The Ballet

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan
In pink, she floats before my eyes. She leaps up, 'claps' with her feet and lands in one single graceful movement. Once more, I wonder what my role is standing beside her, trying unsuccessfully to stay in sync with her. 
"What, Jinx ?" I ask. I already know the answer and try in vain to redeem myself by swaying my own arms and balancing myself with one leg bent at the knee. 
Graceful. Very graceful. 
Like a rhino.
"You're stopping in between. How am I supposed to concentrate like this ?" Of course, she has yet to miss a step as she reprimands me. In the background the instrumental of 'Someday my Prince will come' from the Snow White movie plays on, waxing and waning as though trying to keep pace with her graceful movements.
"I'm sorry. Ok, so the order is jump, hit legs, land, then right leg back, then long turn sideways with leg extended, right ?"
As she continues her routine and I gamely try to copy her, I hear her speak between measured breaths.  "It's Shahnzj-mahn. Ah-rah-besk. Grahn peer-whet."

Changement. Arabesque. Grand pirouette.

I shake my head gently. Even the words coming out of this home-bred Keralite girl I call my little sister are now seasoned with French dressing. I choose to ignore it. We are of the same blood, but we are nothing alike, I know. Where I am a natural introvert, Jhanki is fast showing signs of inheriting dad's genes and love for grandeur. In a way, I'm glad for her. 

"Ah-dazj'-eh-oh." She commands. Adagio 
I sigh in relief as we both turn slowly in tune with the music in the background. Ironically, even here, I find myself half a second behind her. 
"So how's school life ?" I ask, needing two breaths just to complete the sentence.
"It's okay. Biology is fun, but I hate organic chemistry."
"I know, right ? All those carbon molecules just jumping around. Ion bond, covalent bond."
"Seriously. Who needs these things ?" 
"Nobody. Unless you become a mad scientist." Not even a giggle. She is too engrossed in the music, I console myself. 

The tune gently builds up and so does my trepidation. Here we go again. Three-two-one. Glide. One leg in front of the other. Jump and change legs in mid-air before landing. Glide across the room gently. Right arm outstretched. 
"And friends ?"
"Umm.. okay."
"That's it ? Okay ?" Slow half-circle. One leg bent. Sway hip. Leg down.
"Vijay told me he likes me."
"That's nice." Slow half-circle the other way. Repeat. 
"Liiiikes me." She says, stretching the 'i's.
"Oh.... ohhh." I say. Big help I am. "Do you like him ?"
I watch her as she carries on her routine in front of me without missing a beat. "Yes."
Again, I'm lost for words. What do I possibly tell her ?
"It's okay. I stopped talking to him." 
"What ? But why would you..."
"tahn rehl-leh-vay." she commands. Temps releve. 
She extends one leg, with her other leg bent and slowly rises back up. I follow suit and just about manage to avoid falling on my tush.
"Jinx. Why did you stop talking to him if you like him."
She twirls around, her gaze avoiding mine and then slowly glides to the corner of the room. The music slows down once more and she gently sways back, her arms clasped above her head, reaching for the stars.
"Because of mom and dad." she says simply, again her eyes avoiding mine. 

I take in the gravity of what she has just said. She's right. In my school days, I would have never told my parents. They would have wrung my neck, I imagined. Even now, as an adult, the thought of confronting Papa and Mama about guys was akin to signing a death warrant. 
"You told them ? What did they say ?"
She sways gently to her side, her entire body weight seeming for a brief moment to rest on that leg before returning back.
"I didn't tell them."
"You just said you told them."
"No, I didn't."
"Then what ?"
"I said no because I don't want to end up like Papa and Mama."

It feels as though I've been slapped. I can feel my heart pounding and I know it's not because of this dance routine.
"Don't stop dancing. Please." 
More than the request, it is the last word that forces me to start moving again. There is no force behind the word; it is neither a demand nor statement. 
It is a plea. 
I sense the music building up once more, the third high peak within the song before it fades. I prepare myself and for the first time today, we are in unison as we make a cross - moving to the front, left, back and right again - before circling our right legs and twirling. 
En croix.
"You don't look at Papa and Mama and decide. Just because their marriage isn't happy doesn't mean yours and mine will be the same. It doesn't mean you should stay away from guys altogether." Twirl, reach for the ceiling, left arm in semi-circle, turn on left leg. 
Again two sisters in unison.

