10 January 2023

Sisterhood: moments, just the moments

['The Morning Inspection' is the title of a column I wrote for the Daily News from 2009 to 2011, one article a day, Monday through Saturday. This is a new series. Scroll down for previous articles]  

I’ve been reflecting on sisters lately. This is probably because over the past week or so I’ve seen two sets of sisters, my two daughters and my sister’s three daughters, interact with one another and among themselves. There’s been endless chatter, much laughter, exchanging of notes and so on, not atypical among cousins meeting after several years.

Sisters. I have one. My wife has four. Her mother was the eldest in a family of five girls. Makes for lots of sister-stories, but I’ll leave them for some other time.

Two stories came to mind. First, something that happened seven years ago at the US Open Quarter-Final. Serena Williams went up against her older sister Venus. Venus, before the match, was philosophical: ‘If it doesn't happen, it's not going to make or break you. We don't have anything to prove. She has nothing to prove. She's really the best ever, so what are you going to do? Just try to make it. If you don't, then that's that and go to the next one.’

After the match, Venus was all smiles as she held her little sister in her arms, consoling her. Yes, consoling her even though it was Serena who won. ‘I’m so happy for you,’ Venus told Serena, who later said she doesn’t remember anything at all.  ‘Just moments...just the moments,’ she said.

And I remember noting the following:

‘Sisters are like that.  Siblings, in general, are like that.  It’s not the words that count, for often the words are harsh and unforgiving.  It’s the gestures that matter.  It’s the moments.’

Sister-talk, especially where there are three sisters, reminds me of  Iranganie, Mallika and Indrani Perera who in 1969 formed the female vocal group ‘Three Sisters.’ Indrani of course is the more famous of the three, having sung with the Moonstones, led by Clarence Wijewardena and Annesley Malewana. One of the more popular of her songs is titled ‘Mathakaya Aesurin’ (‘From among memories’), a child’s lament for a mother who has passed away. It is a hauntingly beautiful song which would move most people to remember their own mothers and how much mothers mean to them.

It wasn’t about her mother, though. It was sung, she says, on behalf of her niece not long after her mother, i.e. Indrani’s sister Mallika, passed away.

Sisters. They are not immune from quarreling among themselves for the pettiest of reasons. And yet, I’ve seen them rise up to each other’s defence at the slightest hint of trouble, even from a parent or maybe I should say especially from a parent.  Daggers drawn at times, but fiercely united when unity makes a difference. They worry about one another quietly, especially when alone, even just moments after what appears to be a bitter quarrel.

‘We are having a conversation; what makes you think we are quarreling?’ Such questions are asked of anxious parents. Sisters have their ways. Well, perhaps, each set of sisters has particular ways of being together, expressing affection and facing a world that at times appears to approach with menacing gait weilding a formidable battering ram.

Sisters aren’t identical. Unless they are twins or triplets. I’m sure there are sister-horror-stories. There are love-stories too. Or maybe all sisters experience horror and adoration; the former as passing seasons and the latter as rock that endures.  

My nieces Duranya Nadika, Hasadri Kelina and Kisara ‘Cookie’ Umavani don’t live in the same house; the eldest is a law student in Wisconsin, the second studies film, photography and media in Leeds and the youngest, who has fixed her mother’s phone keyboard so that each time she types ‘Kisara’ it auto-corrects to ‘Kisara, my favourite daughter,’ lives in Philadelphia but is planning to study in Italy. They go on what they call a ‘sister trip’ every year and do their best to find ways of spending time with one another. Another set of 'Three Sisters.'

Hasadri, the most artistic of the three sisters, recently did a line-drawing for 'National Siblings Day.' The youngest, Kisara, allegedly my sister's favourite daughter, got it tattooed on her upper arm. A sister-love tattoo, then. Not that such things need to be etched in that manner of course, for the more enduring imprints are those sketched in hearts almost surreptitiously in moments that pass without a ‘Here I am!’ and in passing strengthen the bedrock of solidarity of a kind known only to sisters.

Out of the black, into the blue. The blue of remembrance, assurance, concern and worry to the point of lunacy. Love unlike any other.  From blue to any other colour desired. That's a sister-story right there. 

Sisterhood. Just moments. Just the moments.


Other articles in this series:

Chess is my life and perhaps your too

Reflections on ownership and belonging

The integrity of Nadeesha Rajapaksha

Signatures in the seasons of love

To Maceo Martinet as he flies over rainbows

Sirith, like pirith, persist

Fragrances that will not be bottled 

Colours and textures of living heritage

Countries of the past, present and future

A degree in creative excuses

Books launched and not-yet-launched

The sunrise as viewed from sacred mountains

The ways of the lotus

Isaiah 58: 12-16 and the true meaning of grace

The age of Frederick Algernon Trotteville

Live and tell the tale as you will

Between struggle and cooperation

Of love and other intangibles

Neruda, Sekara and literary dimensions

The universe of smallness

Paul Christopher's heart of many chambers

Calmness gracefully cascades in the Dumbara Hills

Serendipitous amber rules the world

Continents of the heart The allegory of the slow road