Every time I see my younger sister these days, a petite teenager and at the brink of beginning a strange life that I like to term higher studies, I realise that time has no mercy on us. Memories we would like to curate in a museum often give us the slip and vanish into thin air.
In 1995, my father was posted at the 223 Medium Regiment in Ferozepur cantonment. Some of my fondest childhood memories are rooted in this town on the Indo-Pak border in Punjab. I cling to these memories as desperately as the tangy, mellow smell of the yellow mustard flower clings to my nose. I try my best to relive those lazy, Sunday afternoons, when I sat in the garden and wove necklaces out of the little cones that fell from the towering eucalyptus trees. My mind remembers quite clearly those lonely evenings as I rocked in my hammock and drew castles out of thin air about things long forgotten.
But among these memories is the one closest to my heart. My sister was born in this town on December 6, 1995. That day, I was summoned to the army base hospital from school to welcome the long-awaited newcomer. As I saw the nurse in pristine white hold up a tiny human being with its arms and legs splayed, I wept for some strange reason. Later, when I touched her delicate and flaky skin, I was awed by her minuscule fists and toes as well as her big, bright eyes. As she stared right back, I felt like we were in our own bubble, oblivious to the world. I knew then that my lonesome days were over.
I now had someone to play with, to take care of and share my things with. All my baby clothes and paraphernalia were handed down to her and she outgrew all with time. Soon, we had our first fight over the bigger bar of chocolate and also our first bicycle ride. Suddenly, we were going to school together. That is when I realised it was time for me to step aside. I often marvel at how much I have learnt from her. In a way, she is the reason I understand unconditional love because she once sat and cried with me when I scraped my knee bloody. She taught me the importance of trust as she kept her promise of saving the last piece of chocolate cake till I came back from school. With her, all my secrets are safe. She is strong-minded and gentle at the same time. Her eyes speak a thousand words and her smile is as beautiful as it was when I first saw it through the soft pink mosquito net, calling her in baby language.
That moment of epiphany when I learned that she knew my voice, knew who I am, is priceless. If I had known Shakespeare as a five-year-old, I would have been proclaimed a genius. But alas, God wasn't that kind to me. Since I am wiser now, two lines from Sonnet 18 come to my mind whenever I think of our childhood together. These lines sum up her personality in the best possible way,
"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate."