Bonds and Memories

Day 13&14, Tuesday 1st&2nd October, 2009

I am sorry. I just can’t fit these two days in a blog post. It’s just so close to my heart, this trip. The story of these two days will be something me and Nani will pakao our grandkids with. Be it the Jurassic Park ride, or missing Ross Geller while reading dinosaur labels. Be it taking mad pictures next to the Cat in the Hat or be it getting drenched on the Popeye ride. Be it being kissed by Chip and Dale or be it riding on a Disney train to Mickey Mouse’s house. Be it taking a flight into Neverland or be it discovering a small small world or be it riding the Carousel of Progress. All these things are meant to be treasured in my heart, I wish I could write about it all but I can’t.

Another reason why I can’t write is that we never got to relish the after taste of the trip. Nani had really bad breakouts all over her body and soon, we discovered a bedbug infestation in Nani’s room. Hell followed. Her roommate wanted to leave the house, the lease was on her name, we found out the landlord was being chased by the FBI and then I wanted to leave the house. We had to wash and clean everything, our luggage, books, clothes, sheets. We had to bake all the books. (I know I love baking, but I never thought I would bake books, damn you, bed bugs!)We had to hunt for a house. And it was hell. My little sister was bitten up, her school had started, she didn’t have a home. And the big sister in me obviously was very very upset. Of course, Moody, NewYorker and Roger were constantly trying to tell me it will be okay and I knew it would be okay. Maybe I was overreacting, maybe I was being obsessive, but the truth is, I haven’t been this disturbed for eons.

We finally did find Nani another place. Everything is ok now as I gear up for my New York trip. But I do wake up at night and see Nani sleeping peacefully despite the red spots on her face, and I get teary eyed (yeah yeah very Nirupa Roy-esque I know!) Why should she suffer?

Disneyland was lovely and strengthened our sisters’ bond, true, but the bed bug issue and the entire upheaval made me realise that joy might bring you closer, but a crisis will test that closeness and strengthen the bond. It’s like the heat-test iron goes through to strengthen it.


Childhood Dreams: Priceless!

Day 12, Wednesday 30th September, 2009

The beach can only entertain you so much. There has to be something more done. Now, Disneyland is something we’ve been wanting to do, bachpan se and the cheapest deal also was going to cost us a bundle. It’s at times like these that I wish I’d chosen a profession that was far more lucrative than writing. Don’t get me wrong. I love being a writer. I love it, but it isn’t the place to be if you want to shower expensive holidays and gifts on yourself or others. However, i have done some chindigiri in my last job and I do have a little bit saved up for a rainy day.

That rainy day, I decided, was here. If the money you save doesn’t come handy in giving you some joy, what’s the use? I thought about the joy it would be to see Disney World with Nani, I thought about that chance to be two little girls we used to be again and I thought about all those dream plans of visiting Disneyland that we’d made as 15 and 11 yr olds. Well, quite like a dudette in a Master Card ad, I realised that I would have many opportunities to make money and fatten my bank balance (yeah, I’m being ambitious) but this chance to bring alive a childhood dream, it wasn’t coming back. So, I made a call and booked my tickets. Two days to Orlando, one day in Disney’s Magic Kingdom and another in Universal Studios’ Island of Adventure.

Meanwhile, we discovered that all the inhabitants of the house had been bitten by something. Me and Nani’s roommate not so much, but Nani and the roommate’s friend were really bitten up. We figured the fat cat had got in some ticks and hence the house was fumigated with a flea spray.

We tucked ourselves in at midnight to the excitement of an early morning trip to Orlando. I don’t know about Nani, but I felt the same excitement I’d feel the night before a school picnic to Esselworld. H how I missed feeling this excited! I knew  that the next two days were going to be $ well spent…

You, Me, Hum, Tum, Majja

Day 11, Tuesday 29th September, 2009

The fat cat stared me in my face. I woke expecting the purring to be the dainty Mulayam, but here was Tipper, in all his magnificence, staring me in the face to let him out. Damn, I should have been up two hours ago to make it on time for the walk. Dang. It was too sunny to go out now. So I busied myself with the writing. I was lagging behind in doing my daily posts to the blog and I was fast forgetting little things and what they made me think. Sometimes, I long for a Dictaphone. It’d be nice to record all my crazy ideas (yes, I love all my ideas)

The plan was to get a sushi take-out. But we decided to cook instead. On the menu: Chicken tandoori with boiled veggies and whole wheat bread. I had to make sure my sister was getting good nutrition while I was around.

And then something made me go yaay! Nani replied to me on twitter. She had finally started writing her blog. I have been after her forever to start writing a blog. I think she’s a fantastic writer, has an amazing sense of humor and a keen insight into human behaviour. And yeah, her theories can really get you thinking. I felt she had to write a blog. So, finally a brief twitter campaign later, Nani started her own blog (you can read it here).
I thought to myself, ‘Now I can read all about Nani’s life when I go back to Mumbai,’ and that’s it. The mood swung right back to the dumps.

