Having a sister who is 6 years younger has many disadvantages. She can be a complete nuisance and destroy your favorite book when you refuse to let her chew on your year-end project. But you can also bend her nubile mind to your will. Not only can you make her willingly take the blame for your antics, you can manipulate her into doing things she normally wouldn’t because she believes you are from Mars. That’s right.
Astronomy was my most prized book, in all of my 13 year old life. The book had beautifully colored images and smelled wonderful, untainted by my sister’s touch. It taught me most of what I knew about the Universe, and I pored over it hungrily night after night, after my sister went to bed.
But I got careless, and one day, she noticed it lying on my table. The cover was colorful and attracted her like a magnet. I knew I couldn’t hide it from her ever again. I also knew that her behavior towards the book the next time she got upset at me precariously hinged on what I was going to tell her about the book now.
Over her cries of “Show me! Show me!”, I hatched a plan.
Somberly, I said, “Okay. I will show you the Book. But you have to promise not to show Amma and Appa.”
That got her promptly excited.
“Because I got this book from my Home Planet. It has information about planets and moons and lots of other things that people on Earth don’t know of. You see, I’m from Mars. No one knows that. Not even Amma.”
A flummoxed silence met this pronouncement. Maybe I underestimated her. Kids are smarter these days, after all.
“Wow, Akka! Really?” She bought it! But, “I want proof!”
Easy, kid. You’re eight. “Yes, look, I’ll show you.” I walked over to our old, uneven, creaky *iron table*. I pulled it under the fan and put a pencil on its surface. “See, the pencil is just sitting there, right? Not moving? Now watch. Oh, also, switch on the fan. I’m really hot.”
She obediently went to turn on the switch, full of excitement, as I started muttering incoherently(what sounded like “jim-boom-ba“) under my breath. As the fan gathered speed, the pencil rolled down from the center of the table towards its edge, and fell with a soft clatter to the floor. She stared at it for a minute, then looked at me, mesmerized.
“Akka! You really are a Martian! You can do magic!”
And thus was cast the truly magical spell my sister would remain under for one full year. A new world had opened up to me. I could wake up at nights, finish the chocolates at home, tell my sister that chocolate is my “fuel” unknown to our mother, and have her take the blame for it. I could make her do all the sketches for my biology lessons without hearing a peep out of her. She was even willing to pretend to be a dog and follow me around on all fours(Sorry little sis, but you were cute) because she knew how much I loved dogs. However, it being imperative for her to never forget my Place of Origin, I constantly talked about it. It worked like a charm. The little monster was becoming more and more agreeable, and we were actually spending time together. What I did not know was that she had been broadcasting our secret to all her friends.
One day, she came home all tears, claiming that two boys in the building had called her a liar. She revealed that they thought Martians had huge heads and green skin. When she told them I had shown proof – namely, my “magic”, my way of manipulating the most un-manipulatable person ever, our mother, and my Holy Book that contained information about the Universe and how I was the only one on Earth who knew it was expanding – they insisted on meeting me too.
I didn’t want to blow it up, but her reputation was on the line. So, a date was set for the next evening. Turned out, the boys were the same pesky twins who always had their evening shouting matches right underneath my window. This was my opportunity to shut them up forever. I knew the pencil trick would not fool 8 year old boys. I had to come up with something more crafty. Inspiration struck.
“Alright boys, gather around me.”
I proceeded to place a large chilli on a piece of paper that I asked the two boys to hold.
I brought the back of my hand slowly under the paper, and the chilli jumped from where it was on the paper, to position itself directly above my hand. As I moved my hand around slowly underneath the paper, the chilli followed the motion over it.
Over their “Wow! That’s awesome!”, I also let it be known that I could turn boys into frogs.
Later, as I untaped the tiny magnet from between my fingers, and removed mom’s sewing needle from the chilli(that eventually burned my eyes, courtesy my unwashed finger), I knew I successfully had, on my hands, two bullying, yet very enraptured boys, who wouldn’t dare to even whisper under my window.