"But what if it does end up like that ? They are always fighting. You don't know. You go to college and just come like this for a few days in between. I have to sit and listen to them every evening. It's not fair."
I resist the urge to stop, continuing our ballet as I speak. "I know I can't be there for you always. Right now, you're coming straight back from school to this and you think this is all there is. Trust me, it isn't. Things will get better for you. Papa and Mama are too far gone. I know that. I've always known that. But your life is just starting - it's your decision how you want to be affected by what you see. You can choose to be the turtle and hide inside the shell or you can be the eagle and soar high above it all, making your own path."

We continue to dance, our steps incredibly still finding a synchronized rhythm. She doesn't acknowledge it and neither do I.
"In the years to come, you will come across many who like you and many more who don't. If you turn your back on the former and keep learning from the latter, then you will reach nowhere in life. This is just a guy saying he likes you. And you like him too. It's a nice thing, not the end of the world. If you shut yourself  off to everything nice just because you're scared of what you've seen, you'll end up an old irritating granny... like, well... Granny. Don't be that way. You're better than that. You're the smart kid, remember ?" 
As she pirouettes, our synchronization finally gives way and I'm glad. It allows me to see her as she faces me when she turns and I see what I'm looking for - a familiar chubby smile. 
"Granny really is cranky, isn't she ?"
"She's nuts, Jinx. She's Bug Bunny and Daffy Duck mixed together." I hear her giggle - a soft, light one - but a giggle nevertheless.

The music simmers down, fading away as we slowly glide back to the center of the room. We bend together, our knees bending over our toes. 
I struggle to maintain balance but just about make it. As always, she does it effortlessly. I smile. It isn't easy - it's just that she makes it look easy. She keeps the pain and effort hidden away for herself. I know that now. Perhaps, we are more alike than I thought previously.
We stand facing each other as the song ends - she : glowing in her pink leotard, me: sweating in my beige salwar. 
She looks me directly in the eye for the first time since the song started and then bows - the last step of a ballet. 
I know the term well.


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Let me know what you think.

  1. Ah-May-Zing! :)

    This may interest you:

    Don't write too well there, I'm participating too, okay :) Hehe! kidding!

    1. Thanks.. and as for the writing contest, need to think up some new story based on those visuals ..hmmm. Lets see :)

  2. Beautifully written.
    Sometimes we learn from our elders what exactly not to do. It is a double-edged sword.

    1. True.. should be able to recognise the errors of our seniors and learn not to follow them.

      P.S. That's actually pretty sound advice for our present politicians too :D

  3. For once, *nothing*, and yet, everything

  4. Wow.. beautifully written. Love the momentum that comes with dancing.

    1. Has been a looong time since I've even attempted... woouldnt want the earth to crack under my feet !

  5. Very well written. The ballet steps were a sort of rhythm to the flow of the fiction!

    1. Thanks Jaish. Was trying to form a connection between the differences between them and how the elder sister realises the similarities towards the end when the dance gets synchronised.

  6. Have you taken ballet classes or was it research on the net for writing this story?

    Frankly after reading your stories, this was a bit of a damper.

    1. Haha.. definitely research online... had an idea for a story which needed ballet terms.
      And sorry, you didnt like it.

  7. The ballet of four lives! That was a very refreshing and a terrific read. All the best!

  8. Brilliantly crafted. . The flow of the dance synchronised with the flow of the story. . Keep 'em coming doc!

  9. I don't think I need to say anything about the story. We all know you're a master storyteller.
    What I do want to know, though, is how you know so much about ballet. Is there a pair of ballet shoes (large size, of course) and a pink leotards hidden at the back of your cupboard? ;)

    1. Shh... you will reveal the secret identity of Kannur's Superhero : BAlleT-Man. Doctor by day, pink tutu by night !

    2. You're from Kannur?? I didn't know that. :O So we're country-cousins!

    3. We could use a sidekick in crime fighting .. since I've already chosen the manly Ballet-Man title, you can be the more feminine ConstructionWorker Gal. Whatdya say ?

    4. Ayya. Athangu palli chennu paranja mathi.

    5. Sigh.. I bet Batman never had these issues with Robin !! :D

    6. I bet Batman never wore pink tutus either. :p

    7. Can I help it if he doesn't have a good dressing sense ? Which reminds me, I need to get the Joker's tailors number...

  10. Sir i must say that ive read most of ur stories in ur blog and i always think of commenting but me being the lazy person that i am and since my net connection is always pmsing by the tym they ask u to select ur profile and type those lettersi just end up in fb or twitter instead :p But cant stop myself from commenting to this post i have a lil sister too and cud somehow connect to this story :) and love the ballet part :)

    1. Good to know I'm not the only one who reads my own blogs. :)
      And thanks.. I dont have a sister so I just tried to imagine what it would be like watching the bonds between sisters of different ages.. growing in the same house, yet seemingly different from each other.

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