My twin sisters are only a year older than me and often in our school days, we were mistaken to be triplets! “You are hiding the truth”, our class mates would accuse us time and again. They were justified in this allegation! It really was difficult to tell one of the twins from the other as they were identical, but strangely I too had a strong resemblance to them.
Our early childhood was spent in Chittagong the beautiful port city of Bangladesh, (which was then East Pakistan) and in the late fifties my parents moved to Dhaka. When my parents decided that it was time for the twins to start school and started to prepare them for their admission test, I threw a big tantrum! “I also want to go to school”, I declared firmly. Maybe I was so used to spending my time with my sisters, I could not bear to be separated from them for even a few hours.
In the fifties, starting school at three was quite news for the family (and I belong to a big one), advice that I was too young came pouring in, but strong headed as I was, I kept to my word and finally Ammi and Daddy had to give in.
The twins were one year my senior when we started school. I started at nursery level and they were admitted to KG-1. At home, we three spent most of our time together therefore I easily picked up whatever lessons they learnt in their class. At the end of our first year, our Principal told my proud Daddy that as I knew everything that would be taught in the next class, I was being given a double promotion. And in this way I caught up on my twin sisters. Till the end of our student lives, we not only attended the same school and college, we were mostly in the same section too.
In our parental home, we shared the same bedroom. Snuggling close to each other in our huge bed, we talked and giggled into the late hours of night, pretending to be asleep only when we heard Ammi’s footsteps. More friends than sisters, we shared a strong bond of love and affection and hardly needed the company of anyone else. Our classmates would often ask in wonder, “Do you three never quarrel?” They would relate about their fights with their sisters which we would hear with a smile. Our Aunts used to give our example to their daughters when they got exasperated by settling their never ending differences.
According to Pam Brown, “An older sister is a friend and defender- a listener, conspirator, a counselor and a sharer of delights. And sorrows too!” And I consider myself lucky to have two loving elder sisters. Even today the little girl in me always awakens when I am with the twins.
I don’t remember ever having a serious row with my sisters, although at times, they were annoyed with me for messing up the common room we shared. But inspite of grumbling and threatening that they would take this matter to Ammi, they never did so! They would quickly clear up the things I had littered around, to save me from Ammi’s wrath, as she was very particular about keeping our home spic and span.
We sisters were sandwiched between our two brothers. I belong to a conservative family where great value is given to social norms. My mother was very firm where relations amongst siblings were concerned. “An elder brother is an elder brother”, she would say sternly! So, I and the twins spent our childhood in awe of our ‘Big Brother’ (who is only two years my senior!) He was the ‘Boss’ after Ammi and Daddy and we were used to take his word as the final one! (No arguments allowed). And to tell you the truth, although I am at the threshold of old age, this feeling even holds good today! But I was always at daggers drawn with the younger brother, always quarreling with him on every possible issue, although for the twins he was the ‘Baby brother” always to be pampered!
But with the twins, I shared an open relationship which switched roles according to my moods. Usually, I was their baby sister, to be loved and pampered, to be protected and sheltered. But with my whimsical temperament, whenever I wanted to, I promoted myself to be a bosom friend of my twin sisters! After all, I was only one year younger and this was a negligible difference of age, I would argue with myself (and sometimes with my mother too!) We were more pals than sisters and as I was dominating by nature, I would often exploit their meek and submissive nature to the best of my abilities!
Physically also, I and my twin sisters looked the same, having nearly the same height and weight. Ammi loved to dress the three of us identically. In the sixties, there were no frantic trips to the tailor’s. ‘Master Sahib’ (as our tailor was called), personally came to collect and drop our dresses at home. And three dresses of the same size, color and yes, even pattern were often delivered by him. “Nazr ho jaayeigi inhein Dulhan, ye tou teen guryaan lagti hain” our Tai Ammi would often lovingly advise Ammi. But Ammi would just retort back “Humein aise hi acha lagta hai!”
And ‘Nazr’ it was in the end! We three, who were often called inseparable by friends and cousins and could not even imagine of a life without each other, were separated and strewn apart like the beads of a rosary whose string is broken! A strange streak of fate and circumstances beyond our control made the three of us citizens of three different countries.
I was the first to be married and moved to Karachi (then West Pakistan) and one of the twins, Abeda settled down in Barreilly (India) after tying the knot. Only Zaheda remained in Dhaka and lived close to our parents after her marriage.
The wheel of time waits for no one. Our lives moved on! We three were blessed with children, had our moments of achievements and heartbreaks, but we kept on missing each other in every moment of joy and sorrow.
The twins and I still share the same relation of intense love, the same understanding of each other’s feelings although our meetings are often years apart! Thanks to the advance of technology we can Skype, text message or just pick up our cell phones and press a button to contact each other. But still the deep void inside our souls remains. Somehow, we feel complete only when we three are together.
The love and relationship I and the twins share has defied all barriers of time, distance and age! We have proved wrong the age old notion “Two is company and three is a crowd”. For us, words unsaid are understood, feelings just reach out to each other without being expressed! It is a strange and long love; a relationship to be cherished and treasured always!