The next day, five kids from my sister’s class were in the house. I showed them proof of how I also get food supplies from my home planet – a Mars bar, which my aunt had recently procured for me from Washington. The stories quickly spread. I received looks from unknown tots while walking around the building, and a particularly nasty little girl ran away when I smiled at her. When some more kids turned up a day before Diwali to test me, I magically fixed their broken rice lights by stuffing some [hidden] aluminum foil in a bulb holder.
Thereafter, I came to be known as The Mars Girl. I was recognized and revered by kids in my society, in the junior section of my school, and most importantly, by my sister. Life was good, and I had power. I could order screaming kids away from underneath all the windows of my house if I felt like it. I could tell them to ask for me to come out to play whenever my parents had visitors. I could return their books as late as I wanted, and always bat during cricket. To the parents, I had become a Titan who had the devilish-kids-who-had-just-
stepped-out-of-the-Anjali– movie under control because of her unnamed, mysterious power.
As the academic year progressed, the kids got busy, I got busier, and, unknown to me, my sister grew up. I interacted less with my sister’s friends and more with my books. I started having more exams and less visitors. Soon enough, the Mars story was all but forgotten, especially by me.
Flash forward to the end of the year. I had just finished appearing for my exams, and was finally relieved of the TV ban. My sister had bonded pretty well with me after all the hours spent studying and fighting at the same table. We had also developed a new new found love for documentaries.
One day, my sister and I were watching our usual pre-dinner Animal Planet. Today’s special was Warrior Ants, and speaking of which, the two now-delightful twin boys dawdled into our house, and decided to join us. They had their usual handheld Brick Games, and were soon immersed in it.
Meanwhile, on the tv, “…make use of visual landmarks when available as well as olfactory and tactile cues to navigate. On foraging trails or other well-used paths, pheromones can be layed down continuously to keep traffic in order, but pheromones aren’t used much otherwise for navigation because they’re too volatile. Watch what happens when their pheromone trail is disturbed.” A scientist on the screen proceeded to rub her hand on an ant trail on a wall, between two ants. The ants that were following the trail beyond her finger, upon reaching the point of disturbance, immediately were disoriented.
“Akka!” My sister suddenly interjected. “Remember how you used that trick on me? You did this same thing with ants, claiming you were able to control their movements. You used to say that you were from Mars!”
“What? Wait. You know I am not an alien?”
“Yes Akka. I know about magnets and Mars. I found out you were lying. I know you took advantage of me. But it’s ok. It was fun. We got to eat a lot of Mars bars.” Ah, she was grown up already.
I smiled. “Can you believe you fell for that?”
“Yeah.. I actually thought you were not you and are from another planet! I mean, you are certainly qualified for that, but I actually believed it. Haha.”
We laughed a bit and went back to the tv. But the boys were gaping at us.
“Wait,” one of them said. “You mean to say you are not from Mars?”
His eyes were wide, and his twin’s eyebrows were lost up in his hair.
“Err.. well, humans haven’t colonized other worlds yet. We haven’t even landed a man on Mars, and there has been no evidence of even primitive lifeforms on the planet, let alone a highly intelligent species that is capable of interplanetary travel. If I were from Mars, considering it’s distance from the sun and lower gravity, I would be a bit taller, thinner, and totally incapable of hiding my identity from my mother.”
There was a stunned silence. My sister giggled. The twins looked at each other, opened their mouths wide and their eyes wider. I thought I had them confused out of their wits. But then,
“She’s is not from Mars!”
“She lied about..”
“She’s is not from Mars!”
“..being from Mars! Mars doesn’t..”
“She’s is not from Mars!”
“… have humans!”
“She’s is not from Mars!”
“LIAR!!” they shouted in unison, and ran out, their voices carrying along behind them loudly.
And just like that, I knew my reputation had come crashing down.
The next evening, as I sat at my window with my books, for the first time in many, many months, I heard kids squealing outside, below my window. I stuck my head out and peered down into the creeping darkness at six or seven faceless children and hollered, “Hey! Stop all that shouting!”
Pat came the reply. “Or what? You’re gonna complain to the Mothership?”
And a pebble flew and hit me on my forehead.
I heard the kids howling with laughter as I pulled my head back in hurriedly.
Sigh. It had been a glorious one year, but my genius had come back to bite me in the you-know-what.