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Speech 4: Sibling Influence

Do you have an elder brother or sister?

If you do, you probably have an idea about the power they hold over you. A sibling shapes how we see the world and behave in it. Especially in early childhood. My sister, Lata, is three years older than me and she made those three years count. She was the Big Sis, the wiser one, who would always know more than me.

When I was about six or seven years old, my sister walked up to me and said, “Do you know how the earth was created?” I was in class II at the time, studying in a Christian school, brought up on hymns and stories from the Bible.

“God made Adam, and then he made Eve…..,” I started.

“That’s all just stories for kids,” she laughed at me. “The world was really created with a Biiiiig Bang.” And then she went on to tell me all about the Big Bang Theory that she had learned at school that day. She was so convincing, I stopped believing in God by the end of the day. When my mother lit the lamp in the mini-temple in our house that evening, I folded my hands and pretended to pray, but I tuned out and thought of other things. I assumed that my sister by my side was doing the same. We never got around to discussing God again, but I started developing my own thoughts based on what my sister had told me. I soon had no place in my heart for religion or caste, because these things don’t mean anything once you accept that there is no God. I remained an atheist for the next 20 years or so.

So imagine my surprise, when I read an article that my sister had written which revealed that she was a staunch believer in God. Apparently, the Big Bang Theory had captured her imagination just for a few days. After happily demolishing the foundations of my world, she had moved on, forgetting to update me about the change in her beliefs.

Throughout my childhood, there were many other instances when my sister showered me with the advanced knowledge she possessed, whether I wanted it or not. Once, when I was probably in 9th, she chanced upon me studying Rutherford and Bohr’s model of atom.

“It’s all wrong, that’s not how atoms are structured at all!” She went on to explain the the more accurate, but more complex, valence shell atom that she was studying in class 12th. Though it took out all the thrill of learning about the atom, this did teach me one thing…..that in Science, there is never a last word. There will always be a bigger, better theory around the corner.

After 12th, when I wasn’t sure which stream to choose for graduation, she told me to take Economics. It wasn’t as popular as it is these days, but it was an upcoming field. I followed her advise because I couldn’t think of anything better. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed Economics and did well at it too.

Similarly, when I was looking for a job after graduation, it was my sister who pointed out the ad for instructional designers at NIIT. I had no idea what it meant, neither did she. But the ad indicated, that it required good reading and comprehension skills, which she knew were my strong points.

All these examples are the known, probably expected ways, in which siblings influence each other. But there are also some inexplicable instances. A few years back, while I was visiting my sister, my niece saw my watch and exclaimed, “That’s mummy’s”. As it turned out, both my sister and I had purchased identical watches from different stores in the space of a month, though we had had no prior discussion about watches.

Now though my sister has moved to Bangalore, we still have the power to influence each other. On my last visit, we realised we were both carrying identical wallets, which we had bot bought online. There must be thousands of wallets listed on Amazon, but we both liked, selected, and ordered the same one.

If you think that’s uncanny, consider this. Every time I upload my pics on Facebook, it insists on tagging me with my sister’s name, Lata Sony. We don’t even resemble each other that much.

What’s funnier, our spouses have started resembling each other. People on both sides of my family have commented that they look like brothers. This despite the fact that one is a Pahari and the other, a Malayalee.

When you go back, think about the various known and unknown ways in which your siblings have influenced your life. Because, our siblings are the ones with whom we not only share a past but also our futures. If you think of your life as a 3-hr Bollywood movie, your spouse and kids come along 1 hour into the move, and parents typically leave 45 minutes before the end. It is only our siblings who are our supporting cast from beginning to end.

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Leena T Pandey

I have been reading voraciously since the age of five when I first discovered the joys of reading. I would lap up anything in print. Unrolling an emptied newspaper cone with one hand, stuffing roasted peanuts in my mouth with the other, all the while devouring the printed content on the cone with my eyes, was one of my first experiences in hedonistic pleasure.
In fact, sometimes I feel that I am on an adventurous journey through the secret dreamworld of other people's imaginations, interspersed with occasional visits to my own life to attend events like graduation, first job, marriage, and so on.
As a true-blue reader, I think I am uniquely qualified to comment on and critique other people's works of labour. I can tell exactly what puts the average reader to sleep, what sets their pulse racing, and what has them salivating for more.

Write to me at leenatpandey@gmail.com.

2 replies

  1. Wow that was a wonderful read and suddenly it dawned upon me how i resemble my elder sisters…2 here!! Our gestures, voices, likes n dislikes are so much the same. Leena, enjoyed reading your narrative. By any chance is your flair in writing influenced by your Big Di too?!

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