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Birth pangs

By Nickunj Malik - Jan 08,2014 - Last updated at Jan 08,2014

From a very early age I always looked forward to the turn of the year. As the twelve months of the Gregorian calendar complete their annual run, and the daily diary runs out of pages, it is time to usher in new beginnings.

January has a sense of freshness associated with it. It is named after Janus, the Roman god of the doorway. He is depicted with two faces, one peering at the past and the other looking into the future.

I was born in this month. Of course I had to share it with one of my siblings who appeared a few years before me, also in January. But since in a family of five, these were the only two birthdays in a common month, it was given exceptional status. My brother thought it was because of his glorious presence while I was convinced it was because of my angelic one. Our early childhood was spent in such a mutually disillusioned manner.

I am told that as a young infant I did not like to get my feet dirty. Even a tiny speck of dirt on the soles bothered me. And so after a fierce quarrel, if my shoes were flung at my brother accidentally, he still had to carry me. I would keep sitting on the chair or bed unless slippers were provided or else I demanded to be piggy backed.

Now that I think about it, my heart goes out to that young boy who carried his sulking sister on his bony shoulders. Also, he was the chief protector of my party frock. What is a party frock?

Well, when I was growing up, my sensible mother made me wear my older sibling’s hand-me-downs. Our school hours stretched through most part of the day where we were attired in a ghastly uniform. When we got back to the house, we were made to change into home clothes, which were identical for my brothers and me, consisting of shorts, faded t-shirts and an occasional sweater in winter months.

The only concession made for me, being a daughter, was the solitary party frock my mom stitched for me every few months. It had all the ruffles, frills, bows and sashes and looked like a fairy dress. My brothers and I would be filled with awe just looking at it. It would hang prominently in my cupboard among the other shabby clothes.

On very important occasions I would be fitted out in the party frock. I would be immediately asked to twirl round and round in it, in front of my family. My mother would issue strict instructions to my older brother who would be assigned the thankless task of protecting it from any spill, tear or ruin. So from dusting the chair I would sit on to tucking a napkin like a bib around my throat before I ate cake, my sibling would do it all.

I always wanted to ask him why he did not refuse. On my birthday I finally cornered him.

“How could you be so nice to me when we were children?” I asked, before blowing the candles on the cake.

“I am still nice to you, and please don’t get the icing on your dress,” my brother cautioned.

“Why not?” I countered?

“Ok, go ahead,” he said wrapping a protective serviette around my neck.

“Mum would be proud of you,” I smiled.

“I am proud of you,” he smiled back. 

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