me hold her, which I greatly resented at that point, but I suppose in retrospect that handing over a newborn to a five year old isn't very wise. She was both a delight and a holy terror as an infant. When she was benevolent, she was quite a hoot. Otherwise there were times when she would wail her head off and only my dad could ger her to quiet down by rocking her to sleep in superfast express train fashion. When she was lowered into the big tub for her bath she would cry like someone was trying to drown her, then settle down in the water and gurgle with amusement, and repeat the wailing when you tried to get her out. My fondest memory of her infancy is one afternoon when my dad was home with both of us. I was trying to pat her to sleep, but she was clearly not interested, and as things turned out, my dad ended up putting me to sleep. Oh well.
We were great ones for all kinds of made up games when we were growing up. The most vivid recollection I have is of playing Vikram to her Betaal. She would dangle from these concrete bars on our terrace, and I'd take her on my back and roam around while she emitted her version of ghoulish laughter. She also came up with her own dance form which involved clambering on top of the harmonium and promptly falling off. Then there was weird dancing to weirder Hindi film songs, also on the terrace without caring as to who was watching and laughing, and when I call it dancing I'm using the word very liberally. The first day she marched off to school, she was all smartly turned out with blue skirt and white shirt and red ribbons and shiny black shoes and the works, only to come back home a half hour later, because kindergarten started the next day. Another character quirk I discovered was that she was afraid of everything. She'd cry if it started raining at night, and in Shillong, where it rains pretty much throughout the year, that's a recipe for psychosis. But she seems to have avoided that fate.
We grew up in our own ways and our own worlds, which diverged more as time went by, but we still manage to share a lot of laughs, most of them for no reason at all. When our lives were rocked by tremors, we managed to just about hold on, and we're still trying to fashion out our own versions of elusive happiness. It isn't really as hard or as bleak as I'd imagined it would be, because of one simple reason: whatever happened, we never let go of the laughter.
Now, Pinkerton, you're eighteen today. Have a great day, a great year and a wonderful life ahead. And if sometimes that looks a little difficult, just look back to that little girl who danced on the terrace with me all those years ago. Tough little tyke she was, and she'll make you happy whenever you go back to her. Happy Birthday, you're a good kid. Just stop running up monstrous phone bills.