Don’t get me wrong, I long to go home to my family, my home and my life, but the thought of that life with Nani so far away is a little overwhelming. Yes, I am missing my mom and dad and grandparents. I am missing PiWi, Snehu and I am missing the brother, the better friend and their idiosyncrasies. But then I start each day with Nani and end it with Nani. Yeah, call me an obsessive sister if you must, but I love falling asleep to random jabber with Nanchan and I love waking up a little annoyed with the mad songs she sets on her cellphone alarm. I guess, Mom and Dad will kick me on my backside, but yeah, Nani is like the missing jigsaw puzzle to my life.

I have said this before, but before she came into my life, I remember it being dull. At four, I threw a tantrum and acted up on the sibling rivalry, but Nani is the best thing that ever happened to me. And Mom and Dad, thank you ever so much. I feel grateful for the family we are and frankly, I love all the madness, highs and lows of being us.

I love it and if I had to, I’d do it all over again. Maybe, I’ll cut the sibling rivalry and useless rebellion out. Nah, throw it in. I think it strengthened our bond!

Rain On The Beach Isnt Such A Bitch

Day 10, Monday 28th September, 2009

My plans to wake up early and go walk on the beach were massive failures! I didn’t get out of bed until about 8.30 am. It was nice to wake up late, but Nani’s word from the day before rang in my head. “It’s recently gained weight, it’ll go off,”

What the hell? Why can’t I be one of those people who can eat what they want and still have a body to die for? I have asked myself that question a lot of times and it frustrates me. But gratitude is a better thing to feel. I feel glad to have lost all the weight that I have lost. With that thought I got out of bed and wondered what I wanted to eat for breakfast. Wow, some mood swings I have. Well that’s me!

Eggs sunny side up, toast and chai. Time for some chinwag. “I saw a whack dream! But it was so damn positive.” Nani announced. We haven’t spoken about this, but it is our unconscious ritual to share dreams. Back at home, Nani would seat herself at the corner seat on the dining table (I call it her throne) and I would be scurrying around in the kitchen for food (what’s new? Yeah I’m a hog, are you going to kill me?) And she will tell me what a weird dream she had or I will tell her about the filmy dream I saw. We’ll probably analyse why we’d have seen the dream in the first place and get on with one something in the paper or random stuff about our plans for the rest of the day.

So, in her Miami home (I like how it sounds like ‘Jennifer Aniston’s Miami mansion’) when she shared her dream with me, I felt like she had finally settled in. I loved her dream, just as much as it was about her it was about me. There were old dreams revisited and then we got on with the day.

Loading the dishwasher, getting the laundry done, cooking and in the middle of it all, I was chatting with my friends back home. We finished our writing, in addition to the chores and got out for a walk on the beach. It had just rained and the sun was out. But guess what, right in the middle of the beach, we saw approaching rain. I kid you not. We ran from it. It was like the rain was chasing after us. An empty shack, the two of us, and the rain.

“I should’ve brought an umbrella yaa!” Nani chuckled. We stayed in for almost half hour as the rain played hide n seek. Eventually, the sea, the weather and the girl dancing in the sea while swimming in the rain, stopped amusing us. We made a run for Starbucks in the slight drizzle. How we forget the magic that a cup of hot chocolate spins on a rainy day. As the warmth of the chocolate engulfs you in a tight hug, you don’t mind that it rained on your parade, now do you?
America is making me see the glass half full and that’s not such a bad thing, now is it? Speaking of glasses, my cup was empty, but I held it up and emptied the last drop in my mouth. I love doing that. And the sun was out. We went back on the sea and walked to our spot yet again. This time we perched ourselves up above the rocks and chit-chatted while the waves lapped up the sand on the clean shore.

I loved sitting right there and talking to my little sister. And how I loved gushing, ‘Yeh jo time hai na, yeh bahut acha time hai!’ a la Geet from Jab We Met. But it truly is. Someday, me and nani will be 60 and 64 respectively and we’ll sit on our armchairs and smile when we think of all the times we spent together. But I am sure there will be many more opportunities for us to create more memories. But until then, I’m giving this trip my 100 percent. It is special for Nani and it is special for me.

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Day 9, Sunday 27th September, 2009

Sundays are meant to be lazy. But today was going to be anything but lazy. We woke up and wished each other happy Dussra. “Arey yesterday papa said na, it was Navami? Today is Dussra. Let’s be veg!” Yes, my brilliant idea.
So no eggs, just some sev and a slice of bread. My mom and my uncle (mom’s brother) love this combo. And me and Nani, like we always do, have inherited a taste for it too. A soft slice of fresh bread with the crunchy sev can create magic. And suddenly we realised, yesterday, when Papa told us it was Navami, it was already tomorrow in India. Complex? Yeah that’s why we got confused. It was still Navami and we were just starting on it. No point celebrating Dussra a day in advance now, is there? I was mortified though. My family prides on telling the world what tithi falls when and I actually ended up celebrating Dussra a day in advance? Bad Shakti, very bad Shakti!

