I love my sisters. They are an extension of who I am. Maha and Mumtaz are, at the end of the day, Marya. It's actually sad to admit that my childhood was way better than theirs. I was privileged to be born first. No, I was privileged to be the first girl and the only girl child initially, a kind of hope still lingering in the minds of my parents that all was not lost and that they could afford a second child. The second child could be a boy. Maha and Mumtaz took away that hope, one after the other. They represented the opposite of hope. To a lower middle class couple, scraping through their lives in a foreign land, having two children was ideal. Three, a luxury. But three girls, an affliction.
"...having two children was ideal. Three, a luxury. But three girls, an affliction."
I'm not fond of Mustafa. I don't hate him, but I would love to raise him on my own. There's still time to correct that little brat. My blood runs through his veins. And at 16, I'm not naive enough to blame him for the way he is. All he needs is a beating. And as his big sister, I would give it to him. I would. I swear it's still not too late. But it's too late for me to hold on to any respect for our birth-givers. In a way, I want them to mess him up. To realise at a later stage that he is what he is because of them. I want to be there when he puts them in a nursing home. And then it'll be us sisters to the rescue! I hope they cry when they realise that they don't deserve our sympathies but we're still there for them as true and good Muslims.
"They should rather pardon and overlook. Would you not love Allah to forgive you? Allah is Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (Qur'an, 24:22)
I practically raised the girls. By the time Mumtaz started going to school, I had managed to make Maha self sufficient. She would bathe, dress and feed herself without depending on the adults of the house. And I took over Mumtaz. The routine was pretty much the same. Except that the evenings were spent monitoring the girls' homework and assignments. I am still held responsible for both their performances in class. With time, it started to seem as though they were both imbibing qualities from me. I couldn't see even a trace of Vappa and Umma in them. At 7 and 9 respectively, Mumtaz and Maha are grown ups already. But they are not entirely like me. They are parts of me. They had branched out of me with specific qualities that never overlapped. It's like they're trying too hard to not turn into each other. Maha, like me, loves her lessons and school work. She works hard and has better grades than I ever did. She's the big sister to Mustafa and a friend to me. Less is always more with her. Her short sentences are always heavy with meaning and sometimes, smite. The little brat always shuts up when she's around.
Mumtaz, like me, enjoys a laugh and bright colours. My notes, handwriting and drawings cannot hold a candle to hers. Sometimes if I want to surprise a friend with a hand-made card, I consult with her for ideas. The kid usually takes charge of the situation and does everything for me. She's an artist at heart and doesn't give two shits about science and math. She also goes about her business pretending as if her surroundings cannot affect her. For someone who's so easy to approach and talk to, I feel I can't possibly have a real conversation with her. She wouldn't allow it.
But the boy? God, he needs a spanking. And he needs to be potty trained. And he needs to stop wetting his bed. Guess who has to clean up after him when he wets the bed? It's a relief that I don't have to tutor him as well. That would have been a disaster. My sisters are genuinely talented and smart. But Mustafa has never even been given the opportunity to discover his talents. How can he nurture his talents, when at 6, he's not even properly potty trained. At least now, Umma takes some interest in her son's lessons. She's never too tired to take care of him. Our prince is always well looked after. It's funny how she even takes the effort to teach him Hindi for school. A language she has no clue about. Maha once told me about a time when she was alone at home with Mustafa and Umma. A little girl, who still needed some help around the loo. She doesn't remember what exactly she had done to annoy Umma. Our mother was wide awake and lying down with her son when Maha needed some help cleaning up in the loo. For what seemed forever, she kept screaming out for her mom who very conveniently ignored her. By the time the little girl got out, she saw how her mother and brother were perched on a chair, the former ignoring her very presence in the room. She may not speak much, but I know how this has scarred my little sister. Especially after we see how nothing of this sort ever happens to the little prince.
I'm contemplating on whether I should tell my parents how weird it is that Mustafa still wears a diaper to school. Not because of a medical condition but because he knows that he can pee whenever and wherever he pleases to. That's what he has grown up to become, because that's all he has known. How many times have I walked into the living room to see him squatting behind the door, excreting in a satisfied, leisurely fashion. And if Umma is too "busy" cooking for us or doing something else around the house, we're the ones who are forced to clean up the mess. Because of course, she can concentrate on only one task at a time. This mess usually leads to a realization that he's not wearing a diaper and that someone has to fetch one for him. Yesterday, while searching through the drawers for a diaper, little Mumtaz comes up to me, all giggles and excitement, and holds out a packet. A packet of condoms. A seven year old with a packet of condoms. The giggles tell me that she already knows what they are. A mere seven year old. I felt an intense hatred at that point. Hatred for my parents' negligence that led to this discovery, for my failure to keep this from her, and for whatever sources outside infiltrated her beautiful, young mind with this knowledge. I calmly took the packet from her and told her that I was going to return it to their bedroom. I did not encourage her to talk to me about it. It was possibly an opportunity for me to have a real conversation with her. But it was a conversation I did not want to have with a seven year old.
"I felt an intense hatred at that point. Hatred for my parents' negligence that led to this discovery, for my failure to keep this from her, and for whatever sources outside infiltrated her beautiful, young mind with this knowledge."
I sent her away and walked in the direction of their bedroom. But I went straight to my room and locked the doors behind me. I tucked the packet into my drawers and felt the same excitement rising in me. After all, I would have more use of this in the near future.
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You might also be interested in reading Part 1 of this collection.