Everything I learned about love is from being an older sister

And what I’ve realised is that love is not all that complicated.

18 February, 2024
 Everything I learned about love is from being an older sister

It was 2:00 a.m., and I was incessantly scrolling through Instagram when I came across a peculiar reel that read, “My older sister’s trauma is.…” For the uninitiated, this was a trend that got people on the internet to talk about how their siblings traumatised them. “We would play the ghost game, and she pretended I was the ghost to ignore me all day,” said one user. “She would chase me with an open jar of peanut butter when she knew I could have an anaphylactic reaction to it,” shared another in the comments. This was enough for me to have an exaggerated reaction, forcing me to aggressively nudge my 17-year-old sister, who was well in the middle of her greatest slumber party (her drool-smudged pillow was proof). “Dude, am I responsible for triggering any of your trauma responses?” I asked.“Are you insane? Let me sleep, or I’m adding you to the list,” she muttered in a passive-aggressive tone. And I let out a sigh of relief as she went back to sleep. 

Apart from being a full-time cribber and a part-time writer, being an older sister is probably my favourite designation ever (on most days). So much so that I wouldn’t hesitate to flaunt it on LinkedIn. But it hasn’t always been the same. It usually took me at least a few tears to share every tiny piece of my chocolate, a handful of disagreements before we agreed that 25°C would be the fixed AC temperature and at least a dozen heated arguments about me getting to sleep on my preferred side of the bed. The common point of dispute now is whether or not she stole my white lace top, that I was saving for a date night. “Talk about my red dress that went missing the last time you were at your friend’s,” she said, pointing a finger towards me. The shenanigans, I guess, are never-ending. 


At 22, when I think about it, I realise that my relationship with my sister is what taught me almost everything I ever learned about love. And here’s how I know it. 

When you have each other’s back

Back in our school days, playtime was a precious three to four-hour window—yes, even we had deadlines. And coming home any later than 9:30 p.m., meant facing either an elaborate scolding, a strict curfew, or worse—added homework hours. Now neither of us was the rule-breaking type, until on a rather eventful night, when we reached our doorstep at 10:42 p.m. “Stay out, the both of you,” my mom declared as she pretended to shut the door. We exchanged glances and threw in an immediate apology, which obviously didn’t work. And my sister’s waterfalls didn’t help either.

So to stop her from crying, my still-developing brain charted out a plan. Plan A, sweet talk our way back into the house for a happily ever after, and plan B, a little more complicated, involved borrowing a pillow and blanket from the watchman for a night and then working as a car wash attendant for money (in case we never got back in). The plan wasn’t foolproof, but my sister appeared to be convinced and stopped crying. Luckily, my mom unlocked the door. “Never again,” I muttered. Now, when I sneak in past 2:30 a.m., she’s the one opening the door for me. “She came in just after you slept,” she’d assure my dad the next morning at breakfast.

The lesson here is that no matter how big or small the problem, when you love someone you always have their back. 

When you always carry a part of them with you 

My sister and I couldn’t be more different, especially when it comes to food. While I can chow down at least two chillies in a go, her spice tolerance can be classified as that of a newborn. Even our morning coffees differ. Mine’s a rich three spoons of coffee, a spoon of sugar, and some water, while hers leans towards the sweeter side with extra sugar and half a spoon of chocolate syrup. It took her ages to convince me to try her ‘superior’ coffee concoction, but now, at 22, that syrup isn’t just a part of my morning coffee; it’s a part of my daily routine and something I share with my friends too. 

When their suffering becomes your own 

In the whirlwind of my younger sister’s ICSE board exam frenzy, our middle-class Maharashtrian household was caught in what can only be described as the turmoil of a lifetime. Amid her post-lockdown anxiety, she confessed to me that climbing Mount Everest seemed easier than writing an 80-mark physics paper. 

The one (and only) common ground between us is that we’re both equally bad at math and physics, so turning to me for guidance was out of the question. But we had the next best thing—YouTube, which was our saving grace. And even though I vowed to never look at an NCERT book again, I knew I had to, one last time. So for about a month, we dedicated weekends to watching videos on ‘How to Calculate the Speed of Sound’ instead of our usual bing, Keeping Up With The Kardashians. And after a few outbursts of frustration and anger, she eventually made it through the academic year. “Actually, climbing Everest would have been much harder,” she confessed to me later.

It’s actually about saving the last piece 

On a random Tuesday morning, an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old bickered over who got to watch their preferred show before leaving for school, with me being team Wizards of Wavery Place and my sister siding with the 10:00 a.m. cartoon show Baby Tunes. Fed up with having to lose every argument in the name of ‘being mature’, I was set to go through a fit. I snatched the remote and said, “Enough!” which sent her sobbing. “I don’t want a sister,” we’d both complain to our mother.

On the same evening, I missed the cake-cutting at a neighbour’s birthday party because of the Bharatnatyam class I insisted on missing that evening. “No, you’ve skipped two sessions already,” said my rather strict mother. Dragging my bag in one hand and a pair of ‘ghungroos’ in the other, I arrived at the party, only to learn that the cake I yearned for all day, was now over. I slumped on the sofa, only to be surprised by my sister, who came holding a plate in her hand. “The cake is over, but I saved a piece for you.”

I don’t remember if my eyes welled up at that moment, but what I do remember is realising what having a sibling meant. It taught me the essence of love—that loving someone is as easy as saving them the last bite.

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