Monday, August 11, 2008
I have a lot of big things to worry about but somehow it's the smaller niggly things that are annoying me right now. I don't know if I'm focussing on the petty stuff to forget the bigger stuff or whether it really is the smaller stuff that I get in a sweat about.
One of those niggly things is my sister's attitude. My sister has always annoyed me at some level, but with time, I have learnt to ignore the bigger differences we have. Thanks to that, over the last couple of years, we have managed to build some kind of a relationship resembling family ties. And then out of the blue, she says small things that make me realise, all over again, that fundamentally, we have nothing in common.
My sis has always been very serious about money. Ever since we were kids, she always wanted to make more money than anyone we knew. And ever since she was a kid, she had this wonderful fascination for “foreign” things. I'm pretty materialistic myself. I love shopping, filling up the house with nice looking things and keeping the family nicely dressed. But where we differ perhaps is because I want cash to spend and she wants it as a sort of power tool.
While I never understood her POV, I've lately learnt to mind my own business and stop worrying about her goals or the means she takes to achieve them. And, she's worked really hard for what she has. She moved with her entire family to the US, works multiple shifts in multiple jobs and struggles every day to realize her dreams. And she's convinced that she has it made. Or is on her way there, at least.
What annoys me is that she is convinced that my life sucks. So she keeps trying to get me to move abroad. I would love to move anywhere for a better lifestyle. But the key is “better” lifestyle. I'd love to leave the grind and grime of the city and go and live in Simla, if we could find a way to finance our life there. For me, the world doesn't begin and end with “foreign.” She believes that even if I clean loos in the US, that would be better than staying here. We have never agreed on that point and never will. I've mostly been happy with the lifestyle I have here and there is no way in hell I can convince her that it's ok to be content and happy with what I have.
So as the next best thing to getting me to emigrate, she keeps sending us stuff from the US. Now I love getting and giving gifts. But the point is, she keeps sending them as a sort of a cash-saving device for me or because “stuff in the US is of good quality.” And every time I gift her or her family anything, she makes such a hue and cry about taking it because “why waste your precious money.” Which to me always translates into, “You're too poor to be giving away gifts.”
No one from the US can visit India without my sister sending a care parcel of assorted things from toothbrushes to hairclips to clothes through them. It's not even like she checks sizes or anything. So we end up with a hoards of over or undersized clothes that we don't want at all. We give the stuff away sometimes, but the tiresome thing is it keeps coming. To counter and give some direction to her charitable impulses I've tried to request for specific things that I want from the US and which are not available here. DVD collections or special sorts of fabric or something that I will really use. But along with what I ask for, comes an assorted load of clothes and accessories – again.
This attitude has trickled down to her kids as well. Her 12 year old son keeps emailing and asking me what I want from the US. And while we were talking on Skype a couple of months ago, her 8-year-old daughter asked her, “Why do we have to keep sending stuff to Aunty. Is she so poor?” I'm not annoyed with the kids at all, because they're probably just picking up her vibes. I would love to have both kids visit India, have them stay with me or take them around so they can see that I'm not really living in poverty and all this charity is so misdirected. But they have not been here in about 10 years, and they probably won't be coming anytime soon so they will remain deluded.
While this has been going on for years, why this is so much on the top of my mind is because my sister is visiting my parents place. The first thing she says as soon as she calls me from my Mom's place is: “Oh my God, I saw pictures of your kids on Mamma's fridge. They look like they're from America and next to them, my children only (sic) look like they're from India. Ken is wearing American Blue and Kaavya is so fair and pretty.” Now I don't know when America took the patent on Electric Blue, but clearly in my sister's eyes, we poor Indians are not supposed to wear the colour unless she has sent it to us from her land of plenty. And what a weird thing to say! Am I supposed to feel bucked that my kids look NRI? I totally don't get it. I know it's a really petty thing to be pissed off about, but I am pissed.