The Curious Case of Disappearing Ice Cream

There are kids. And then there are siblings. Siblings always function with a clear Sibling Code. As per the code, siblings are either older or younger. Period. And your code largely decides your quality of life. The older ones are always tagged with adjectives like giving, adorable, obedient, independent, humble, loving and blah blah blah. The younger ones on the other hand, well, you know if you have been the younger one.

So, our always at loggerheads with her big sister, 9-year-old, brings this story from school.

A classmate mentions, “When Mom allowed me to indulge in dessert last night, I noticed ice cream had suddenly disappeared from the fridge. ”

The bunch of kids surrounding him widen their eyes and drop their jaws. It feels like a mystery that needs to be solved. An ice cream thief in Singapore?

But the boy quickly ends all suspense by declaring solemnly, “It was my younger sister! Grrr”

The bunch of kids around him chorus together, “Aww, that’s sad!”

All but one – my 9-year-old. She asks, “What if you are the younger sister?”

Needless to mention, all eyes turn towards her in a frown. And those 6 pairs of moral police eyes scoff at her and instantly pronounce her guilty!

Unfazed by such false accusations, she comes home and does what younger siblings do best, makes sure the fridge has room for a new tub of ice cream. The big sis won’t return home until sunset and will, at the most howl at her and peer into her face. This isn’t an in-cognizable offence.

But it isn’t until teatime this morning that I discover what the little mutt has been upto. I see a tiny box with something scribbled. Turns out, last night she laid her hands on a packet of stapler bullets that belongs to you know who. But she didn’t leave it in peace. She used a blue pen and inscribed the words, ‘Pagal (meaning mad)’ on one side and ‘Ladki (meaning girl)’ on the other.

I can hardly contain my giggles and think younger ones enjoy such a notorious reputation, don’t they? But there are always exceptions. Shall I confess giving a hard time to my little brother throughout his childhood?

Incidentally, he always wanted to file a ‘missing item’ report at the police station about chocolates, ice creams and even Gulab Jamuns gone missing from his own lunch plate, at the blink of an eye.

This one memory is so vivid to this day. It was in the early nineties that my older brother had started working in Dubai. Those were the days when long international phone calls cost a bomb; when going to Mumbai airport just to say goodbye was nothing short of a family outing; and the anticipation of imported chocolates and clothes, the smell of Duty Free coming out from his suitcase that I would rummage each time he got back, were sheer joys of life that money can never buy.

Back to the memory. On one such occasion, my brother brought us chocolates by the truckload. Brands like Mars, Snickers, Hershey’s Kisses, Toblerone, something Midnight, Bounty, Lindt, names that were newer than any of my new clothes found themselves at my mercy. My younger brother, who after years of deceit and torture had learned a thing or two, immediately divided the goodies, lest he lose out once more.

The chocolates lasted us a good fortnight, going even by my speed, which was only slightly lower than the speed of light or speed of my thoughts and plans of siphoning away my little brother’s share. Finally, there came a day when I had chewed, munched, gobbled and digested my entire share and finally lay my hawkish eye on the last 5 pieces my brother had so patiently saved for another week. Unfortunately, in real life, it isn’t always slow and steady that wins the race.

Like the big, bad wolf from animal stories, I reached home sooner than usual one afternoon, and looked for them in every nook and corner of the house, only in vain. I turned red with rage. My plan had failed. But sitting in one corner, was my grandma, observing me keenly. Taking pity on my flustered face, she tapped me on my shoulder and handed me the address along with GPS enabled directions to that final bunch – in the fridge, on the left hand corner, top shelf, hidden in a steel glass, covered by a steel bowl! Well done little brother – what a camouflage! I had mistaken the glass for buttermilk.

A couple of hours later, when he got back, relished his lunch and headed straight to his hiding place, voila! A pat and a bam – he realized once again his sister was a true magician! I couldn’t help but laugh my head off, hysterically, at the sight of his beetroot red face, hijacked by fury and misery.

He felt dumbfounded, his plan had failed. You should have seen his dropped jawline, the minute I named the traitor. It was at that point that he had declared, “I don’t know about India, but our family needs a Protect The Boy Child program with immediate effect”.

Back to this morning, I see my 9-year-old as an extension of myself. She has so inherited the brighter gene. Ahem ahem. Humility has long been my policy and looks like it is time to pass the baton.

P.S. With the older one spending the entire day at school, the little one feels lonely. She waits for the sister to get home and there are times when she just wants to hug her Didu (meaning older sister). And if that isn’t enough, she comes up with ways to seek her sister’s attention. A sister who suddenly travels a lot more, is dealing with a new school, teenage and growing up too quickly. This is a difficult phase of life, where my position is under threat too. I no more function as the judge calling right from wrong. There are no more fights. Because the girls hardly see each other. The younger one suddenly seems all responsible and the house seems quiet. Very, very quiet. I wait for the weekends when the girls find reasons to fight and clamor over silly stuff like wanting to poop in the same bathroom when we have more than one. Or wanting to hug me while kicking the other away or fighting over disappearing ice cream. As a mom and a wicked older sibling, I think it is these nasty times that we cherish for life. There are certain things you can do only to your siblings. For everything else, there are in-laws.

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