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Forever 21

I have a habit of calling our Indian friends and family members by their first name and foregoing the honorifics that are common in our culture, such as didi for older sister, dada for older brother and so on. When my brother got married, I was locked and loaded to call his wife by her first name. I figured it was my best salvo to equalize the relationship right off the bat.

Clever, no?

Well, she was clever-er.

"I've always thought my husband would have a little sister who will call me 'Boudi'," she declared even before I had a chance to call her by her name. With that savvy opening move, she checkmated and anchored me to the traditional Bengali honorific for older brother's wife. I may have been audacious, but I was not cruel. I simply could not reject her lifelong desire and she has been Boudi to me since then.

I am the younger one but have the oldest child of the troop. She is the talented artist, I am the wannabe. She is a professor of English Literature who does not gag on my writing. I am the short one but I don't pass a single opportunity to boss over her. She is the smarter one who nixes my shenanigans in innovative ways.

In hindsight, she had a plan to manage her husband's little sister even before she got married. Drat!

She instinctively knew that Bunks and I were thick as thieves and never attempted to tone down the crazy sibling quotient. Instead, she encouraged us to maintain a grip on our relationship despite the distance. With his passing, we have latched on to each other like two little kids. The difference in age, the physical distance, the challenges with multiple time zones dissolved the moment we were thrown into the most dismal time of our lives. For this closeness, I am beyond grateful.

On this poignant birthday, here's the loudest virtual cheer for my friend and my sister. May the universe give you unending strength and courage to continue crafting your story. May you become a gentle elder, love us beyond measure and make our days brighter.

In return, I promise to keep pretending we are both "Forever 21". Ok fine, ish.

Happy Birthday, Boudi! Delighted you beat me in the naming game and balanced the equation in favor of the queen among the plebes.

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