Monday, 28 July 2014

My sister, Jenny

As a child, I always knew I had a sister. She was called Jenny, and Mum sometimes adoringly called her Jane.

Jenny had fair skin, black curly hair, brown eyes, and the most beautiful smile of this world. She, I think, was two years elder to me, but Mum at times fumbled and said it could be three as well - she can't tell exactly.

Dad never said anything about her. He would go quiet every time Mum mentioned her, and which was, well, almost every evening.

- Ah, look at you, little monster. Is this a way your tie your hair? Come, bring yourself here, and give the comb to me. Oh, what rough hair you have! Look at Jane - her hair was always so soft, and silky.

- Where's Jane, Mum?

- Jane? Why, she lives in a hostel, don't you know?

- But the other day you said she went to her aunt's house for the summers!

- Did I? Oh, I lost my mind then. No, here I tell you - she is at the hostel. Now shut up and let me do your hair.

Many a times when Mum won't be around, I asked Dad if I really had a sister named Jenny. My Dad would get uncomfortable, and quiet. If I insisted too much, he'd just say, I'd know when I grow bigger.

So, I never was quite sure about Jane for many, many years.


When we went Christmas shopping, Mum always bought the best dress for Jenny. She'd do that every year, though Jenny would never come home and put them on. Mum would reserve the best shelf of our common wardrobe for Jenny's clothes, and I'd have to manage with the one above - narrow, dark, and worse, above my height. But then, no one would listen.

I had asked Mum if I could borrow a few of Jenny's clothes when it was some friend's birthday and I'd discover I hardly have a good dress they didn't see me in. But then, Mum would never let me.

Jenny's story books, cookies, ribbons and dolls were all new and intact, neatly lined up everywhere in the house - the wardrobe, the shelves, the extra space on the TV stand.

Only, her picture was no where to be seen. So, I had never seen Jenny in my life.


It was only when I was big enough that my aunt called me to the side one day and told me in a scarily secret tone that Jenny did not exist at all, except in my Mum's mind. She asked me to hush up about it, and not tell anyone she told me.

I could not keep the promise, though. It was one of Jenny's birthday's, probably her tenth. Mum made a cake like every year and sighed that her Jane couldn't be home even that year for her birthday given how busy she was with studies and projects. I cracked then. I shouted at her and then at Dad and told them that I knew that there is no Jenny. There never was.

Mum became so violent - I can swear she'd have hit me with the knife she kept with the cake had Dad not held her back. Once she calmed down, Dad asked me to go back to my room and that he's talk to me later about it.


It was later that night that I had first heard of the illness called schizophrenia. And that Mum had a baby girl once, before I was born to her. She didn't survive for over a week. Except in my Mum's mind.