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My sister's a bi**h, and I love her: Harish Iyer on the bond he shares with his sister

For years now, I've tied my younger sister rakhis on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan. Obviously, she is my protector.

She was the one I'd tell about my deepest secrets and crushes. Over time and age, our equation changed. She was the one who bought me designer underwear while I convinced her she needed to try one of those velvety bras. She'll now text me a 'ROFL' message when she finds out some funny new condom flavour, and I tell her about pee buddies and menstrual cups. Our conversations about life, our bodies, even our sex lives are uncensored. My sister doessn't usually swear, but with me, she uses the choicest of gaalis.  Once, in my late teens, I called her my 'brother'. She retorted: “No, I am the sister”. That was my first lesson in feminism.

Harish and his sister Priya; then and now

Harish and his sister Priya; then and now

My sister Priya was born deaf. She was also born (sometimes) kind hearted, (sometimes) over smart, (sometimes) very diligent and (at all times) a superlative b**ch. (And before you start shooting hate at the use of the word 'bi**h' let me clarify that I mean it in a colloquial, sibling-friendly banter way.)

I remember how she'd give these cold stares and nasty looks to my neighbour Jyotsna, if I spent more than 10 minutes at her place. In her head, she also got me married to her friend Gayatri, and made my life decisions for me. When I grew up, and told her I was gay, she was shattered. All her dreams of Gayatri's babies calling her 'bua' had come to nought. She was in denial, telling me — “How do you know? You can change”. She was not one to give up that easily. When I told her that I had sex with a woman and that it just didn’t work, she said I was lying. She twisted every word of mine to suit her narrative, long before the purists of social media ever came into existence. (See, that's why she's a bi**h.)

She studied entirely in so-called 'normal' schools and also went for speech therapy. I also did a computer course at the erstwhile Spastics Society. She wasn’t in denial of her disability and wanted me to learn about her world as much as she did about mine. When Priya got married to the man of her dreams (who is able-bodied), many called her 'fortunate'. I remember us on her wedding day, laughing at all the aunts and grand-aunts who were attempting to build a 'sympathy story' around her. Priya simply said, 'They don't know that I'm a super bi**h and I chose him because he doesn't think of me as some social service (sic)'.

When she worked in a bank and was told to sit behind the counter or do the books because that would require less interaction with people, she protested and insisted that she be at the front end, with the customers. Given her impeccable lip-reading ability and husky voice, she would sometimes cough to give customers' the impression that all she had was a wore throat. She would then share these anecdotes with me over beer and we'd laugh about how all the able-bodied people sh met were disabled enough to be oblivious to disability. Later on, she would even go for loan recoveries — which allowed her to let out her inner bi**h.

When she had a baby and my then boyfriend and I went to visit her, she told everyone that the guy I was with was my partner. When my niece grew up a little, my sister explained to her that some men love other men, some women love other women, and that it is okay. When my niece grew up and saw photos of my boyfriend, she pointed and asked, "Maami?"

When Priya wanted to change her job, because people made a big deal of her disability, she was irate. She was never less able, or 'disabled' in the true sense of the word. She was more able than me. She was nice and kind, rude and bi**hy. She was different. Not even “differently abled”. She didn’t have other senses working wonderfully well because her sense of hearing was fu**ed up. She was just a normal person with a disability. My sister, unintentionally, was my first lesson in equality. But I deserve some credit too. I am the reason she gets to flaunt a rakhi. And yes, I love her enough to tell her — you are a bi**h.

Updated Date: Aug 13, 2017 14:13 PM

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