My little Bheni and Manie! Today is your birthday and I thought it’s the perfect time to let you know that I love you from the bottom of my heart and:
How lucky I am to be blessed with a sweetheart sister like you
How proud I am of your maturity and your entrepreneurship skills
How I love your fun-loving attitude towards life
How I love your generosity
How I admire your make up and clothing sense
You have been the whole family’s darling ever since you were born. You and I always had a special bond and played such outlandish games (Ghar kab aogay, 5678, red arrows, coco, black queen etc). I was of course the creator of most of these games which became our addiction.
We have been with each other in the best and worst of times. You were so strong when Papa was leaving us even though we all know you were his favorite. He loved you dearly. But we were never jealous of that. Your relationship with him was precious. We spent those painful two months together in the hospital against all odds. We were numb. We never felt hungry, thirsty or sleepy. There was a lump in our throat and gloom in our eyes. We climbed the hospital rooftop and had biryani a few times. We talked to each other hoping for a miracle. Nataliya had to look after baby Anya and Mama was over-occupied. We both were each other’s strongest support. Seeing him like that was excruciating but we hugged and told each other with tears in our eyes: “It will get better”. We knew very well, it’s all falling apart! And that nothing will ever be the same again!
How our Chachas and Phupi became our worst enemies in the hospital and you were the most mature out of all of us and knew well how to handle them. You gave us the best advice. No matter how mean and nasty they were with us, you smiled on their faces and asked them if you should put sugar in their tea? You were the first one to say ‘Salam Chacha Jee’ to their leader with a smirk. He was shocked. They could not believe your reaction after all their endeavors against us. No matter how much I try, I just cannot be courteous to them.
We faced one hardship after another. We couldn’t believe how peoples faces had started turning against us one after the other. But thank God, the four of us stood solid like a rock! We were each other’s strongest support. Four days after he left us, I had to go. I know you wanted me to stay but I couldn’t. Finally after ten months of his death, one good thing happened. We all really looked forward to my first ever holiday to Pakistan from England. Well that happiness soon turned into a tremor. I realized I wasn’t here on a 2 week holiday, I was here for good.
I was suddenly left with nothing! You shared your clothes, makeup, shoes, friends, money, outings and late night delivery meals with me. I didn’t have to buy any formal clothes as you (and your friends) let me wear all your clothes. You lent me your shoulder to weep on when I was shattered and you laughed on all my funny and not-funny-at-all jokes. You know you are the only person in the world I can tell my disgusting jokes to 😛 I love how I don’t have to behave myself when I’m with you. I know you will not judge me no matter how lame and crazy I am. Unfortunately, with everyone else, I have to act civilized.
We both were so broke when I came. Mama offered pocked money but we didn’t want to burden her as she was recently widowed. You were an emerging business-woman and I had just lost my life’s earning and saving. We both shared your Mehran and the guy at the station used to be shocked when we asked him for Petrol only for Rs. 300. We couldn’t afford to fill it up and let our sister use it up.
The good times
Mama was always after us to wear more Shalwar Kameez and less Jeans. But we were the happiest when she got a job in Sheikh Zayed and their dress code was only western. She was forbidden from wearing Desi clothes. Mama couldn’t say anything to us then. You took me out with you on your photo-shoots or you did mine.
You had a photoshoot in Taxila and you were short of models so you made me your bridal wear model. It was a gorgeous place and we had to change clothes on mountains behind bushes as we couldn’t go all the way back to change in clients house. That would waste time and we couldn’t afford to lose the sunlight. It was a unique experience to climb mountains in bridal wear and change clothes on mountains. A few times, we trekked on trails and took ride back from Monal on open cargo Suzuki’s. We fell from one side of the vehicle to the other and had such a laughing fit.
In my OCD moments, you hold me back. You taught me how to chill and not be obsessed with cleaning all the time. I know you don’t like it but honestly, throwing stuff around in your room is therapeutic. The only place where I feel truly liberated. It’s in your company I realize how to live more and worry less. You are the reason everything is hilarious no matter how stressful it actually is. I think its due to this attitude in life that we survived our biggest hardships, our crazy home routine, Mamas knee problem and Nana Jaans endless hospital trips.
In Karachi, after Nataliya left, you and I had no choice but to be friends. We drove Vitz and raced before speed breakers and giggled as we passed over the bump. We listened to Grace Kelly a billion times and danced. ‘Through the monsoon’ was our favorite. We had our share of embarrassing times too. How could I forget, you were my partner in our audio cassette gift to mama in my ‘kuch kuch hota hai’ times in C-33. How we made family videos in B-16 and in one video we made for Nana Jan to get well soon, I always mimic you ‘Ap hein na mere partner’ when you moved your shoulder side to side and had all your teeth out!
