Tabla player Sarita Mishra recalls her childhood as a fun-filled one but being the eldest among her four siblings, she was also responsible for them after their parents’ untimely demise. However, her siblings remember her as someone not taken down by difficult situations; rather, she always knew how to make life enjoyable.
“I’m very happy to have her as a guardian even after all these years. It was she who took care of us since our childhood, and she still does,” says her brother Sitaram Mishra who is four years younger than her.
After their parents’ death, the siblings only had Sarita to look up to.
“She never thought about herself. For her, it was us who always came first. That’s why she never thought of marriage,” says Jyotiram Mishra, who is six years younger than Sarita.
Apart from Sitaram and Jyotiram, she has a sister, Sangeeta, who is only 18 months younger than her, and another brother, Prakash, who is 10 years younger than her. All of her siblings are married and settled in their lives except for his youngest brother. Sarita, however, has opted to stay unmarried. She now lives with Sitaram’s family.
She says that when she talks about brothers, she also misses Rajendra Samal whom she cared as her brother and celebrated Bhai Tika together with her other siblings. Samal lives in America.
Though she’s been the eldest in the family, her siblings treat her as a friend. Sarita seems never to lose a chance to poke fun at her siblings. The siblings’ fondness for one another is evident by their gestures and conversations.
When Jyotiram recalls his sister’s mischievousness while they were growing up, all of the siblings have a peculiar smile on their faces.
“When the lights used to go off while we were having dinner, she used to slip in chilies in our meal, leaving us gasping for water. She even used to steal our share of food from the plates,” he says, as the room is filled with laughter.
Sarita, on the other hand, loves to be with her siblings and their family. Her charm is like a magnet to her siblings’ kids, too.
“When we were kids, she used to have many enjoyable games for us and now it’s the same with our children,” says Jyotiram.
Though she had to bear the responsibility of the family from an early age, she never lost her playfulness. She never pressurized her siblings to follow a certain path in life, be it professionally or personally.
“I believe in compromise and that’s what makes us all happy,” Sarita says. She also adds that she’s very happy with the way her siblings have turned out. When she mentions each of her siblings, there’s a sense of pride in her tone.
Work pressures and time schedules haven’t been easy on these fun loving people but they do manage to meet and share a meal every weekend.
“It’s during the time of festivals that we come together and have fun like in the old days,” says Sitaram.
Jyotiram adds that the siblings give strength to one another and their different perspectives allow space for more interaction. (AM)
The lifelong “affection” connection
In a family of 14 siblings, they were the ones who had the opportunity to spend more time together while growing up.
Poet, lyricist and senior bureaucrat Dinesh Hari Adhikari, five years older than his sister Usha Adhikari, a professor of Nepali at Tri-Chandra College, shares a special bond with his youngest sister.
“He was the one who introduced me to my first alphabets,” Usha reminisces.
Growing up together in Sarlahi, a district that lies on the Terai belt of Nepal, Usha still fondly recalls her childhood days with her brother when they used to play different games that he taught her in her early years. But she also remembers getting slapped numerous times for reporting against him to their mother.
“I think those memories draw us closer,” Dinesh says as both of them laugh.
Their father wanted all of his sons to have good careers. So the older siblings led independent lives as soon as they could. Thus, it was only on rare occasions that the entire family was together. And after the elder daughters were married away, the distance between the siblings deepened further.
“We were lucky to have shared most of our time with each other,” says Dinesh.
Due to the traditional society back then, the sons of the family left to pursue their careers while the daughters were married off quickly. Usha was the only one among the seven daughters in the family who broke the tradition and went on to live her aspirations, that is, to become a teacher. “It was my brothers who made this possible,” she says.
“She was very keen on studies and I wanted to support her in that,” Dinesh says. “Earlier, we couldn’t voice our opinions in the family. But later, when we were independent, we emphasized on educating daughters as well.”
But by then, all of the daughters were already married except Usha. Being the youngest female sibling, it was only her who could study as much as she wanted to.
Their parents were, however, great lovers of literature. Both siblings were, therefore, greatly affected by their interests. “Not only our parents but even their respective families loved literature,” says Usha, who, apart from literature, was also involved in theatre during her college years.
“I grew up memorizing and reciting verses from my father’s favorite books. And later, I was the first reader of my brother’s poems and articles,” Usha says. She clearly remembers the date and the name of the magazines that had published the works of her family members, to which Dinesh comments, “She’s very good at research.”
This pair of siblings, according to them, has never been apart during Bhai Tika except once.
“It was when I was posted to Baitadi, the first time as an officer. That year, I felt so insecure that I couldn’t be home for the festival. The myth that a sister protects you from death really got into me and I was restless thinking that I wasn’t protected,” he says.
