C'mon, let's see who is taller?," she would often say.
I was indeed much shorter than her in those days. And would dread the comparison. Gradually, I began growing taller while she remained static, and soon I had increased my stature and was standing taller than her. When that happened, she stopped her invitation for a comparative study.
She is my beloved cousin - Shami-di. Just three months senior to me. She was my best friend. We did so many things together. I could share all my secrets with her. We played all those games which can be enjoyed only during one's childhood.
She was particularly fond of me. Even though she had other brothers too. Possibly because I was as old as she. An extrovert by nature, she could mix freely with almost anyone.
Once I went with her to watch a film. The film was "Devdas." It was based on an immortal novel by Sarat Chaterjee. I found that I was unable to grasp the storyline. She explained it in a lucid manner. Her maturity and power of comprehension was much more than mine.
After a while, she went to live in a different city. For her studies. Our meetings became infrequent. Yet, whenever we met again, those were our most precious times.
I had to cherish certain joys of life without her. When I secured distinction in my school leaving certificate exam, she wasn't around. "I would have loved to see Bachchukaku's face (my father) when he first heard of your brilliant performance," she told me later.
Years passed. I graduated. As did she also. After completion of her studies, it was but natural that everyone was eager to see her married off.
And soon she got married.
The bridegroom came from a different city by bus along with his friends and relatives. And after undergoing an elaborate system of rituals running into the wee hours of the morning, she was finally declared "married."
I remember I worked hard during her marriage.
And then came the moment when she had to leave our house. It was the first time I saw her cry. She was really inconsolable. As I tried to comfort her, she held me firmly and cried more. Then some people dragged her away from me, and thus began her journey towards her new home.
I stood there silently. Tears welled up in my eyes, as the group taking her along with them disappeared gradually from my view.
And then I prayed for her. I asked the Almighty to make her happy in her new home and life. And the Lord has heard my prayer.
She is presently living with her husband and her ten-year-old daughter happily in India.