Akka (sister) and I were busy doing homework. I was the annoying ten year old, and she was the know-it-all thirteen year old. Our study tables were placed next to each other. Just like our beds.
We used to have a bunk bed – she would sleep on the top and I had the boring bottom bunk. Not much is remembered of that, because 5 year old akka would randomly stand up on the top – and Amma (Mother) decided that she needed to get rid of the bunk bed before akka started jumping from the top.
So, we got matching twin beds. I was always on the right side, and No, she could not cross the line and try to cuddle next to me at night, even by mistake. Each night, I would solemnly draw an imaginary line down the middle and say “This is my side, don’t cross it”. While she would just laugh, cross it, anyway – and we’d end up fighting.
Anyway, I digress.
One night in 2001, Amma walked in on us fighting. Someone had elbowed someone else while studying and we were yelling (and shoving?) each other. Amma took one look at us, and said “The next person to be caught fighting will be put in the computer room”.
Please. Who took those things seriously? 5 minutes later, we were back to fighting.
Amma walked in, saw me shoving akka, calmly picked up my books and took it to the computer room that seemed to be at least 500 feet away from the rest of the rooms (in reality, 10 steps), with no bathroom or balcony, and basically cut away from the rest of the world.
“Amma, please give me my half of that, it’s mine”
As we wept about being separated, and earnestly promised Amma that we would never fight again, my seemingly stone-hearted mother quickly dragged my bed, study table, etc and said “This is your room from now on”.
Now, the thing about growing up in a house where we were told we got an equal share of everything was that it needed to include the lovely bookshelves that my grandmother had made for me. After quickly wiping my tears, I stomped back to the old room, pointed to the bookshelves that matched my study table, and said “Amma, please give me my half of that, it’s mine”.
(I was a good source of entertainment back then.)
What did this shift mean?
That the ‘Jerry’ sticker on my table was missing its Tom. Same goes for my Flintstones, Jetsons, and Scooby-Doo stickers. That I would no longer need to switch off the light because “it’s on your side of the bed”. That I could no longer threaten to read her diary at night, just to see her scrunch up her face and freak out. That I could no longer draw imaginary lines down the middle of the bed, and yell when she crossed them. That there would be no more Sunday mornings when Appa would come to wake us up and flop in the middle and hug his baby girls to wake them up.
However, it also meant a few other things.
We got individual “It’s my room, don’t come in” posters. We got to pick our own wall colours and curtains the next time we painted the house. Midnight fights involved walking across the house (ok, ten steps) in the dark and slipping ‘Sorry’ notes under the door and running before we could be caught doing something nice to each other. We learnt to knock on doors before entering. We got more joy in sharing clothes – by walking to another room and opening another cupboard and stealing (uhm, sharing) clothes.
We grew as individuals, but together.
However, I still locked her in the bathroom from time to time. And we still fought over who needed to clean the mirror.
Now, she’s married and lives in Boston. I visited her this summer. And life has come around, a full circle. I washed her counter-tops and bathroom mirrors. I wore her clothes and boots, everyday. And every morning, after my brother-in-law left for work, I would snuggle into the bed next to her and fall asleep, hugging her tight.
All imaginary lines, rubbed off.