Kaaya, the svelte, lissome 30-year old acclaimed writer, blessed with a peach-and-pink complexion and Rapunzel tresses, is the toast of Delhi’s literati. And my elder sister. Someone, I’m perpetually in awe of; someone, I find enigmatic; someone, who appears entirely ensconced in her uppity ivory tower.
“Saaya, please iron this saree for Kaaya’s book launch tomorrow. It’s such a precious heirloom piece, can’t entrust it with the servants…..,” Mumma carefully places Naniji’s shimmering, resplendent piece on my bed and bustles out.
Funny, how they’re all so enamoured by her, I wonder wistfully, adjusting the temperature on the non-stick iron box. I mean, of course, she’s pretty, accomplished and all that. And me? At 27, I’m that nerdy electrical engineer with a mundane nine-to-five public sector job who buries herself in books when free. Okay, I’m not so vivacious or witty; I don’t have a ready comeback for every comment; simply put, I’m boring. And being pleasantly rounded (read plump) doesn’t help my self-esteem either. But heck, who cares? Wasn’t this all pre-ordained? Wasn’t this second class citizenship bequeathed on me right upon my arrival when Naniji unwittingly named me Saaya? To rhyme with Kaaya? Rhyme! Or rather, to trail, follow, shadow her…all my life…at every step! At home, every one sang paeans of Kaaya; I was always remembered on the rebound. Our twain worlds never met. I was left broken, bruised, maimed for life.
My wistfulness gives way to a liquid anger silently simmering deep within me as I hang the ironed saree in Kaaya’s closet. I tip-toe out, without receiving even a nod of acknowledgement from her.
We’re all ready to leave. Kaaya is looking ethereal in Naani’s saree. After all, it’s her day – her third book launch in the past five years, the first two being acclaimed best-sellers.
I run up to Kaaya’s room as she takes one long, admiring look at herself in the ornate mirror.
“Di, you look ravishing….hope this turns out a memorable day for you!” I smile brightly as I squeeze her shoulders to infuse some confidence and happiness in her. She needs neither….at least, not from me, her ‘sasti copy’!
“Hurry up Di, they’re both waiting in the car!” I shout and climb down the stairs gently, carefully keeping to the right, tightly holding the banisters with one hand. I take the side door that opens into the lawn, fling an empty bottle over the garden wall and vigorously wipe the grease off my fingers. As I hurry towards the car in the porch, I hear a thud-thud-thud, the rustle of fabric, followed by an agonised, ear-piercing shriek “Mumma!!”
As we all bolt inside, I see a dishevelled Kaaya sprawled at the base of the staircase, her body twisted at an unhealthy angle, her face cradling a broken, bleeding nose, a shadow of its earlier beautiful self. As we all lift her carefully, no one seems to notice the few remaining traces of fresh cooking oil smudged on the marble stairway!
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