“I too feel protected because I have my brothers. Even though our parents aren’t here, my brothers give me strength and I feel like a child, no matter how old I grow,” says Usha.
It is this affection that binds their relationship, says Dinesh. (AM)
Differences that gel and bind
She talks. He listens. She has her attention all over the place. He’s focused on the task at hand. He wants a plate of buff momos. She orders chicken momos instead. But the brother-and-sister duo can finish each other’s sentences and they have a way of speaking to each other through their eyes, so much so that one feels like an intruder even when they aren’t having a private conversation.
Nalina Chitrakar, one of Nepal’s popular singers, is close to her older brother, Nabin Chitrakar, simply because of the fact that he’s family. While many siblings boast of closeness and fondness for one another and admit to being friends, Nalina and Nabin make no such claims but there’s a casualness in their relationship which makes it evident that this vivacious brother-sister duo shares a strong bond.
“We don’t get to meet as often as we would like but we make time for each other every once in a while and catch up,” says Nalina, admitting that one of Nabin’s chief complaints is that she’s not able to spend much time with him. But Nabin is also quite busy with his cargo business and travels quite a bit.
“We’re both busy in our lives, but at the end of the day, your family is all that we have and you need to make them your priority,” says Nabin with a smile that seems like a mirror image of Nalina’s.
The physical similarities between the brother and sister are striking but that is where their similarities end. Sure, they also mirror each other’s pose while having their picture taken but that’s about it. They are as different as night and day but it is this difference that brings them together.
“I think it’s boring when siblings are alike. Different perspectives keep things fresh,” says Nalina.
Being the youngest in the family, Nalina has always been pampered. Nabin lets out a little secret and tells The Week that Nalina is quite good at emotional blackmail and Nalina reprimands him for humiliating her.
“I’m not saying it’s bad. Actually it’s rather endearing,” Nabin says to pacify Nalina who feigns annoyance and takes a playful swat at him.
“He’s older than me by five years but I’ve never called him dai,” says Nalina, giving away that she calls him babu as Nabin shyly looks away, much to his sister’s delight.
The pair clearly enjoys each other’s company and confesses that Bhai Tika in particular brings out their playful side. The whole ritual is carried out in a light mood and they just have a lot fun that day.
“Earlier, our Bhai Tika used to be as late as around midnight. We have many happy memories of bhai tika. It’s always a day we’ve enjoyed to the fullest and we are already looking forward to this year’s tika,” says Nalina as Nabin nods in consent.
The friendship between the pair is apparent. The love between them is palpable. And the ease with which they make fun of each other speaks volumes of a comfort level that can only be achieved after knowing someone inside out like they know each other. (CK)
The swimmer duo
Swimming has acted as a catalyst to create a special bond between Shaila RL Rana and Shailesh SJB Rana. Sharing the same passion, they appear more like friends with two years of age gap between them. Shaila is more outspoken in nature as compared to her brother who is a man of few words. While she talks about her fond memories shared with her brother, Shailesh just adds a few bits on to the conversation while he maintains a smile to hear what his sister has to say.
Being national swimmers, they have had the opportunity to travel together most of the times to foreign countries in order to participate in international competitions. It was especially during those moments when she was away from her family that her little brother in fact acted as her guardian. “I never had to feel alone when I was far away, as being around my brother, I felt more protected,” says Shaila.
Adding his side of the story, Shailesh says, “She’s even more protective about me as she even offers to look after my belongings when we’re abroad.” Shaila agrees, adding that he still is a kid in her eyes though he has grown up.
She remembers an instance which is hard to forget when many years back she lost a match to her junior. “That time I was so upset for losing to a newcomer and I felt down. My brother consoled me then, saying that it was alright to get defeated sometimes and that it was important not to lose hope. That encouragement meant a lot to me.”
Also a medical doctor who graduated from Kathmandu University School of Medical Science, Shaila has faced tough days when she had to manage both her careers simultaneously. There were instances when she couldn’t go to international games as she was interning at the KU hospital. But even during those times when she had to sacrifice, a call from her brother would light her up instantly. “Since my brother has represented more than me in international competitions, I felt that at least my family member is out there.”
Being in the same field has been an advantage for the duo as there’s no case of competition as they can both share the ideas that they have. “Moreover, swimming is an individual sport but you need someone to practice with. Since I have a brother, I don’t have to wait on any companion unless I want someone to compete against,” says Shaila.
Outside the boundary of a swimming pool, Shaila admits that they completely resemble a cat and mouse at home. The constant quarrels, the ego clashes, the after-fight makeup is there, like in any other young siblings.
Shailesh is a 4th year graphic designing student at KU School of art, and his sister encourages him to explore more of his creative sides. “He’s a very good gymnast as well and plays the guitar and drums really well,” says the proud sister.
