Dipika Varanasi was in class IX when she learnt the newest member in her family had arrived.
Dipika Varanasi was in class IX when she learnt the newest member in her family had arrived. When she was just past the age of playing with toys, she got a real, walking-talking doll. At age 37 today, Dipika is thrilled with this gift she received 22 years ago. While her brother, a scientist settled in California and the eldest sibling, is two years her senior, her younger sister Vagessha Khanna is a budding psychologist studying in Texas, US, 15 years her junior.
Having completed her study in Mumbai which included B.Com and Law and then CS, Dipika is currently married and resides in Almaty, Kazakhstan, with her husband Ajit and six-year-old son Shreyas. Contrary to most people who believe siblings should be closer to each other in age and that a larger gap could be difficult or uncomfortable, Dipika feels as long as love, care and a keen interest in matters pertaining to each other is present, it is natural for siblings to be interested in each other’s activities, hobbies and general matters of life and progress.
Years ago, when Dipika’s mother broke the news to her older children about a new member coming in to the family, it was elation and excitement rolled in to one. While Dipika was in class IX, her brother was close to being a college goer. “When my mother conceived, she sat with my brother and me and expressed a desire to have one more child. I remember accompanying my mother to the gynaecologist. My grandparents, too, lived with us and all of us looked forward to the baby. Since my mother had put on tremendous weight we’d joke there were twins on the way! The day finally arrived…I remember I had got home from my coaching class when my grandfather opened the door and shared the good news. I went to the hospital and saw a tiny little baby. Up until then, I had never ever seen such a small baby. The first thing I noticed were these tiny pair of legs that I instantly fell in love with. Soon they were home and the entire family was involved and happy in raising the little one. Not only parents but even my grandparents were overjoyed and a grand chhatti (birth celebration held on sixth day) function was arranged. All I remember is everyone being elated; no one ever asked or said anything about a long gap between the elder two and the youngest sibling,”recalls Dipika.
There were some interesting and funny moments along the years as well. Like when Dipika would be dressed in traditional salwar suits and have Vagessha along for school or cultural programmes, people would think she was her daughter. “Once she started school, I would accompany her for her school events and all her friends knew me. When I was studying in Mumbai and went home to Kanpur for her sixth birthday, I took her entire class to a theatre for a movie screening. They all were thrilled and among many, these kind of episodes make up for great memories,” Dipika fondly recalls.
More than anything, she was “like a living doll for me”. Dipika recalls making her eat whenever she could or buy little things for her, even take her for outings and dress her up. However, there was a bit of a tough patch for them all once Dipika got married and went away while her brother was studying and travelling for work. The little girl would miss having them around. “But, on looking back, I realise what an amazing bond I have with her. Today we can talk on anything. It feels great since while earlier she was the little sister, the last few years have seen amazing exchanges between us. She is a great support system and reasons with me when I am perturbed. She relaxes me and calms me down by simply hearing me out. If I am irritated or find anything tough to deal with, talking to her soothes me. We are two different generations and hence we have very refreshing perspectives on a variety of subjects. We bond over conversations on books, movies, music. I love the fact that she is up to date with the latest and somewhere I believe she keeps me young!”
Being several years apart also means the younger sibling being hands-on with the latest in current technology. While Dipika and her brother had a similar kind of upbringing, she feels and teases her parents about Vagessha having it all much easier. “My parents find strength in her and while they are growing elder, it is she who is around them. Even if it seems Vagessha is being pampered, it is only natural considering she is born in different times. Having said that, my sister is also very aware of the goings-on in family members’ lives. It is she who had noticed my grandmother’s paralytic attack, for example, and shared it with mom. Not only is she very observant, she is also very supportive. With time attitudes and perspectives change, and in siblings, age really doesn’t matter. Our experiences and sharing is on an equal footing now that she is grown up. We know we will always have each other as siblings. Of course there are times we tease parents about them being easy and soft on her, but then, that’s how it is…she has come with her own story and experiences. It is true time and circumstances are different now and then, parents too, are financially more settled with advancing age. Every child gets to experience special times with their parents and no two people have the same story,” shares Dipika, adding, “Being a parent myself, I now realise how each one of us has a special place in our parents’ hearts.”