Sorry Sis, Happy Birthday

19 Jul

I just came across this old birthday card lying on the floor of my sister’s former bedroom. It brought back memories of the small birthday celebrations we’d have, back in the day, when my grandfather would carry home a cake and rasgullas or ras malais (his favourite). On my birthday, it would be Gulab Jamun, which remain my favourite even today.

Besides that, we’d make some Pakoras, get Dhoklas and so on and so forth. It would usually be the 6 of us (5 after my grandmother passed) until later years when our relatives in the neighbourhood would also drop in.
On my birthdays, my sister would always ensure that we had something pleasant for our main course. If not a different cuisine, then none of the regular fare that we despised. On her birthdays, though, I never took initiative to ensure that something pleasing was on the menu, as that was taken care of by itself somehow or the other.

Looking at the birthday card on the floor, I was reminded of a tradition that I observed, I’m guessing for 2-3 years if not more. Since I didn’t have any money to buy her a present (though she almost always managed some to buy me one) I would get her atleast a birthday card. For instance, the one I’m holding right now reads

“Dear blister… uhhh…. sister”

followed by a corny line in hindi to corroborate the card’s “prank” and signed off with a

“Lotsa luv, Brother”

This reminded me of one particular birthday, a memory that I wish I could erase from my memory, but I cannot.
It was my sister’s birthday, her 17th. I would’ve correspondingly been either 13 at that time. Six months had elapsed since my grandmother’s passing. There was still a slight sense of gloom, since it was the first death in the house. Neither my sister nor I, were very close to our grandmother, but her death was a shock particularly as it was the first in the family.

But 6 months had passed, and we had moved on.

On the birthday, we descended downstairs. The cake was lying ready. My grandfather played his part without failure. I don’t recall if there was anything else on the table. But one thing was for sure, the food was absolutely mundane. The very dishes that the sister and I despised. The very dishes that could’ve been cooked on any other day for my sister and me to turn our nose up at, was prepared on her birthday. I hadn’t expected it, as the menu had always taken care of itself, before. But that evening, nobody had bothered.

I felt downright rotten. Rotten that I hadn’t looked into it before. Rotten about the dismal atmosphere in the house, on a joyous occasion. Rotten that my sister, who already used to feel a little less special in the house would feel so all the more.
As she cut the cake, she cried. It was a bit of a shocker to the parents, and grandfather, but to me, it was quite expected because I too had felt like crying, when I saw the atmosphere inside the room. On my birthday, that had taken place less than a month after her death, there had been a more cheerful atmosphere on the table, than prevailed 6 months hence.
But she cried. Finding herself in a position to explain her tears, she quickly put in that she missed our grandmother.

I could be absolutely wrong about it, but I’m quite sure I’m not. It wasn’t our grandmother’s loss, which we had all put behind us, that brought the gloom that evening. It was the sheer negligence, and the inability on the part of my parents to make their daughter feel as special and loved, as she had made me feel on my birthday. It was as if they had realized that it was her birthday late in the evening, when it was too late.

And as she cried, I looked at her with mild disgust. Disgust at not being able to hold back her emotions. Disgust at almost giving herself and me away to our grandfather, who we loved so much. Disgust of almost giving away to him, our closely guarded (and never shared) secret of the neglect that we felt we received from our working parents, who couldn’t have spared a thought to make us feel special on our day, by so much as ensuring a favourable dinner prepared for her.
At the same time, I felt heartfelt sympathy for her.

I did not walk up to her to hand her the birthday card that I got for her, and instead left it on her study-table, for her to discover later. I did not feel like talking to her that evening.
I did not feel like talking to anyone that evening.


21 Responses to “Sorry Sis, Happy Birthday”

  1. Karan July 19, 2009 at 10:28 pm #

    You made me miss my sis ! She married now and I miss all the fun we had …

    Dont worry, You make it up on some future bday … so that when you all look back you remember the special one and not the 17th!

  2. Meghana July 19, 2009 at 11:59 pm #

    {just one hearfelt comforting hug}

    dont want to discuss
    or say anything about what you wrote.

    • unsungpsalm July 21, 2009 at 9:49 pm #

      Aww… thanks babe!
      You look funny minus the chatter πŸ˜›

      • Meghana July 21, 2009 at 11:07 pm #

        its a new thing im trying
        we’ll see how long THAT lasts!

  3. Firebolt July 20, 2009 at 2:34 am #


    One day you are going to make it up to her.

  4. Childwoman July 20, 2009 at 1:20 pm #

    You could have walked up to her and given her that card and a hug. Trust me THAT day it would have meant a world to her. You could have given her a special memory.

    But there are many more birthdays to come..better late than never… πŸ™‚

    • unsungpsalm July 21, 2009 at 9:52 pm #

      I left the card on her table. When she asked me later why I hadn’t even gotten her a card, I told her she hadn’t looked everywhere πŸ™‚

      Don’t know if it was special or not. I wasn’t the sort who showed emotions, back then. Still am not.

  5. Secret admirer July 20, 2009 at 6:24 pm #

    If your sis would have read this outpour of your very sensitive humane self it would have made her feel proud to be your sis πŸ™‚ B’live me there are rare brothers who are actually so comprehensive towards a girl’s sentiments ! really touching….

    • unsungpsalm July 21, 2009 at 9:55 pm #

      Thank you, that’s flattering.

      What’s more flattering is your adopted pseudonym.

      Do I know you? πŸ™‚

      • Secret admirer July 22, 2009 at 9:56 am #

        πŸ™‚ NO ! we are absolute strangers to each other ! Happened to sneak into your Blog which I found seemingly brusque and intensely sentimental .

        • unsungpsalm July 22, 2009 at 7:54 pm #

          Umm… will consider both of them as compliments!

          You enter a fake email ID, and no blog address. How very intriguing!
          Why the secrecy? Do tell me a bit about yourself…

          • Secret admirer July 23, 2009 at 10:32 am #

            Mystery is something which every GAL loves !!! πŸ™‚

            guess you got the subtlety of the statement ! πŸ˜‰

            • unsungpsalm July 23, 2009 at 12:15 pm #

              Probably that you’re a lady or a transgendered individual?

              • Secret admirer July 23, 2009 at 2:48 pm #

                πŸ˜€ very funny second guess !! yeahh m very much
                a LADY . And dunno may to ur joy or dismay in

                Bangalore !! enough revealations for the day πŸ˜€

                p.s. btw the Bangalore mention did come by virtue of your
                latest blog .

                • unsungpsalm July 24, 2009 at 12:07 am #

                  Lol! Okay then, my first guess was right!

                  Geez, Bangalore must be awesome! An awful good load of Queer Following comes from there, it seems…

  6. Swats July 22, 2009 at 9:40 am #

    Deeply moving πŸ™‚
    Don’t know wht to say..

    Raksha bandhan is arnd the corner..I remind my brother every single day πŸ˜›

    • unsungpsalm July 22, 2009 at 7:55 pm #

      Ahhh, sisters exercise some sort of divine power over their brothers!

  7. Nikita July 29, 2009 at 8:04 pm #

    If only your sis had read this post!
    You are sweet unsung πŸ™‚

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