Growing up I didn't have any sisters - and I've always missed having one.
But there was an awkward age - during which us boys couldn't stop analyzing the merits and demerits of girls - when this became a distinct advantage. Friends who had sisters developed an awkward awareness that their sisters were being put through the same scrutiny that they afforded other girls.
I remember once riding pillion on my friend's motorcycle, spotting a long haired girl from behind, exclaiming together "Woot! What a maal!" and realizing as we drew closer that it was said friend's older sister. Awkwardness!
And there was yet another incident involving a different friend - let's call him Ranjeet shall we? Ranjeet's sister, Farida Jalal (not her real name) once went to see a movie and was repeatedly harassed by the boy next to her who kept rubbing up against her in the dark. Now this being a chuha-billi theater (i.e. think toxic garbage dump but with seats) with terrible lighting, Farida couldn't tell who was sitting next to her.
But as the movie hit intermission, the lights went up and Farida turned to confront her tormentor. It was none other than Ranjeet who turned visibly pale. "Ranjeet!" she screamed. "Saala badmaash! Wait till I tell mummy what you have been doing to girls in the theater!" If I remember correctly Ranjeet was grounded for the rest of his high school life and suffered the ignominy of turning beet red whenever we studied certain events in Greek literature.
In any case, I had a scarring incident related to having a sister - and I didn't even have one!
This happened in my school years when we were all just hitting puberty and becoming intensely aware of a girl in class who was later accorded the status of Maha Maal - which meant that girls would come and go but there would be none like her. She was pretty and graceful - picture Michelle Monaghan complete with green eyes. I was hugely interested in her best friend (we'll call her Bipasha) which was unfortunate, because how do you make friends with the princess to get at her friend?
But back to the main story. Once the nuns in my catholic school decided to become all secular and celebrate Rakshabandhan with a sample boy and girl. This was torture enough. But it got worse.
Our teacher Mrs. Mukherjee - a tall imposing figure with a penchant for pulling cheeks instead of slapping them - announced one fine day that the fake brother and sister would be picked from our very class.
Needless to say Michelle - with her stunning visibility - was picked to be the sister. None of the boys wanted to be her brother. All of us lifted up the top of our desks with the pretext of looking for something and hid ourselves behind them. One of us in the back row dove under the desk and hid there, shuddering and praying.
But alas, since I was a teacher's son I matched Michelle's visibility (albeit not for my looks). And so Mrs. Mukherjee's finger swept the room and settled on me. For long after, I had recurring nightmares about this - Mrs. Mukherjee pointing at me in class, everyone laughing - only her hand was a shotgun and the trigger was cocked.
Thus one fine Rakshabandhan day, in front of the whole school I became Michelle's brother. Worst of all I had to go shopping to buy her a gift which I gave to her after the tying of the rakhee. Amidst the kind of silence you'd find at a public hanging, a particularly nasty friend whooped from the third row.
I was incessantly teased for being Maha Maal ka bhai. My life appeared to be ruined. But against all odds, some good karma resulted from my new status with Michelle. First, I didn't have to work hard at all on an approach to get her friend Bipasha's attention. And some huge entertainment resulted from this situation later in life.
But that is a story for another ricksha ride.
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