Monu was gazing through the window. The hustle-bustle going on outside was a stark contrast to the solemn silence at home. But it was reflective of what was going on in his mind. He was about to go and meet his newborn sister for the first time.
"Monu beta, let's go! Are you ready?"Asked Tauji, as he descended the steps.
"Yes Tauji! Let's go!!" came the effervescent reply.
Sitting in the car, Monu stared outside through the glass. He looked pensive and quiet, so
Tauji asked, "What happened beta? What are you thinking?"
"I was trying to imagine how my baby sister will look like. I am thinking of calling her Rosie."
"Rosie? Haha. That's a good name!"
"Now you will become an elder brother,eh",Tauji asked, elbowing Monu playfully.
"Yes!"came the apprehensive, yet thrilled reply.
The taxi stopped on the portico of the hospital. Monu burst out, jumping through the stairs. Restlessly, he waited as Tauji paid the fare.
Monu stared at the white door of the ward room. The door was heavy, and he did not possess the strength in his small hands to open it. Tauji obliged, and Monu burst in,with all his childish impatience.
"Mummy!Where is the baby?"
"There in the cradle" pointed the IV set on her hand.
Monu darted to the cradle. There he saw a sight that was one of the most beautiful he had ever seen.
In the cradle was a baby, kicking and flapping restlessly. Draped in a pink cloth,its eyes sparkled as it stared at her brother.
"Her cheeks are so red!" exclaimed Monu as he tried to play with her.
"Yes,as you have named her, rosie red." chuckled Tauji.
"Rosie? That is the name you thought for her?"asked Papa.
"Yes. That is what he came up with in the taxi."replied Tauji.
Mummy smiled as she saw the delight glowing on her son's face, busy playing with the baby. The glucose drip did not provide even the slightest of energy that energy that this sight did. Content, she fell asleep,a peaceful smile on her face.
Masoom lay in mother's lap, staring curiously at the plate in front of her. And in front of the plate sat Monu, dressed neatly in a kurta. Mother took her tiny hands to the plate, guided it to his forehead to apply teeka, and then held Masoom' arm forward, while she tied the rakhi on his hand. "Thank you,Masoom!" Bellowed Monu, and planted a kiss on her still rosie cheeks. Masoom gave an excited chuckle as Papa carefully captured the moment.
And so it was, as Masoom learnt to sit, crawl, speak and eventually walk, she performed all the ceremonies of Rakhi. "Appy lachha bannan Ayya!(Happy Raksha Bandhan bhaiya!)"she would wish Monu in her cute slurry voice!However, the dexterity of tying a knot eluded her for many years to come. So she would,in the end, after many attempts, just place it on his hand and mummy would tie it on his hand.
Growing up,Monu became the world for her. He was always there-playing with her, talking to her, teaching her. "Masoom! Let's go and draw something!";"let's play doctor -doctor!";"let's talk to papa on the phone";"let's eat cream biscuits!";"let's play catch-catch!" …and so on went the "siblings' imperial march", all over the universe their home was-thumping, singing, dancing,shouting,laughing-until their eyes dropped asleep. Adorable as it was, it meant Mummy always had to be on her feet, as they lay waste the entire house!
One night,as Mummy put them both to sleep, arms interlocked, legs contesting to be on top of each other, she only looked at Papa, and said,"Hope no one casts any bad look on them…my beautiful children…."
"Why do you think like that!I don't like this habit of yours. Think positive!" snapped Papa.
Years passed as the siblings grew up. Misfortune had struck the family. Monu fell severely ill. Call it the cruel conspiracy of fate, or bad omen,or the devilish looks of jealous outsiders, but this entirely changed the dynamics of the family, the role of each individual. Priorities became a matter of survival, rather than a luxurious,controlled choice.
A young child, Monu showed remarkable maturity in handling his treatment. The entire family-grandparents, aunts, uncles,cousins-descended to help and provide the support they needed so desperately.
Initially, this event did not bode very well for Masoom.She was shaken to her existential core, thinking about her bhaiya, her brother, her world shaking, breaking apart. Whom would she idolize, whom would she grow up with now? Such painful questions taunted and played with her innocent mind.
The result spoke of the effect this had had on her. One day, as Mummy went to school to pick her up, the teacher reported,"Masoom was crying inconsolably in class today. She was wailing,"My bhaiya is not well;he is admitted to hospital!!"". Mummy quickly hid her tears, bravely smiled at the teacher and said,"Thank you for telling me this", as she took Masoom and left the school campus.
Indeed, Masoom was not her usual self. She had become quiet, stubborn and wanted to be left alone. She would watch television for hours and hours, turning deaf to anyone's admonishment. It seems she did not have a care in the world.
This greatly worried Papa and Mummy. Helplessly, they hoped it would improve in the days to come, entangled as they were, trying to take their son out of the labyrinth he,and obviously all of them were stuck in.
A month later,Monu was discharged. He had become frail, and wore a skull-cap to hide his bald head. It was a bitter reality he had to face. But this was all forgotten momentarily,when Masoom jumped out of the house to hug him, kiss him;her expression potent enough to covert the darkest of gloom to the brightest of mirth.
Eventually, their hopes did come true.Masoom began to show signs of improvement. That was a huge relief for everyone.
Raksha Bandhan was around the corner. Masoom seemed to be the most enthusiastic of all. She constantly reminded Mummy to get all the required paraphernalia,personally went to select a rakhi and put in all the effort her childish enthusiasm could offer, to make it a day that her beloved bhaiya would never forget.