There are times when the two take each other for granted. But during the past six years when Shaila had to stay in hostel for her studies, it was her brother that she missed the most. “I missed pulling each other’s leg and fooling around,” she says.
Shaila plans to specialize in sports medicine in future and they feel that they have a long way to go since both of them plan to work together to do something substantial in the field of swimming. (NR)
Sister’s love: His shelter
“She’s been like my mother,” says Amar Neupane, the author who received this year’s Madan Puraskar for his second novel, ‘Seto Dharti.’ He’s only four years younger than his eldest sister Sirjana Devkota but he insists that she’s been a motherly figure throughout his life.
“I remember her carrying me around the village when I was young,” says Amar. Sirjana, on her part, remembers how she preferred not to let her brother walk by himself even after he could. “The villagers used to tease me for carrying him all the time, but I wouldn’t let him go,” shares Sirjana as both siblings smile at each other.
Amar recalls Sirjana as being very strict, watching his back all the time and reprimanding him when needed.
“I was very protective about him. Whenever he got hurt, I used to panic a lot. I tried to discipline him so that he wouldn’t make silly mistakes,” says the sister.
Even in his younger days, Amar used to constantly scribble in his notebook. “He used to write a lot and required more stationery than I did. At that time, I used to scold him for wasting so much paper and ink,” Sirjana says.
“When I look back now, I think it was her habit of refraining from spending unnecessarily,” Amar defends his sister. He further recalls Sirjana saving her share of money that they received as blessings from the elders during Dashain while he spent his share in an instant. “She still disapproves of me not saving,” he says.
Though she always had an austere personality, they shared a special connection. When Amar found his passion in writing, Srijana couldn’t be happier. She says that she knew somehow that his would be a big name someday. When his book was nominated for Madan Puraskar, she used to read all the newspapers every morning, determined that she had to be the one to give the good news to his brother.
“But before the newspapers could print the news, the online medium and my journalist friends broke the news to me,” says Amar.
“It was the eve of Teej, the fasting festival, when the award was announced. The whole family gathered at my place and the joy of his success superseded the celebration of the festival. It was the most memorable Teej of my life,” says Sirjana, still unable to contain her happiness.
Amar was seventeen when Sirjana was married. Now they both are based in Kathmandu, and though Sirjana has her own family to look after, she still manages to care for her brother.
“Now that she’s married, I should be the one inviting her at my place during festivities. But it’s always she who coordinates the gatherings,” says Amar.
He adds that he looks up to his sister when it comes to fulfilling one’s responsibilities. “She’s always been the practical one,” he says.
He is sure that his sister will always be there to advise him during difficult times. “I’m very emotional and she’s the one who can tighten the reins through her realist perspectives.” (AM)
Cherishing childhood memories
Their childhood was spent in diverse places of the country like Morang District and Tikapur of Kailali District until they came to the capital for high school.
Advocate at the Supreme Court, Dinesh Tripathi has countless memories that he shared with his sister Sabitri Tripathi Pande, Professor of Chemistry at Nepal Engineering College.
Talking about their age gap, the siblings pause for a while and after some calculations, they figure out that it’s actually four years. Growing up together with a total of ten siblings, their relation was more like friends. As they recollect their early days, both explain all the fun details that they have had.
“In Kailali, we sometimes used to steal cucumber and corn from our neighbors’ fields. Once, when we stole a watermelon we had to run so much for the fear of being caught that we were left breathless,” says Dinesh as they both laugh aloud, remembering the sheer joy of their childhood.
During their stay in Morang, every three weeks, the sibling used to organize a picnic along with all the kids in the neighborhood. They even had a carom board and used to charge 25 paisas for every round of game. “Once we even cooked a whole chicken all by ourselves,” recalls the duo.
Dinesh explains how his sister used to cry over petty things as a child, and no matter how much he consoled her, she wouldn’t stop crying unless she got a scolding from their parents. “That habit of hers used to get on our nerves as it gave us a hard time.” Being the only one with a dark complexion in the family, she was even given the nickname ‘Kali.’
“Actually, they used to tease me all the time with my pet name and I just hated it because I used to get really hurt,” she shares.
Dinesh was an avid reader since his childhood days and it is his reading habits that inspired his sister a lot.
“He used to read anything that he could lay his hands on and he always used to inspire me and tell me that I should do something to make a mark as a woman,” she explains.
She recalls a moment during her student days when her siblings used to take turn to cook dinner. “He always used to come late to escape his chores and we used to cook even when it his turn. One day, to get it back at him, we didn’t cook even until 10 pm.”
But there was also an occasion when she was having her Masters examinations, and he did not allow her to do any housework and prepared all her meals.
“I still remember the taste of the food, as it was so delicious. He actually cooks really well,” she says.
