One of the most enraging and satisfying thing about growing up has been being one of four sisters (although we have a brother too) – all so different, all strong-willed and all forging their own paths through life.
I look back at our childhood years and at us now with a smile. We always used to compare ourselves with the four sisters in Little Women, but I think a book about us would be more interesting in a different way.
I’m the oldest and have always been treated like the golden child according to long-suffering sister, a bit like the oldest son and surrogate parent say I. I am the only one that wears hijab. I’m also the only one who is married with children. I’m loud, opinionated, but also have a strong sense of responsibility for my family and community. My faith is at the centre of my life although I am far from the Muslimah I would like to be. I’d call my style a mix of frugal luxe and new-age bohemian (in an abaya). I pass for Gujerati, Bengali and once Moroccan, although I reckon I look like a typical Punjabi. I care about Islam, our Ummah, the environment, rampant consumerism, dawah and family
Next up is Long-suffering Sister, I call her that because she has a bit of a martyr complex (not the religious kind, the slightly doormat kind). Of all of us she is the kindest and most conscientious, but also the most stubborn and at times highly-strung (just a tad). She’s the one that rolls her sleeves up and does what has to be done: cleaning the loo, paying the bills, taking good care her of her friends, shopping for gran, disciplining my kids when it is needed. Although she doesn’t wear hijab, she seems to be a dawah-magnet as people feel comfortable asking her 101 questions about Islam, which she is getting real good at answering. She passes for Bengali and I would describe her style as smart urban and she hates pink which speaks volumes.
Then comes Fashionista Sister. You know those soaps where the heroine wakes up and sits up in bed with her make-up perfect and every hair in place – that’s FS. No matter what she wears she looks great, her hair always shine, and she seems to get away with murder effortlessly. She can be work-shy and moody, but has an amazing gift with children, which should come in useful as she is training to be a teacher. Her style is Fashionista with a bit of cutesy chic thrown in. She’s been asked if she is Bengali, South Indian, Sri-Lankan and Spanish.
The youngest is Kooky Little Sister. She is intelligent and moody, friendly but a bit shy, sometimes very assertive and occasionally rude. Currently reading English at university, she is at the first door of knowledge and thinks she is very clever – which she is (the second door is when you realise you don’t know so much and the third door is when you get to the end of your life or the peak of your learning and realise we actually know nothing about the mysteries of the world). Her style is eclectic, a mix of ethnic, outgrown punk/goth and prom girl – i.e. she is still finding her fashion feet. She usually passes for Gujerati, but looks very Pakistani to me.
Throw in cosmopolitan London, a conservative Pakistani family, marriage, life and work and we have the makings of a very cool novel. Go on then KLS, are you going to write this one or shall I?