“I was 6 and Didi was 12 when I found out she has Down Syndrome.”
‘’ I was 6 and Didi was 12 when I found out she has Down Syndrome. I’d often wonder why she got all the attention even though I was younger until Maa explained everything. Maa was a special needs educator herself, so she taught Didi everything. Didi would help us with homework, take us out to eat and even read us bedtime stories.
Some days, after school when I’d get complaints from my teacher, I’d tell Didi to somehow save me from Maa and Baba’s scolding. I’d say, ‘Didi main chota hu, bacha lo na please!’ That excuse would always melt Didi and she somehow never let me get into trouble. She’d talk to them and make excuses for me. If I ever got into fights with kids in the neighbourhood, Didi would say, ‘Arindam ne kuch nahi kiya.’
I was quite protective of Didi myself– sometimes our cousins would make fun of her and take her toys away. Then I’d say, ‘Mere se maar khaoge agar Didi ko tang kiya,’ and make them give the toys back. Sometimes while travelling in trains, people refused to give up their seat for Didi, even after they were told that she couldn’t stand for long– I’d explain until they gave in. I attended all her dance performances, sports events and special needs classes. We’re thick as thieves.
And Didi never failed to surprise us. She studied hard and became a special educator teaching assistant at the age of 18. She earned a small amount, but it made her so happy that she could treat us with her earnings. Some days she’d bring home sweets, other days chicken fried rice. Then she’d say, ‘Aaj sab meri taraf se’. Then we’d all rejoice and say, ‘Aaj Didi ki taraf se party!’
Ever since we started working, we’ve spent less time together but that hasn’t changed anything. Till date, when I visit home, Didi gets so excited to discuss shows and even boys with me! No matter how many relatives are around, Didi and I will find time to sit beside each other and talk.
We’ve missed the last 3 Bhaidooj celebrations because I was away for work. Before that, for every Bhaidooj, I was always the first one to get mithai from her. For the 3 years that I was away, she’d call me and cry telling me how she wished I was there, and I’d say, ‘Didi, meri taraf se do mithai khaalo’. This year, we’re together, so I can finally say, ‘Didi, main chota hu...pehle mujhe mithai do!’’