The tree in heaven…. my sister Parijat

Roopali Sircar Gaur
This is the exceptional story of an exceptional only sibling my sister Parijat. 
Our Anglo-Indian Nanny Doris who insisted she was English christened her Porridge. That stuck to her. And some rude kids would ask her “tumhara jaat pari hai?”
Some middle-aged neighbourhood aunts would call her pari meaning fairy, later her friends in college called her Paari and her students called her Paari Madam. 
Mom called us both doshoos. Bengali for dasyu. Meaning devils. I guess we bothered mom a great deal. So, we called each other doshoo. Sometimes when we were all loving we would call each other Gujju. This was mostly when we wanted to gang up against the parents or wheedle something from each other. 
Dad said he named her Parijat after a brilliant lady he had briefly met. It remained a mystery. Perhaps a girlfriend? Our parents chose not to have children after I was born. A second daughter. No amount of coaxing by friends and relatives to “try” for a boy was acceptable. At least not to mom. 
She was the decision maker. It was her womb after all! “My daughters will be like sons.” She would declare. And that’s what happened. We became Tom Boys. There was nothing we couldn’t do and wouldn’t stop at doing. Why else do you think mom called us doshoos?

We were inseparable. My sister Porridge and I. Many believed we were twins. We wore similar clothes. We were best friends.  I was just a year and a half younger. She was the boss in all activities. We were home schooled. 
You see we were sent to school. But we didn’t like it. Not the best of schools. And then dad believed if a kid didn’t want to go to school it meant the school was not good. So, we stayed home with a black board set up and mom taught and dad taught. And we roamed all day in the sun under trees poking around with sticks discovering snake eggs bluish in colour or nursed an injured squirrel or a dead bird which needed an elaborate burial. 
Porridge wanted to be a doctor. So, she set up clinics here, there and everywhere. Empty Listerine bottles filled with coloured water extracted from kites! You see mom was a big kite flyer. Besides getting her hair permed at AN John the posh hair dressing salon she did plenty of other stuff. Roof top gardening, volunteering 
Dad was in the army, so she had to dress up like a Memsahib.  Safety pins were sterilised with bunting candles and I was scratch vaccinated! 

Finally, we went to school. The dissection of a frog in the lab and its tortuous death put paid to her doctor aspirations. Now she was madly in love with the actor Dev Anand. She spent time preening in front of the mirror. 
My sister was the kindest person in the whole world. Not an ant could be squished, not a lame dog was ignored, not a chicken to be looked at with greedy eyes. Tadpoles were lovingly nurtured to turn into frogs. Snails had hillocks made and herbs planted. 
Her children inherited her love for all creatures big and small. Nothing changed as she grew up. One summer vacation I was greeted by two monkeys Lara and Baba Yaga and a Python called Zeenat.
Married to an army officer she was nearly always on the verge of being divorced!
“You have turned the house into a zoo?” He would shout in a parade ground commanding voice. She never reacted. She would continue to comb the mane of her eleven Pomeranians! He soon realised he was married to an exceptional woman. One who would take the gold chain off her neck and gift it to a needy friend. 
She lived what Coleridge wrote in his epic poem the Ancient Mariner, “He prayeth best who liveth best all man and bird and beast.” When she decided to become a teacher, she collected every degree in Education she could. She was like the Pied Piper of Hamlin. A group of students would follow her home each day. There was laughter and jokes all the time. She loved to wear wonderful clothes, especially sarees. 
Then one day on her 49th birthday she was detected with the big C. For someone who loved life not only her own it was curtain closing time. No efforts, no prayers, nothing in medical science not even her own wish to live let her stay. She reluctantly left a world she loved. 
I recall here William Shakespeare in King Lear, “men must endure their going hence, even as their coming hither… ripeness is all”. 
Maurice Sendak, children’s book author, explains these lines as savouring one’s life and making the most of every moment until the end. 
And that is what my sister Parijat did. 
***

Bio: Roopali Sircar Gaur, Ph.D. served as   Associate Professor of English, Delhi University and Creative Writing at the Indira Gandhi National Open University. 
Widely published, her poetry is archived in the Stanford University Pandemic digital archives. Roopali is editor of a number of prestigious writing forums and has edited six international poetry anthologies.  As the Founder President of YUVATI a not for profit organisation for girls she runs a special initiative called Mera Kitab Ghar: The Backyard Book Club. 
She has travelled extensively and is passionate about the welfare of military families. She lives in Meerut, India with her veteran husband and their three rescued dogs.

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