Anyway, too proud to go non-veg we stuck to our (vegetarian) guns. Veg biryani and dal fry. Fail again. I might be a good baker, but when it comes to Indian food, I pretty much suck. The dal was ‘fikki’ and the biryani was, well just about edible. “3 hours! We took 3 hours to make this!” Nani yelled at me. “Your gas stove took one hour to heat up, meri galti nai hai ok!”

Yeah, friction and all. Obviously, right after lunch, we thought was a good time to get some Starbucks into us. A delightful treat we allow ourselves everyday (yeah I’m obsessed!)
While walked on the beach, for the first time, truly carefree, Nani made a random comment. “You think I also look a little broader than usual?”
“No. Wait, what do u mean also?”
“You’re looking a little, umm, chubby. Maybe, it’s just water retention.” It was too late!
I was counting all the bagels, cream cheese and muffins and trying to figure out if they had indeed made themselves at home on my thighs or hips. This observation was done by careful inspecting my own reflection in every passing store window.
“No don’t worry, it’s all recent weight, it will come off quickly.”

I was full psyched out (Pannu, I saw you roll your eyes!) I made Nani walk an extra 20 minutes. In that extra walking we discovered a spot. A little rock thingy by the beach made for an ideal seat to rest our tired arses. Random conversation followed. This is what I love about my time with Nani, we never run out of things to talk about. Lifestyle, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Kotler, parents, music, Mumbai, Mulayam, we can go on forever.

While Nani jabbered with her classmate who called, I wondered, do we have so much to talk about because we spent these last 21 years together? Do we have these common grounds because we live in the same house, see (almost) the same films, television etc.

And then the super fertile mind went in the alert zone. If the above hypotheses were true, would that change now that she was living in the US? I know she loves the US, and I know that she might be away for two-three years easily. Will we drift apart? *Gulp*

Yes, true, I lived away from home for a year and a half and we sisters only grew closer, but this time it was different. She was a student back then. Both of us had enough time on our hands to chat, email and talk. When I go back, I’ll be back to working full on (I can’t help it, ok?) and she will be slogging her arse (I love the way the Brits say it :P) off to make a kickass portfolio during her time at the school. Will we find the time to keep the bond as strong?

When we walked back, I walked a little faster to kick some fat off (God bless Nani’s metabolism) and I got busy wondering. But every 3 minutes, I would stop and look behind, to check if Nani was there. I don’t know why, but I found some lame symbolism in this stopping and looking. I told myself rather, I promised myself that I would make the effort. I would make sure I made that extra effort to look behind every once in a while to make sure my kid sister was ok. And one day, I would find her back again in the same city if not the same house, sharing quality time yet again. Until then, I can always visit Miami, you don’t mind na, Nani?

Friday, I’m in love!

Day 7, Friday 25th September, 2009
Location: Miami
A girl lying in a comfortable bed in a hotel room wakes up. She reaches for the mobile phone and gets sulky. Its 5 am and she doesn’t want to be up so early. She tries to sleep, but she is tempted to check her email. She reaches for the phone and opens gmail. Her inbox is full of social networking news. Facebook, twitter etc. and then her eyes stop at a name. She grits her teeth and opens the email. You can tell from her face that she’s expecting good news.
Subject: Book Proposal
The slow wifi loads the email and the smile disappears from her face. Shock. She magnifies the email, rubs her eyes and reads it again and drops the phone. *cut to the phone screen* “We’re sorry to inform you that though we enjoyed reading your book, it does not fit into our current plans,” and the cell-phone screen blacks out. She winces… She wants to cry but she holds her ground. She can’t call her best friend. She can’t talk to anyone, because her little sister is asleep in the bed next to her.
She tweets, to keep herself sane. But she can’t stop feeling terrible. She realises she can’t handle rejections. So she opens her suitcases and repacks everything. She showers elaborately, spending extra time cleaning between toes and fingers. She dresses herself. Shorts and a t-shirt, perfect attire to comfortably handle big suitcases that she has to move into her sister’s newly found apartment. She wakes her younger sister up and helps the sister pack.
“I don’t want to spoil your morning. But I need to tell you something,”
The sister looks up at her, taking her attention away from the suitcase she’s stuffing some clothes into.
“My book. The editors from the publishing house emailed. They rejected it.”
And then the sister gives a calculated response. “Its ok, yaa, happens to everyone.”
The sister didn’t make a big deal about it and went back to packing, retelling random family anecdotes.
*cut to the breakfast table*
The two sisters are spreading cream cheese on their toasted bagels as they sip raspberry juice.  The phone rings. The girls answer. They talk to their family. She doesn’t tell them about the email, but almost chokes up when the grandfather says to her, ‘write something every day, without fail!’
“They have some instinct of identifying what’s going on and fixing it, don’t they?” the sister asks as she bites into her bagel. The older sister nods and let a tear slip out.
“I don’t know why you are so cranky about it. Feel bad about it and do something to fix it. Crying or being cranky won’t help, you know,”
She looks at her younger sister and wonders… When did she become so big, when did she become so matured? And the realisation strikes, she’s always been like this. Myabe she should have been the younger sister… Her younger sister was full on older sister material.

