It was Bhaidooj day, a quarter of a century ago, when the three of them brought her home.
He, and his Mom and Dad. Traditionally , he was supposed to give her a Bhaidooj gift, which he did. He gave her a brother. And a father and a mother.
For all of them, it was a voyage of discovery. About how a non regimented very young mind worked. There was implicit trust in family. There was an urge to do everything her brother did. Including carrying big school bags, cycling (never mind if you needed to dash into a bush in lieu of brakes), playing tennis (waving a bat as tall as herself and strewing leaves instead of tennis balls), carrying water bottles (famously on a trip to Germany , in case the plane 'stopped' in the sky en route, and there was nothing to eat and drink). Sometimes, she even tried to emulate studying.
And then it was a whirlwind , which would occasionally calm down to an orderly breeze. New places, new friends, new opinions, and new discoveries. New crazes, new fetishes, new secrets, new words, new talents.
At one point she was, besides school, learning kathak, karate, tabletennis, attending an early morning physical fitness camp, cycling, and swimming. Somewhere by the end of primary school , only swimming remained. Till she left college. Almost.
There was a childhood, and then a teenage, replete with rebellions and questions. Some questions had answers, some did not. Some answers were questioned. rethought, and at some point accepted on trust.
It took some time to decide who to trust outside the home. There were friends a plenty. College, classes, fun activities, field trips, and she discovered photography, thanks to a point and shoot first gifted to her by an uncle. Introduction to social media happened side by side with a firming up of opinions, however opposite they might have been to older folks in the family. There was an avid following of trends followed by a suspicious stop. The trauma of not being pencil thin with ruler straight hair. The former was built into her physique, but the latter was made possible at one point, and she went a few clouds higher on seeing the response from friends.
Divali has always been significant for her. Much before she even knew what Divali was. For years together now, she has been visiting the place where she came to us from, during Divali, specifically Bhaidooj , to share sweets and games with the little kids there.
Sometime around last Divali, she met someone who turned out to be someone special. And decided to go to the next step.
She didn't know how many well wishers she had.
They came is droves from across the Ghats and the Oceans, beating the Expressway toll naka agitations, and delayed flights across the Pacific and Atlantic. A day full of friends and relatives under an open air mandap, in a flower bedecked mini mandap, where the ceremonies happened. She in a traditional yellow nine yards saree, and he in a dhoti and coat with a traditional Puneri Pagdi . Transformed into a Paithani laden evening reception amidst lake breezes, pale golden lights, delicious food, and a waterfall entrance; she was always fascinated by magic, and this was magical.
Way into the evening, the guests had departed; some to catch flights to meet leave deadlines, some , in anticipation of a work Monday, and some, who suddenly realized that the event for which they had come was over.
Dinner done, the set of parents and the couple walked over to the car. Her brother was very much there, on a special leave from his University.
This was an unseasonal Divali for her, what with the lights, and the food, and the glitter, and the pujas.
Once again they stood together with her, in the quiet of the tree laden driveway.
Everyone had left.
Once again, it was just her brother, her Mom and her Dad. Dreading the moment, but trying to hide it all.
Her new family came down the steps. And she went off, stoic in her farewells, excited, and smiling , looking ahead into her new life, with her new family.
Like she did , twenty five years ago. Another Divali.
When there was a brother, a Mom and a Dad. Waiting for her.
They still do. So they can hear all her fun stories, exchange glances with her special person, and have a good laugh together......