Friday, July 29, 2011

When my Sister visits...

No, we don't lock horns. In fact, I'm just too happy to get rid of them for a week, two weeks, two months, two years - whatever my sister Jackie chooses. Yes, she tells me but she adds so many destinations to her itinerary that by the time I finally grasp it, she is eager to get back to her original place. I tell her be like the Indians, ring the bell or better just walk in because you happened to be in the neighborhood. She does not believe in traveling light. Her visit means countless bags and suitcases and more bags and suitcases. I won't be surprised if some day I saw a house parked outside just as an after thought to the bags and my sister's arrival. My mind goes into an endless debate of Nurture vs Nature. I quickly move from horror to resignation and then quietly slink into a state of discombobulation. 

How could my sister be so different from me? Did we not grow up in the same household? Did we not eat the same foods and breathe the same air? She leaves nothing to chance. There is no concept of let it be. She is akin to the shark. If she doesn't keep moving she might dissipate. I believe in doing nothing. What I am trying to figure out is how did she develop this love of the kitchen and cooking? I follow the police advice when they get a distress call - avoid the kitchen; it has lethal weapons. For me, the place is dangerous as well till my sister arrives. She attacks it, reduces it to mush, readies it for consumption. I hear my husband and children sigh with relief. I also detect loud rumblings of awe from them. No more will they starve. I sigh.

Jackie knows exactly what she's doing. The kitchen knows it too. It better do. If it were not my home she were visiting, I would be forbidden from it too. Somehow Jackie condescends to let me linger there, just near the sink, just within reach to pass her the ingredients so she can whip up the magic. I am just a souffle or as the French put it Sous Chef. Those French need their own script. Anyway, between loads of heavenly aromas, stories are exchanged, tears are shed; Jackie has a tendency to dissolve into real and imagined childhood tales of having been mistreated - by her sibling, her aunts and uncles, nuns, the world in general. After we go over the mistreatment and cruelty, she regretfully takes off a few from the list. Her husband gets worried, the dark mood may shift to the kitchen and he may collapse with hunger or inattention. 

It's a good time. For brief moments I am no longer in charge; I like it. I feel the same when my Mum is around; something tells Jackie and my Mum there is a desperate need for them in the kitchen and elsewhere. They are survivors and they see the miserable lot around them survive as well. Heaven forbid if on their watch, anyone decides to take a break from surviving! Is there any thing to eat - is a phrase of the past; it's almost as if the phrase never existed. I feel less than a ghost; at least ghosts have a purpose; I have none. Somebody I know found loads of intentions and purposes while in Timbaktu. Perhaps I should head there. There is no paucity of finding things there. Things are always there. 


  1. Wonderful description of the contrasts between siblings..I look at my two daughters and am also stuck by the extremes they display..Absolutely empathize with you..We are three sisters and each is unique...genes?? sure how they play up..

  2. Vandana Shah:
    What the heck r u complaining about in ur inimitable style JO??? Ur sis sounds cool and with it...sit back, relax and enjoy her visits....Must say... loved ur always...U write with such pizzaz, style and humour...M sure that Jackie will overlook ur brutal honesty and forgive u ur bluntness...loved reading ur sisterly rumblings and accounts....kaash hamari bhi koi bahen hoti aur is tarah aandhi toofan ki tarah aakar hamara kitchen take over kar leti:))))
    July 29 at 10:24pm

  3. Jaiya Venkat:
    Well written & expressed...Two sisters or (any number) can never be the same & being raised in the same household doesn't matter here. My younger sis & I are poles apart in every respect. Here we are another example !! ;))
    July 29 at 10:56pm

  4. Loney Jacob:
    Enjoyed reading yet another piece of fabulous writing. Would have loved to have a sister too...someone who can also take charge of my kitchen, and time to exchange the good and sad memories of the past. These visits are priceless...enjoy them and just be yourself!
    July 30 at 1:17am

  5. John Samson:
    well expressed. you paint a poignant picture. one would have to verify from your sister whether you were actually as meek and resigned as you claim to be.
    July 30 at 1:46am ·

  6. Pavan Kukreja:
    Joyce dear -- I cld not stop laughing at ur candidness as always and it was a pleasure to get a peak into Jackie's "Emotional Atayachaar," tooo... :):):) -- it has been eons since I was briefed about my friend Jackie's ramblings :)... a warm welcome to sweet memories of days and years gone by , when we shared many a childhood pranks and episodes in the boarding...loved every bit of ur prose, thks for sharing :)

  7. it was out and out fun reading about your woes :), your perspective about KITCHEN, about the number bags your sister manages while travelling etc etc...loved reading this one as my sister too is different :)