Once upon a time there were two sisters. They had many other siblings but this tale is about the two sisters, so let’s be happy and forget about the other children their parents procreated.
So we have these two sisters, one elder, the other younger. (Obviously, because no mother can give birth to twins at exactly the same time. But wait what about those born via a Caesarean? What is the extracting procedure for twins? Does the doctor just pull out the first baby he sees? How do they decide who is older?)
Okay, so we have two sisters. In fact, if it was a hundred years earlier they would be princesses. Because their mother was a princess, a very beautiful one with skin the colour of ivory and hair like finely spun spider’s web. Our two sisters grew up as ordinary people, and worked ordinary jobs. The elder one married and became a housewife. Her husband was a relatively successful businessman, and they built a house at one of the best locations in town. They were quite well off, and when television arrived in Mizoram they were among the first to get one. I remember their house used to be very crowded, with the whole locality coming to watch any program that was showing. My mother often talked about watching the ’82 World Cup at their place, at a time when Rossi and Zico ruled the football world.
The younger sister got a government job, and was always posted in some far-off town. She bore three children, two boys followed by a girl, but never got married. The girl was slightly older than me, and was great friends with me and my sister. Because of her mother’s job she was always in one boarding school or the other, and we used to write each other, in English, and we thought ourselves very sophisticated because we wrote in English, even though it was never anything more than “How are you I am fine School is fine”.
Fortune didn’t smile on the elder sister, and she and her husband didn’t have any children. So they adopted (informally) the eldest son of the younger sister. They were very good to us (my siblings and I) too. We lived in adjacent houses, and she would, until this day, talk about the days when I was so small I couldn’t cross a small drain that was between our two houses, a drain whose width was no more than a few centimetres.
So the eldest boy lived with his aunt and uncle, and they spoiled him rotten. Gave him whatever he wanted. He had a happy childhood. Then he grew up, and he started mixing with rich boys and developed bad habits. It was the late 80s, and the rich kids had discovered drugs. Our boy too got trapped, badly, and it was very sad to see him decline like that. How his parents must have suffered!
One fine day he brought a wife home. She too was from the rich crowd, a girl who had never worked in her life. His parents were very happy, maybe they were secretly hoping he would mend his ways and settle down. They spoiled the wife, never let her lift a finger and never allowed her to do anything in the house.
Time went on, grandchildren came, everyone became old, and one day the elder sister’s husband died. Everything changed after that. The daughter-in-law declared herself the head of the house, and started treating her mother-in-law like a servant. Well, servant is too strong a word, let’s just say she was barely civil to her. The poor husband never said a word, because his wife was that kind of woman you don’t argue with.
Our elder sister, now almost 80, cooks and washes the dishes every day. Sometimes she would eat after everyone else. Poor thing, she had nowhere to go, and the person she called her son was too scared of his wife to come to her rescue. At an age when she should be enjoying the waning years of her life with grandchildren around her, she spends her days feeling like an unwanted person, an uninvited guest.
The other day my sister went to her house. It seemed she walked into a family argument, and it was very uncomfortable, so she told me. Sis walked in just in time to hear Elder Sister say she wouldn’t allow her bed to be dismantled / removed because it was the bed in which their grandfather had slept. Turned out the family had converted her room into a TV room and she had to sleep in another room.
I feel so disappointed with the human race when I hear things like this. True, no one is perfect and we all have faults and failings and eccentricities, but isn’t respect to elders something we’ve been taught all our life? In fact, it’s something that our common sense, our conscience should be telling us, without anyone having to drum it into our heads.
I don’t know how this story will end. And it is unlikely that a Sydney Carton will come to the elder sister’s rescue. I wish and pray for better happier days for her for the rest of her life.