FRIENDS FOREVER!

It defies age! It defies time! It defies distances! This is what your relationship with an elder sister is about! When you are young, all day long you quarrel and argue with her over petty matters, you are not on speaking terms the whole day, but as night falls, you snuggle close to her in bed. In the darkness a hand reaches out to you and the next moment you are in each others arms, giggling at the absurdity of your fights.
Your first childhood memories other than those of your parents are the loving face of your sister. She is quick to lend a helping hand whenever you need it, hugging you when you fall and bruise your knees, encouraging you when you are depressed because you did not do well at that Maths test and briskly hiding from Mummy’s eyes the silk dress you tore at the wedding. She is a friend, a mentor and your blind supporter.
But when it comes to please Mom and Dad she is your fierce competitor as well! She will try her best to outclass you. Whether it is clearing up the bedroom you share with her, offer a helping hand to Mummy in the kitchen or polishing Daddy’s shoes, she will strive hard to outdo you on all fronts, just to win a better place in your parent’s eyes.
At home she might bully you and boss you around, making you do the little chores you are too lazy (or hate) to do. But once you step outside the security of home, she becomes your fierce supporter, sheltering you against all harm, shielding you in the small quarrels you pick up with your peers. One moment a friend, the other a foe, this love you- hate you relationship continues till you grow up.
Time flies! Before you know it, the day when she will move out of the parental home arrives. She might be going to another city for higher studies or to join a new job or maybe she is getting married and shifting to her new home. The news of her leaving home open up new vistas in your mind! Thank God, you will have the room for your own and no one to share the wardrobe with. No more taking and obeying orders, with threats that the case would be taken to the Supreme Court (Mummy and Daddy), if you do not oblige. The positive points keep on popping into your head and you can not wait for the day when she would be gone.
But alas! The day she moves out you start missing her badly. All the fights are forgotten and you only remember her love and support. Days grow longer without her and at night you feel lonely and hug her pillow, just because her sweet smell is still lingering in it. You miss her loving touch, the laughter and senseless chatting you shared with her.
An elder sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost. To the outside world you may grow old, but not to an elder sister. She is the only one who doesn’t get bored if you talk about your childhood memories and shared events. With her, you live outside the touch of time. Even after you yourself have become a Granny, she will pamper you like a child when you meet her after years, scold you for being careless about your health; cook your favourite dish for you and make you eat it until you feel like throwing up.
A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life. She knows you and your childhood secrets. She shares with you family jokes and feuds; family joys and sorrows. Even after you have grown up, it’s hard to be responsible, adult and sensible all the time. But with a sister you can always behave as you like, because only she understands the child deep inside you who refuses to grow up! How good it is to have a sister whose heart is as young as your own! An older sister is Allah’s special gift, a friend and defender – a listener, a counsellor and a sharer of delights. And sorrows too!

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LIFE! THE HATE MONGERS (http://archives.dawn.com/archives/69181#comment-)

The boss has a crush on his young, beautiful but married secretary. The girl is tactful enough to keep his advances at bay and still retain her job. Her colleagues have planned a surprise birthday party for the boss which the (unsuspecting) girl discusses at home with her mother-in-law.

On the fateful day the boss is astonished but delighted to receive a card and a big bouquet from her and calls to say thanks. The girl is devastated because she has sent neither of them, but her husband (who is sure to be at home at that particular time) does not believe her. So, a big row follows. The mother-in-law, who is listening to them argue bitterly, stays neutral but the smug look on her face has a lot to say!

The daughter-in-law is not to be deterred and plans a quick revenge. The next day she seems to misplace her wedding ring (a precious diamond one, of course). She hunts for it everywhere and looks visibly agitated. The (seemingly) loving mama-in-law is all sympathy for her as she helps in the search. In the evening the daughter-in-law opens her mother-in-law`s cupboard to get something for her and lets out a scream (of delight). The ring is right there, shining brightly and she turns towards the older lady in disbelief, her accusing look saying more than words.

One has only to put two and two together to guess how the ring reached there.

These are not true stories but scenes from one of the endless (and senseless) soap operas which the ever mushrooming television channels dish out day in and day out! We see people of every age addicted to them. They gleefully watch episode after episode of the plays even though the story moves at a snail`s pace. Why are people attracted to these soap operas? Some people say that these plays are an escape from the harsh realities of life while others argue that this is the best way they can spend their leisure hours, but very few of us realise what harm they are doing to our family values!

The family is the core of the human existence and its members are supposed to provide each other with love and security, to share each other`s happiness, problems and sorrows, and to tend to each other`s needs. The majority of the soap operas have a negative impact on these values. Most of the plays are set against an urban backdrop, about families belonging to the high social strata, where the ladies have nothing better to do than to don expensive dresses, heavy (and unnatural) makeup and jewellery and relax in luxuriously furnished lounges. They have to do no house work, no cooking, no washing or ironing and no looking after their kids. All they seem to do is to plot, scheme and hatch conspiracies against other family members! Back biting seems to be the order of the day as these ladies manipulate simple day-to-day events to their selfish motives. In the above mentioned examples, both the ladies go miles to demean other down, even though their hatred for each other is beautifully sugar coated.

The most important target in most soaps are the in-laws. Marriage is not only a bond between two individuals it is a new set of relationships between two families. This relationship is supposed to be based on mutual love, understanding and respect for each other, with every one realising the others` rights and working together towards a peaceful and loving family. The love for in-laws is not in the blood, as that for biological bonds; it has to be nurtured step by step, day by day after making many compromises and sacrifices.

On the contrary, most TV plays are teaching women to hate instead of love, to doubt instead of to trust, to avenge instead of to forgive and to humiliate instead of to respect. Women are portrayed not as home makers but as home breakers, all out to destroy the peace, tranquillity and happiness from a happy family life.

In the normal life, do we find women as cunning and ill meaning to each other as depicted in these plays? I don`t claim that relationship with in-laws is all bliss but the question is, “Is anyone perfect in this world?” We have to be perfect ourselves before expecting or demanding perfection from others.

The viewers of soap operas, especially young girls, are so taken by the charm and glamour of the characters that they lose the capability of distinguishing facts from fiction and have no idea what subtle change is undergoing in their approach towards family life. These hate-mongers on the idiot box are teaching us to hate, distrust and humiliate the people who should be the most near and dear to our hearts. Shouldn`t all of us stand up against this slow poison to the roots of our being before it is too late?

The Twins and I!

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!