Yeah, these posts are supposed to be about Nani, but I couldn’t help but wallow in some self-pity. As usual, Nani gave me the much needed kick on the backside and got me up and about. We cheated a cabbie into believing we were going to the airport by loading our 6 suitcases and imagine his horror when we told him to drive us four blocks. His world crashed, but we got our job done.

Unpacking and stacking things in the bare room, Nani gave it her touch. By evening, the room looked spiffy, still strewn with suitcases but you know what I mean. We celebrated with a doner kebab sandwich and headed straight to the Apple Store.

Nani gets a MacBook Pro! Whoa! Of course, as usual, the big sister tried to take charge and talk to Amil, the specialist at the Apple store, but Nani got the hang of things, picked her MacBook Pro, picked the software she needed and viola, she owned her very first Lappy! Congrats, little sister. You’re never going back to a PC again.

So today could have been the day I got rejected by a publisher. But I decided to make it the day Nani got her own apartment and her very first MacBook Pro. Tomorrow? Tomorrow will be a brand new day! Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Like A Rolling Stone

Day 6, Thursday, 24th September

Once you know you have a house, half your worries are sorted. We had to move in on Friday. So today was free to just chill. But Nani was bouncing off the walls.

“I’m going to see Katie and then I’m going to see a classmate!” See, if you know Nani, her excitement levels to social commitments aren’t usually this chirpy. So, I was thrilled that she was looking forward to seeing her school’s admissions administrator and to sort out some basic stuff.

Of course, my life revolves around Nanya here and though I can find a zillion things to do around, I hate the idea of doing things alone. I didn’t want her to take me along (hell, it’s sad for an older sister to follow the younger sister around on social commitments)

“You won’t come to see my school! Arre Katie will show us around, come na lazybum! And what you don’t want to come to see my classmate. He is totally cool, we’ll go to Starbucks, chal na!” Now she made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, so off we went.

Nani’s school = awesome!

It’s colourful, it’s funky and it’s inspiring. Red, pink, bright orange and yellow, fresh green govern the interiors. The floors are made of the aluminium boards, you know the kind you find on BEST buses ka floor, only way posher! Full on industrial design!

Katie, Nani’s point of contact at the school, is someone I had heard about night and day. So, I couldn’t wait to see her either. She was this pleasant lady who seemed thrilled to see Nani too. She told us what documents we needed, printed those out, gave us a few directions and then took us on a school tour.

On our way around we bumped into many people Nani would be interacting with. I took a mental picture of each one of them (not quite as cheesily as Phoebe’s Parker did ref: friends!) but hey, when she talks about them, I’d like to put a face to their names!

Everyone seemed so chirpy and happy. That’s one thing I have noticed, people in Miami are chirpy and fun. Reminds me of something the Pole once told me: ‘People’s attitudes often vary according to the weather they live in,” Of course, he said it to demonstrate why his people, the Polish, are grumpy and serious.

Anyhoo, back to Nani’s school! They have virtual classrooms, video editing rooms and a hang out zone and a café and two units of XBOX in the hangout area. It was like THE place for Nani. The course she’s doing is hatke, the school is hatke and Nani toh is full on hatke. Haah!

After the tour, we got ourselves back to the room, did some packing and headed out to get Nani’s bank account sorted. In the whole ghotala, we missed a call from the parents. I felt a pang. We hadn’t spoken to them for two days. The time difference was making it tough to find a good time and then we miss their call! Weird, isn’t it? You take your parents for granted, you tell them you can handle it, but something as little as a missed call from them can make you realise just how much you miss them.

Talking to them made me feel better. Assuring them that we weren’t being naughty, assuring them that we found a safe room for Nani and assuring them that we were okay was just a reassurance to myself. They give us girls a lot of freedom and independence. They trust us to make our decisions and for that I rarely thank my parents.

Thanks Mum and Dad, for putting your faith in us. Thanks for letting us walk without support but making sure that the fall wouldn’t hurt us. Thanks for making sure that there was support whenever we needed it and also thanks for telling us that just because there’s support, we don’t have to forget walking on our own…
It’s moving day tomorrow!