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I am currently dropping Chula’s classmate at her house on the way back home from school. This child’s mother is travelling and hence she requested I do the pick-up-from-school-and-drop-off-at-home service. This other child, let us call her X, is the same age as Chula. She is a mellow, sweet kid and gels well with Chula and Mieja. All three were having a conversation in the car that I was privileged to listen to.

Chula is narrating the events of last weekend to X. She is talking about the navarathiri trips, golu visits and the friends she meets only when there is an occasion. At this point she says, “…and I was crying in S’s house.”

This piques X’s curiosity and she asks, “Crying? Why were you crying?”

To this Chula replies, “That’s because my sister left me alone in S’s room and closed the door. She was holding the doorknob tight from outside. I tried to open the door, I tried and tried and I got scared. So I started crying for my mommy. My mommy was sitting in the couch with P chithi and P aunty and A baby and N uncle. She heard me cry and started wondering where I was and what happened to me. So she walked through the kitchen, listening to where my voice was coming from. She walked down the hallway and came to the room I was standing and crying. She removed Mieja’s hand from the door knob and opened the door and kneeled down on the floor and hugged me tight and asked if I was okay. I said yes and started crying and my mommy helped me go to my heart and calmed me down.”

Yes, she does not talk in sentences, but in pages. There is no period, only ands and commas and the narration goes on and on. She was shut inside the room, but she had vividly imagined how I would have reacted when I heard her cry, how I reached the room ‘listening to her voice’ and removed Mieja’s hand from the doorknob before I opened the door. This is my Chula.

As to Mieja, she must have felt left out with S and Chula jumping and having fun. She must have tried her best to talk the other two girls to include her in the play. I can totally picture her drawing her to her full 30 inches of height, hands on hips and saying, “Hey, but I want to play with you guys too”, for I have seen her do it only a billion times. She must have gotten frustrated that words were not making an impact, she must have been more angry at her sister than at S for not including her, so she must have taken it out on her sister. I am positive she would have waved her right index finger at her sister and would have said, “Then, I am not going to play with you any more. I am walking away from you.”, this I have seen a kabillion times, and closed the room door. One thing Mieja knows, if her sister storms out of the closed door, she would come out and express her displeasure physically. So she stood outside the door holding on to the doorknob, so that Chula cannot come out. While I understand what she did, I do not approve of it, disclaimer in case these kids grow up and get to read this and accuse me that I take sides, this is my Mieja and she is like this only.

Anyways, where was I? Yes, in the car driving to X’s house. X being an only child is mortified. All this locking out drama appalls her. But X adores Mieja, she probably thinks that Mieja is innocent, helpless and is not capable of such an act. So turns to Mieja and asks her, “Did you do that?” I am looking at Mieja through the rear view mirror. She is looking out of the window as if she is the only passenger in the car. It looks as if she never heard the conversation. At this point X appropriately draws her breath in sharply and in her most disapproving tone says, “That is so mean of Mieja”, Chula nods her approval. X says, “Mieja is so mean. Let us not play with her anymore.” For this Chula replies, “Okay, but I have to play with her in the afternoons*.” X is puzzled and asks her why and Chula replies, “Because she is my sister and I love her.”

At this point, Madam-pretending-not-to-listen turns to her sister and says, “Akka, I love you too. I want to be your friend too.”

I am smiling. I grew up as an only child I am not sure of all the sibling dynamics. When my children are constantly in each other’s face, I wonder if this is normal and if they will turn out to be tolerant and loving to each other in the future. But instances like this give me reassurance and satisfaction.

*Only afternoon because, they are doing different things at morning work time. At lunch they sit where there is a space. But afternoons, before and after Mieja’s nap time are the times they are together.


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