I disliked her on sight. No. That’s not true. When I sent her an email (warm, friendly, inclusive) in response to her introductory one, she had replied ‘Thanks’ not even a ‘Thank you’. I was disappointed because her email made her out to be fun and friendly.
This was at Infosys Technologies. I had already put in my papers and was serving a notice period of one month because I didn’t have the heart to leave the company earlier. I had two more weeks left and that’s when she joined. And this email exchange happened.
Two days later, a common friend brought her for coffee when we were all hanging out. He didn’t check with us if it was Okay. To this day, I blame him and bless him for forcing the people on me who would go on to become my family. Back then, I was super resentful and mad. Not least because she seemed to look down her nose at everything.
We were young, all of us in our early 20s, though we felt very old and worldly, full of maniacal energy, loud, wild, attention-seekers (We didn’t ask for it; it came our way because we were so loud and brazen) and disgustingly clique-y.
One of us, the one most impressed with outward beauty, gushed over her jewellery. Beads. They were just beads. I looked at him incredulously. She cemented my dislike by saying, “A friend of mine got it for me from Tibet/Bhutan/scenic Himalayan place after drinking Yak’s milk and sacrificing five goats.” I exaggerated. What I heard: Exclusive.
‘Oho’, I thought, ‘Let us avoid this wannabe Kannadiga type person.’
Everyone was friendly with her. The traitors. She was new. She was utterly beautiful. She was a Classical Indian beauty in her navy salwar and her big (Gigantic) eyes rimmed smokily with kaajal. She looked like she would make any man swoon. She seemed like she was everybody’s type. Hell, if she were less show-offy and stuck up, she would be my type.
But maybe I was judging her too hastily. I always make snap judgments, often unfavourable, only to change them later. It’s a skill and one of the worst things about me. So we were all going drinking to Purple Haze that Friday. We would even be dressed in purple. All seven of us. So fun. Yes!
“Why don’t you join us?” I threw it at her knowing that I would regret it if she accepted, if she really were stuck-up.
But the hate was sealed when she said, “I don’t go to places like that. I don’t like hard rock and heavy metal. You guys have a great time.”
Such blasphemy. She would never have a place in my heart or life, I decided.
That same friend who was taken in by her told me later that day, “No. Didn’t you see her eyes? She had so much sadness. She’s probably going through a lot. We must take her into the group. We must show her a good time. I am telling you she’s dealing with some tragedy.”
And like the susceptible-to-stormy-emotion-fool I used to be, I forgave her high-handedness, ignored that she chatted using shortforms on messenger (she used to then), made a date to meet her for coffee on Sunday to hear her story and figure out the reason for the sad eyes.
That coffee date at the Leela Palace led to dinner invites, to a forced sleepover at her place where I chewed her ear off with my opinions and stories, divorce, heartbreak, death of a parent, dating woes, a wedding, outings, holidays, festivals, hospitals, fights, drunken episodes (we are both melancholic drunks), international holidays, workshops, exhibitions, museums, beaches, shopping…
She wormed her way into my life most forcefully and never left, no matter how badly I behaved. I have never had a sibling but she is it. She’s the voice of my conscience and comfort.
Nearly fifteen years later, I got rid of her somewhat. She went off to Melbourne, Australia, and so I write public love notes to celebrate her birthday and to thank her for being my sister, my family, my friend all these years.
A year ago, when I had a surgery, I had a panic attack coming out of the anaesthesia. It’s apparently expected when one has panic disorder. When the doctors got me to breathe somewhat and when I could mumble (I was still woozy and barely breathing), I prescribed the medication they were to give me. The doctor laughed and said that she would give me something else. In that haze, frustrated, unable to gain control, feeling like I wasn’t getting through to the doctors, I said, “Call my sister. Call Manasee. She will know what to do.”
So. Like that.
MonTs, we will always have Dubai.