24 December – continuedPosted: December 29, 2010
All the clothes in my cupboard are heaped on my bed. That doesn’t help much. I am sure that none of these will be quite the thing at a Christmas party with High BP and his friends:
1. Black or white or black-and-white saris.
2. Black or white or black-and-white salwar kameezes.
3. Jeans in various hues of blue and plain cotton T-shirts.
4. Sundry other cotton, handspun churidars, kurtas, kurtis, skirts, dupattas.
As in all such matters of emergency, I have to resort to ransacking Etcetra’s cupboard. She is not going to like it when she finds out, but she raids my cupboard often enough for my share of chocolates when hers are over, or for my dupattas which she uses more inventively than I do.
I hope if I am lucky to find at least one item of clothing that will be:
1. Not too short.
2. Not too tight.
3. Not too glittery.
I do find an appropriate purplish black chiffon dress lined with a satin sheath. It has broad shoulder straps and a wide V-neck. Both are edged with satin ribbon in the same color. The high-waisted bodice has a small satin bow on one side, and the A-line skirt falls soberly to my knees. A small slit on one side saves it from being too prim. The dress is light, and makes me look taller. The colour of the dress seems to reflect the tones of my hair and my eyes.
In Etcetra’s cupboard tucked away under her dresses, I also find some photographs.
I look at them for a long time. Wondering if I am reading too much into them. They are photos of a picnic Etcetra has been on recently with her dance troupe. To Khandala. In most of the photos, Etcetra is beside her Sir. There are always other people around, and yet, I don’t know why it seems to me that Etcetra and her Sir are alone together. Is it the way Etcetra holds her head, slightly tilted towards him? Is it his hand that seems to be reaching out to hold hers, even though it isn’t?
It is very worrying, because Etcetra’s Sir is married. And Etcetra is after all, my baby sister. Even if she has just turned 18.
Just the other day, Etcetra was stuck to her cell phone, pretty much as usual, when I stepped out of the bathroom. So that did not worry me. What did worry me is her voice that changed from happy-chattering to furtive-mumbling when she saw me.
Perhaps I had been gaping at her with curiosity, because she turned her back to me quite pointedly before she continued talking. I began to beat my hair with a towel to guarantee spattering her with stinging drops of cold water. I know it annoys her. But then, she knows it annoys me when she acts secretive.
Before she could actually change her threatening looks to accomplished deeds, I wrapped my hair in the towel, and went out for Ogre’s Family Sunday Hale-and-Hearty Breakfast.
Etcetra followed within moments, and announced in a loud, trying-to-be-brave tone, “I’m going out after breakfast. Will be back in the evening.”
The hot morsel of aloo paratha got stuck in my windpipe and I thought I was under notice for a quick, merciless end. Ogre transferred her anger at Etcetra onto my back with a hard thump. I didn’t mind, because it dislodged the morsel in my trachea and flung it into my gullet. I gulped it down quickly before it played truant again. There’s only so much my throat can take of Etcetra’s daring outbreaks.
Ogre: “But today is Sunday. You know the rule of this house, don’t you? Sundays are for families.”
Etcetra: “It’s absurd to have such rules. We are not exactly school kids anymore, Ogre.”
Ogre: “Yes, but if we don’t make an effort, we would never spend time together as a family. As it is, you are out of the house all day, the rest of the week.”
Ogre: “So? What do you mean, so?”
Etcetra: “I mean, so? You can’t force people to spend time together. I don’t see much point in having me here just because it’s Family Sunday, when I would rather be elsewhere.”
Ogre: “This is a home, you know. Not a bed and breakfast place.”
Etcetra: “I’d rather be at a bed and breakfast place then. This is like being in prison.”
Ogre, looking very hurt: “Oh, I didn’t know that. I thought both of you liked being here together on Sundays. I never meant it to be a prison.”
Etcetra, sulky: “You know, I didn’t mean it like that. And anyway, Dodo isn’t here too, much. So isn’t this his home?”
Ogre did not answer. I agree with Etcetra, really. Ogre’s Family Sundays are a bit tiresome at times. But I have never thought of arguing with her about them, I know they mean a lot to her. And it is true; we never see much of each other during the week.
Etcetra: “Anyway, I do have to go. It’s a dance rehearsal.”
Ogre, tired: “You could have said that earlier. Why did you need to argue so much?”
I wondered if:
1. There was a dance rehearsal at all.
2. Etcetra’s argument had anything to do with the phone call she received earlier.
3. I should tell Ogre about Etcetra’s Sir. My suspicions, that is, about Etcetra and her Sir.
But it did not make sense to upset Ogre more than she already was, without any real proof. But now the photos. They confuse me. I want to show the photos to Ogre. But I know she will not be able to keep from confronting Etcetra with them. But will that achieve anything? Etcetra will get angry at what she will call “a gross violation of her privacy”. She will become more secretive and rebellious, if at all that is possible. And Ogre will worry even more about her than she already does.
I think this affair needs to be handled with some tact. And some secretiveness on my part too, to counter Etcetra’s.