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Monday, October 22, 2007

The Sissy

 I heard the voices using abusive language; a door banged, some one groaned. I bolted all the windows but the sound would not cease. The strong scent of incense engulfed me... Beads of perspiration appeared on my forehead, my heart thumping loud inside me, I opened the door and tiptoed out into the passage halting at grandpa's room. Listening to the sound of deep rhythmic breathing calmed my nerves somewhat... I stood a few seconds before Sumi's closed door. My lovely little sister. I tried to keep from getting scared, tried to get my thoughts off some place else, tried to think about days when Sumi would lie beside me whimpering softly, afraid of offending father. I would stroke her curly hair softly, telling stories, trying to put her back to sleep. Those were the days when father would come late, dragging his unsteady feet, smelling heavily of alcohol. He would beat mother, would use filthy language forcing her to his room. I wished I was strong and big and could drive that man out of our life. But I would fall asleep with Sumi on my side, her small frame curled beside me, stains of tear visible on her chubby cheeks.
The day it happened I was at school and was sent home early. I saw gathering of a small crowd before our house. I ran up the stairs and looked for mother but she was nowhere to be seen. I saw Grandpa sitting in a sofa with his face hidden between his hands. "Where is mother?", I cried but no body replied. Grandpa looked up and made me sit by his side. "Your mother is no more" he said gently. Later I learnt that there was a terrible fight between the two, when father declared he was going to leave us and marry Ritu auntie and stormed out of the house. After he left mother went into her room and closed the door from inside. She hanged herself.
We went to the crematorium. I performed her last rites, they said, it is a son's duly. I was twelve... I saw serious looking people talking in hushed voices, scattered all over the place. Then we went up some stairs and saw a kind of platform where three or four bodies were laid in a row of makeshift bamboo stretchers. One of them was my mother. I was suffocated by the scent of heavy incense burning at her side. Extreme terror seized me, my limbs started trembling and all I wanted was to flee from the ghastly place but I had to stay on. The rituals that followed left me weak and exhausted. Every time I touched mother with those burning sticks, I fancied mother flinched, then they pushed her body behind iron doors, into burning flames... I wanted to put my face into mother's bosom and cry but mother was no more. I could not eat or sleep for days and months. Memories of crematorium haunting me. We were shifted to grandpa's house, me and Sumi and we were admitted to new schools, every thing changing about me all on a sudden.
Sumi was developing into a lovely young girl. At times, she would appear a stranger too. "Sumi, my little sister, please do not grow up. I will tell you stories, I would sing lullaby's and put you to sleep, we would play hide and seek, like in the past" I would cry silently. But she was growing up fast. The boys at the street corner would make comments after her, whistling while she passed by and I would feel like throttling them. The punks, the rascals, I would fume inside but I did not have enough courage, afraid they would batter my skinny body to the ground and I would look the other way, sense of hopelessness and frustration making me all the more miserable. I could feel the eyes of the punks piercing my back, sniggering at me. At night the voices would come and keep me awake sleep eluding me. I was loosing appetite feeling tired all the time. I was going down on all fronts. My progress at school hit the bottom. I could not concentrate on anything. Grandpa never reproached me but I knew he too was tired of me. My teachers in school made me feel like a heel and lowly fellow, a good for nothing. They need not try so hard though, 'cause that was exactly what I thought of myself. I was thrown in a dark and miserable world with no one to turn to for help.
But no, there was Chanchal, a local youth I had become friendly with recently. He was a very tough guy, a little rough though and he drinks a lot but the local punks treated him with respect... I liked him Chanchal by my side I could even look at the rascals straight in the eyes, which was a very rare thing that I could do these days. I hid my eyes, the best way to prevent people from guessing what is going in your mind.
I was waiting at the bus stop on my way back from school, when the familiar a face peeped out of the front window of a white Maruti. "Hallow Suman, how are you? Returning from school, I see! And how is your sister and grandpa boy? Come in, I will drop you home" he opened the door and to my horror I found myself sliding into the seat beside him, answering the questions obediently. Father talked to me a lot, asking in detail about me and Sumi. I could not hit back at him, nor could I feel any hatred towards my tormentor. On the contrary, I felt secured by his side in a vague sort of way. I even wished he would come back to us. He dropped me at the corner and drove away and I returned home devastated and hating myself even more. Why should I always be a failure? How could I stoop so low, how could I be such a weakling, letting him use such patronizing tone. That night I was kept awake by all kind of voices condemning me, shame, shame they were saying. I sat crouched in a corner with my back to the wall. I had started feeling my body at places at regular interval to make sure that I was a man. I had a nagging fear at the back of mind that I was going through a sex change and soon turn into a female body. I expressed my fear to some of my friends but the fools either laughed like they were going made or gave me suspicious looks, as if I was speaking through my hat, cracking nasty jokes. My lower abdomen was aching but I dare not open the door, instead I relieved myself in a corner of the room and moped off the mess with an old shirt...
Today, Bishu came. I despise him, a snoopy sort of fellow. He put his nose too close to my ear for my comfort and whispered "Do you know your sister is going out with boys. She is particularly friendly with Chanchal. I saw them coming out of the park after dark...
I waited for Sumi anger boiling inside. So she is going to the parks with Chanchal. How dare they, betraying my trust... . She was coming up the stairs, two at a time when I blocked her way her shoulder length curly black hair surrounding her angelic face, looking as fresh as a flower. "is it true, you are going around with Chanchal?" I demanded. Sumi looked at me with those wonderfully innocent eyes and said defiantly "Yes, so what?' her defiant attitude dampened my spirit somewhat "Don't associate with Chanchal. He is a bad guy" I tried to sound authoritative. Sumi laughed at me with sarcasm "Really! And who are you to tell me that. Look at yourself... You are a spineless creature looking the other way when nasty people comment and whistle at your sister in the street. Chanchal has guts, he can protect me. Don't try to act big brother with me, you Sissy" she screamed at me.
I felt the weakness coming back to my legs. I could feel my face drained of colour, then I felt a sudden rush of blood. I fled to my room like a shooed canine with its tail between its legs. My throat felt dry. There was a terrible pain in my chest. I could not bear it any longer. "My Sumi, my own little sister. I have told you not to grow up. Why did you grow up. You are not my Sumi. You are some one else. How could you be so cruel?"
The night was lonely, everybody slept but me. I came back to my room, bolted the door from inside and brought out the carefully made noose with grandpa's dhoti from under the mattress. I looked at the ceiling fan. It was too high. I could not reach the fan. I took a stool and I tied one corner f the dhoti with the fan and put the noose around my neck and kicked the stool from beneath my feet.

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