Although they are settled with their own lives, the duo makes sure that they spend quality time with each other. (NR)
The inseparable pair
Going down the memory lane, Ganesh Shah, former minister for environment, science and technology, has a lot of fond memories of his childhood that he shared with his sister in Janakpur.
Being an elder brother, he had the benefit of sometimes ordering his sister to run errands for him but he equally pampered her in return. He has a five-year gap with his younger sister Sushila Nayak who lives in Janakpur while Shah has been settled in Kathmandu for a long time.
He can never forget the day his sister got married when he had just completed his ISC examination. “I cried my heart out to see my little sister getting married and I had worked really hard to make sure that the wedding went smoothly,” says Shah.
Supporting her brother’s statement, Sushila says that she got married early when she was in her sixth grade.
“My grandmother decided not to send me to high school as my in-laws wouldn’t approve of it. Times were different back then, but I had become so emotional to leave my brother behind at the tender age of twelve.”
Shah had left for Moscow for studies as soon as Sushila got married. But it was a kind of shock and a pleasant surprise for him when his sister had just given birth to a son when he returned after six years.
“I was overjoyed as he was the first child that any of my siblings had. Our whole family got together to celebrate and it was one of the most fun memories ever.”
Since Shah had an inter-caste marriage, he has been practicing multicultural rituals, those practiced in the capital as well as the ones of his native place Janakpur.
According to a tradition in the Tarai, they perform a ritual called Sama Chakeva which is celebrated for the long lives of brothers.
“This festival falls in the month of Kartik and on the 10th day, we do puja and offer sweets and fruits to our brothers and they give us money in return,” she explains.
They also celebrate Raksha Bandhan or Rakhi when they make sure to visit each other. In cases where Shah is out of the country, they phone or use internet to wish each other.
Sushila says that among her three brothers, she was closest to Shah. He was quite caring. Whenever he received sweets or any delicious treat, he made sure to save some for his little sister.
“I’m invited by many of my friends and relatives in Janakpur. But wherever I go, I make sure to return to my sister’s home to stay over. She knows all of my eating habits as well, so I feel really comfortable,” says Shah.
She also stays over at her brother’s place whenever she is in Kathmandu and doesn’t miss to bring homemade snacks along.
“I just love to eat the local snacks that she prepares. It just takes me right back to my childhood days,” he says.
Shah also visits his hometown just to meet his sister at least twice or thrice a year. That is how much she means to him. (NR)
An amicable relationship
Siblings fight. That’s like an underlying principle in all sibling relationships. That’s what we at The Week thought too till we met DJ Raju and his elder sister Shova Maharjan.
These two can’t recall a single day when they have had arguments or haven’t spoken to each other. They have had tiffs on and off but nothing has lasted more than a few minutes.
“Even as children, we didn’t fight,” says Shova, adding that Raju didn’t have mood swings or temper tantrums that most feisty adolescent boys usually do.
“I think she didn’t find her little brother annoying and let small issues pass without creating a fuss,” explains Raju.
During their childhood days, these two couldn’t spend much time together as Raju lived in a hostel throughout his school life, and even when he was home during vacations, he spent most of his days at his maternal grandparents’ home.
Now after all these years, the situation remains very much the same. With Vootoo Entertainment, Production and Restaurant, Raju hardly has time to spend even with his adorable two-year-old son Ridvig, let alone his sister who, he admits, he sort of takes for granted.
“She’s there for me. I know that,” says Raju as an explanation.
Shova is quick to come to his defense and says that he does make time for her if she tells him to. “But if there are any functions to attend, then I’ll have to inform him months in advance and then keep reminding him about it,” she jokes.
Shova dotes on his children and Raju appreciates the way she takes care of Ridvig who at times can be quite a handful. Raju is also very fond of his sisters’ cooking.
“She’s an amazing cook. My friends too love the dishes she whips up in minutes,” says Raju, praising his sister who looks away in embarrassment.
Though Shova is three years older than Raju, it’s Raju who acts like the older one sometimes. “He can be so protective that I feel like the younger one at times,” says Shova who’s never been the bossy kind. “I never ordered him around just because I was elder to him and I think it’s because of that we’re more like friends than siblings today,” she says and looks at Raju for support. He smiles.
Raju and Shova share a simple relationship and it’s easy to see why they don’t fight. There’s an unspoken understanding and mutual respect for each other that binds the two. There’s no room for grudges and misunderstandings.
“If there’s anything on my mind, I’ll just tell her and I trust her to do the same,” says Raju. Shova adds to it and says that she doesn’t feel the need to hide anything from him and would tell him anything.
The brother and sister have a relaxed air surrounding them and seem to be at ease in each other’s presence. Their relationship has evolved over the years and they have reached a point where they don’t have to put up pretences and can just be themselves because they know they have each other’s shoulders to fall back on. (CK)