My last few years in Islamabad were so much fun because of you. We made plans, went to the cinema late night with Mama, ate chali danay on every trip to Kacheri and courts, folded our fingers and toes at Quran khuwani’s so people couldn’t see our painted nails. Walked to City mart, bought goodies, sat in uncle dentist’s garden swing while we gulped them. We always had an eye on each other’s toffees. Somehow the jellies we stole from each other tasted far better than our own.
We had slumber parties, played Twister, watched thriller/horror movies while eating up your chips and Pepsi. We watched Conjuring so many times followed by ‘Clap and Hide’. A few times, Mama entered our dark room covered in a white bed sheet and scared the life out of us! It was too spooky and we shrieked out of horror. But we had so much fun! We played chess & cards, drove to lakes and exotic places, ate out, rescued cute puppies and got them treated. We broke the rules, went for ice-cream at 2 am, sang like crazies in the car.
We had random car breakdowns, panicked and asked your client to come to that place for shoot as there’s a nice jungle there. We pretended to be all cool in front of your clients while you whispered in my ear ‘quickly call the mechanic or the car will explode’. Your client bride wanted to shoot somewhere else, you couldn’t tell her that your car is overheated and can’t drive a second more.
So you said ‘this is a pretty place. We will shoot here’. Your bride didn’t seem to think so as she jumped over a pile of garbage in her ghagra in the jungle. Later, you took a ride from her to a park close by. Muffin and I stayed with the mechanic till it was fixed. Amazingly, the pictures turned out stunning. We got grounded many times and secretly escaped. It’s not easy for a famous photographer to get disciplined when she’s booked for shoots months ahead. But you tried to act all professional and handled the pressures well.
Nights locked out
When we went out with friends late night, we had so much fun giggling away. We invariably got late and while driving back home, we would be thinking of excuses we would make in front of Mama. But when we got home, we would find the whole house locked. We would be stuck outside with our doggies who would lick the hell out of us! After half an hour when Mama would decide to open the door, she would scream at us and then she would be back to her friend-mode and was all ears about what we did and how much fun we had. She would hug us and tell us how worried she got!
In our lounge in Islamabad, one afternoon, I took out a dupata from the window and layout the Janamaz and was about to start my prayers when you looked at me and screamed like anything. There was a baby mouse sitting on my head. From your shrill, the mouse flew and fell on the ground. It got so scared that he kept sitting in the middle of the room till it was removed.
I would unfailingly step in Kungfoo and Tessas poop and you would laugh like crazy. When I tried to potty train Buppy, he cleaned his nose on my new trouser. You found that hilarious! At the vets when Muffin peed on me, you went hysterical and love mimicking that scene. Every time you recall that scene, tears of joy come out of your eyes and you get so hysterical that one can hardly hear what you’re saying. You also found it rib-tickling that I went to Monal once in my friends car and threw up on myself.
We aimed at lizards late night with water guns, then screamed in fright the moment they moved. There were late night hysterical laughing fits. We couldn’t breathe and our stomach would hurt so bad. We have endless conversations about how cute our cats Muffin and Kungfoo are. We mimic ourselves and each other all the time and talk in the lamest accents. You treated me to yummy food and were my formal wear advisor on our hundred trips to F-10 before my wedding. We drove to the farthest places in search of Top Pops and bought all the packets all the shops had and filled up our car. We talk about Anya for hours and how cute she is!
You and Nataliya did the most stunning bridal shoot of us. We had our intellectual talk sessions too where I gathered you are pretty mature even though you don’t look so. You were genuinely happy for my new beginning and always motivated me to get excited and look forward to all the good that life offers.
With Allah’s mercy, I got great jobs and your business expanded substantially. Now Mashallah that station guy must be shocked at how we always fill up our Honda tanks to the fullest. All Allah’s blessings. I just hope in good times too, we are thankful and remain close always.
The last words
I honestly cannot stop giggling whenever we are together. Ever since I moved to Lahore, Haaris and I both look forward to your trips. You give us just the unadulterated doze of crazy. Your #letsgo spirit keeps those around you on their toes and excited. You are enough to make anyone’s life exciting and flabbergasted. Your funniest narrations of incidents are enough to make anyone go wild with laughter. Thank you for always taking care of Bompshoo, Kungfoo, Magic and the rest of our furry babies. You have been their true parent: providing for them, spending on them and making endless trips to the vet.
I keep giving you lectures on saving, cleanliness, organizing and management and we have always had our share of fights and arguments. But you are my cute bunny rabbit and I hope you always stay blessed, happy and funny.