For all the memes and forwards and shares on sibling relationships, familial love and affection, Rama and Urmila will share with you a very different perspective on the bond that sisters can share.
Theirs was as happy a household as any. Their father was a good man. He worked smart and well and took his family along with him on his journey to success. Their mother was an able partner in ensuring it was a happy home. She supported her husband as best as she could, took care of ailing in-laws, taught and groomed her children to do well with everything in life. She ensured the twins focused on their studies, ferried them around to music and dance classes, taught them how to sew, cook, keep home and look after themselves well like progressive women should. She goaded her girls to be ambitious and go after the good things in life. She taught her girls the fine Indian art of “balancing” modernity with tradition. Come Dussera or Diwali, the Sharma family decorated their home for the festivities and turned up on their porch in their modest finery, all laughing and smiling and seemingly celebrating together, painting the picture of a perfect family. Mrs. Sharma meticulously followed the social norms and worked diligently towards her ambition of having her family featured on the cover page of ‘Women’s Era’ someday. “The Poster Family of the Ideal Modern Indian Home” it would read. And she would get her due credit and recognition as the woman behind it all.
And yet, the problem with Mrs. Sharma is she didn’t see what was festering underneath the surface of the happy family. Ambition and competition are both healthy traits if kept in control and perspective. Unfortunately, greed never saw reason, logic or perspective.
Rama was pretty, intelligent, demure and talented. When the time came, she landed the perfect ‘catch’ – she married a technocrat in an affluent family and lived the live, traveling the world with her husband. Mother to three lovely children, she stopped working to concentrate on her children and family. Truth was, it was a comfortable life, so why should she work hard if she had it easy anyway? She was the epitome of grace and happiness to all who saw her. Always turned out in great clothes and perfect looks at every party, she was every woman’s envy and her mother’s dream come true. She had a lovely home, a handsome and successful husband and a caring family, who could ask for more? Unfortunately, for all her blessings, Rama never had a moment of satisfaction and contentment. She was always wanting new clothes, a fancier car, higher grades for her kids, and the next promotion for her husband. She spent all her days living for the new possessions she could have, control she could exercise over her family, and praise, comments and envy that came her way. And she spent all her night worrying and wondering how her stupid sister, with so little, was so much happier than she was. Urmila didn’t possess as much as Rama did, in material terms at least. And yet, every time she met Urmila, Rama envied her more. For something that she couldn’t understand or define.
Let’s talk a bit about podgy Urmila. She did well too. She was not extremely bright, beautiful or gifted. But she was blessed with the understanding that it took a little more than her mother’s list of ingredients to cook up a happy life. She married a brilliant man, one who didn’t have much to claim for himself by way of pedigree. And she went about her happy and quiet life, dreaming and working hard and sharing her future with her lovely husband. And slowly, over time, she added to her mother’s list of ingredients a few new ones – namely hard work, ambition, confidence, resilience, gratitude and genuine care and concern. She tired of meeting her mother and sister for tea and useless natter over their new material acquisitions and social chatter – read malicious gossip of all and sundry. She chose to spend her time with friends instead who appreciated her so much more for the person that she was, not the person she should have been, gaining social approval over her every walk and turn, everyday. For all her imperfections, Urmila looked beautiful, for it was the kind of radiance that came from within, that no skin care regime will guarantee? Need I even begin to tell you how much better this new recipe was for a lasting and happy life?
If you asked Mrs.Sharma which of her daughters was more successful in life, you could see her squirm in discomfort. For she knew the truth and yet, she could never admit it. To the world or to herself. For in all her teaching, she had forgotten to pass onto Rama one simple truth: Choose wisely on how you live your life. Sow the seeds well. Look inward for happiness. And you will live to tell a happy tale.