On the auspicious day, she tied the rakhi herself on Monu's hand-thin and parched, blue with the continuous infusions. She performed all the ceremonies, as he looked lovingly into her eyes. The whole family watched, tears welling in all their eyes.
"Thank you Masoom. I shall strive to leave no stone unturned in being the bhaiya that you shower so much love upon!"
Days became weeks, weeks became months, months became years. The siblings had grown up. Masoom had just entered her teens, while Monu exited it.
But the illness refused to leave Monu. It would come back, year after year after year. Monu remained strong, battling it all like a true warrior, while going about everyday life as anyone else would. This attitude earned him a lost of respect in his sister's eyes. "My bhaiya, my hero!" she would think.
This had the most significant impact on her maturity. Still taking shelter under her bhaiya's shadow, she felt secure, learning from his behaviour, observing the world through his eyes.
"You know love?God has blessed us with such unique children. May He continue to bless them so that they remain strong." Papa would often say, to Mummy.
"The hell He does."Mummy would reply. Seeing her children's plight over the years, she had hardened herself, and would often pass such crude remarks. "They have no friends. One juggles his academics and treatment, while the other struggles with her studies. While their contemporaries go about enjoying the delights of childhood. If such is His blessing, tell Him to take it back."
"They have each other. And they teach us more than we can teach them.I am sure very few parents can proudly say that." would come the reply of Papa. Sighing, they would look on, until either one of them stirred another topic, or the children joined them.
Exams were round the corner. To be more specific, the re-examination was round the corner. After undergoing yet another bout of treatment, Monu sat at his study-head held in his hands.He had not been able to prepare for the ensuing examination while undergoing the treatment-like he had been done many times in the past. Frustrated, he got up, went to the living room, and sat next to Mummy, Papa and Masoom.
"What happened?"asked Papa.
Monu remained quiet.
"Why aren't you speaking?" asked Mummy, a little tense.
"Bhaiya,speak up!" prompted Masoom.
"Look, I haven't been able to prepare for the examination. I feel lost when I open the books to start revising everything. I mean, just that I don't feel like giving it."
A tensed silence rose up in the air.Papa broke it.
"Beta, what happened?Pull on! Just push through it. You only have to revise!Your will clear first year-"
"-But I don't feel like studying for it. The side effects continue to disturb me severely."
As all the convincing, reasoning, encouragement both by Mummy and Papa, and a lot of counter-reasoning and emotional pleas by Monu were starting to reach a stalemate, an irritated Masoom spoke out loud, perhaps for the first time.
"Bhaiya! What is wrooong with you? Everything is going on so well, and you are almost done, why are you getting so jittery? Think about the dean and the faculty of your college. Think about ALLLL that they have done to ensure that you are able to take the re-examination.Think about Mummy and Papa. And lastly, think about ME! Do you think such foolhardy behaviour justifies all the sacrifices,the faith we put in you! This hurts me. This really,really hurts me."Saying this, she left the room, sobbing along.
Papa sighed. Mummy could only look on.They both were stunned at her unusual response.
"See that? That is the maturity your sister possesses. Today, she has taken your place, to make you understand your place in her life." bellowed Mummy.
By now, maturity had got the better of his emotions. He too started realising what an idiot he had been-hurting everyone, being selfish and overall, wasting precious time. "20 years old and this is how you behave after battling things much graver?Slayed the elephant, running from the ant?What is wrong with you?" thought Monu.
That day it dawned upon him how mature Masoom had become. She had stepped out of his shadow, rousing him out of the tentative and pessimistic bubble he was trapped in. He realised, Masoom was not the little sister whom he could take for granted. She possessed the capacity of being the elder sibling as well, ready to talk sense into her bhaiya-whenever the situation demanded so.
Monu went and apologised to a still weeping Masoom. The little sister forgave him. The elder sister scolded him not to repeat such a mistake again.
In other news, the re-examination went well.
It was Raksha-Bandhan. As Masoom tied the rakhi on Monu's hand,he felt determination, confidence and self-belief oozing out from the steady hold of her hand on his wrist. It seemed to him, and probably also to Mummy Papa this was not the usual "take care of me" rakhi, but one that would always remind the wearer "Your sister is there for you. Never betray her trust."
25th July, 2017
Dedicated to my sister, on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan, just around the corner.
3 thoughts on ““The thread””
A very poignant story of Monu and Masoom. Too much to learn from growing sibling relationship. The story makes us learn that the intellectual growth of a person never stops. Yes, it stops when he stops believing in himself. Masoom, in later part of the story, matured though subtlety perceived. Her demeanour never lets her inner maturity to reflect. It was a challenge for Monu to see and understand her growing maturity. Towards the end of the story, the circumstances forced Monu to understand her inner beauty, the beauty of her maturity so intricately woven, now completely unshackled.
The thread of relationship of Monu and Masoom is indeed very strong. It will last in eternity.
Moved by your story.
Beautiful and precious ,so intricately woven with emotions .With the times changing many of us lack the compassion and love required in a relationship.The story beautifully depicts how family is our biggest strength through adversity and how two pious soul can support and stand for each other …heal each other .
So painfully beautiful.. felt choked throughout. Loved the way you have canvassed this beautiful relationship, it’s growth and the growth of the people in it ….There is so much to learn from it…and so much to give away emotionally which we don’t do often…emotions aside, there were so many favorite moments in the story but I especially loved the phrase where you talked about priorities…”priorities became a matter of survival…”
what an absolutely brilliant way to acknowledge love and to reciprocate…👍🏻👍🏻👍🏻