Khairoo and her sisters

Khairoo and Her Sisters – Still a Reverie
-Reshmi Chandrasekhar

It wasn’t easy playing Hide-N-Seek with Khairoo in your company.Khairoo was one lovable friend. She was only six with two elder sisters .They were sharp witted and pretty; Zainab and Iyesha- I instead of “Ai” that’s how she wanted it spelt. Why?God knows! Allah knows! Wherever she is now if she read this piece I am sure she would come grinning a pleasant nod. Iyesha was the eldest, shorter and darker compared to Zainab. On special days when the two dressed up anyone would admire Zainab even if Iyesha wore a costlier dress. If Zainab offered an endearing smile for the compliments Iyesha would part with a smirk. But both sisters paid lavish compliments to Khairoo who always wore spotless white clothes. She preferred it that way. Khairoo felt white created an odd brightness around her and if anybody made her sit in sunlight she gushed with laughter that followed a chuckle, expressing gratitude. And why? Khairoo was born blind-brightness or light around her made her see shadows of people moving around her. The simple joy of not being totally blind. Iyesha’s father sought special delight in lighting up his drawing room with bright lights only for Khairoo. Most afternoons she would sit in bright sunlight and sing songs or nursery rhymes on a rocking chair. Only when she felt hungry or sleepy would she stop singing and wait patiently for help.

Iyesha’s parents owned a shop in the city and both left the house in her care. Iyesha doted over her sisters and paid prompt attention to Khairoo. When the girls left for school they would lock in Khairoo and the latter would gladly sit on her rocking chair in the balcony, surrounded with toys. We were seven coeval friends always loved to play Hide-N-Seek in the evening . But if one made the mistake of hiding behind the furniture in Iyesha’s house you are bound to be caught. The credit would go to Khairoo who will recognise your movements and keep talking to you in loud whispers and addressing you by name and alas! The person who gives the den can easily spot you.

All bright days bring dark clouds as well. Tragedy struck the Usman family. Mrs Usman, Iyesha ‘s mother, was a thin lady with delicate features. The gold ornaments she wore were also delicately designed. Usually she would be impeccably dressed but after the fall from the stairs she remained umkempt .The fracture on her right arm did not heal fully and health complications came manifold. Mr Usman felt drained out managing the shop and domestic chores. His daughters were quite supportive though only Khairoo looked a little neglected. One fine day Mrs Usman was taken amidst a lot of howling and tears to hospitals. A month later the same ambulance entered the building and all of us hoped she would be better by now. She was dead. None of her daughters were around, except for Mr Usman looking forlorn and hapless. When the funeral preparations were almost over the three sisters arrived in a taxi with a relative. Khairoo called out to friends and smiled and greeted one and all.

I thought, if the light of the day has no definition for a blind person how can one define death to Khairoo?

Days and months passed by. The Usman household did not exude the old gaiety and brightness. The daughters were busy with mundane duties. Evenings were not as joyful or playful for them. If they did play with us it would barely last for an hour. Then came the great partition for the sisters. . A maternal uncle volunteered to take Iyesha and Zainab to his issueless home. Mr Usman’s elder sister agreed to look after Khairoo as would any concerned aunt. Mr Usman’s intentions came to light. He preened day in and day out and for what, we wondered. One Sunday evening a bedecked car with flowers and oozing oodles of Arabian attar brought out a bundle of glittering clothes amidst giggles and chuckles. Mr Usman’s new bride arrived and a new domestic establishment evolved. The old one wound up and my heart longed to see Khairoo, Iyesha and Zainab at least in my dreams every night. One relishes those memories of childhood and  friends of the good old days.We were neighbours but were more than  blood sisters.

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