My mom had a number of siblings which means that I have many cousins. Many people tend to assume that in India the word “family” always includes cousins, uncles and aunts (in many parts of the world “family” only includes parents and siblings, everyone else is part of the extended family). So when I refer to Nina and Nandini as my sisters, people tend to either think we are siblings (as they understand the word), or they are quick to correct me and tell me that I cannot call them my sisters since they are cousins, or they smile in that irritable I-understand-that-in-India-things-are-different way (irritable because they think they know why I am saying what I am saying without asking me!).
I am blessed to have a good relationship with most of my cousins and we have a great time together when we meet or chat. But there is something very special about the relationship that I have with Nina and Nandini. For the record: Nandini is the “elder” sister and the daughter of my mom’s elder sister, Nina is my “younger” sister and her dad is my mom’s “little” brother. So I am the troublesome, bossy middle sister in this threesome, who insists that I am the “eldest” simply because I look it 🙂 And because they both are so adorable and loving they tolerate and put up with it all.
Growing up in India, we were never that close simply because of the age difference between us and because of the fact that for a long time we lived very far from each other (those were the days before Emails, WhatsApp, Skype or Facebook made connecting so much easier). It was only years after I had left India that our bond grew and became what it is today.
Although our lives took us to different countries, we realised over time that we had gone through similar experiences and that we had much more in common than we would have thought. Opening up about our lives and being transparent not only brought us much closer but we also rediscovered ourselves and found hidden strengths, an inner joy and courage that we thought we had lost. The unique and special bond that we share today is why I call them my sisters.
Modern technology makes it possible that we communicate with each other nearly every day and are very much part of each others lives. Since Nina lives in the UK, we manage to meet more often (although not as often as I wish we would!). But the three of us have managed to spend time together once a year for the past two years – time together that is so looked forward to, savoured when its there, relived again and again the days and months after.
About a year ago, I wrote this about them on Facebook: Nina and Nandini are women who have made unusual and difficult choices; walked paths not trodden before and done this often alone; gone through fire and hardships but have never become bitter; been misjudged and misunderstood by many (including me). They are women that glow with a beauty that is timeless; radiate a strength and joy that is not dependant on the circumstances they are in or what they have materially; are so humble, filled with love for others and so forgiving. They inspire me in so many ways and are so unaware of how special and wonderful they are!
Missing you both- you are such a blessing in my life and bring such warmth to my heart whenever I think of you, which is sooo very often in a day!!!