Sisters is a poem written by Saleem Peeradina and published in Household Fires, Oxford Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry, Oxford University, New Delhi, 1994. Saleem Peeradina is one of the most famous Indian poets and has written several books and journals.

Sisters Saleem Peeradina Summary:

The poem Sisters showcases sibling rivalry and is a picture of differences which age gap, and parental affection brings in the behaviour of children. Fights are inevitable between siblings and sometimes to stop those fights parents have to interfere. The poem focuses on the importance of differential authority and self-assurance in your children by showcasing the wonderful example of two sisters.

The Age Gap

“One, not quite ten

but ahead of the other, younger

whose five plus will never catch up

with the big one’s lead

no matter how good she acts.

or how hard she cheats……..”

Sisters Saleem Peeradina Summary: Here the author is the father of these two sisters and talks about their age gap. The elder sister is just a little below 10, and the younger one is little over 5. The younger sister knows that this will always be a handicap for her. No matter how good she behaves or how hard she cheats, she can never close this age gap. The father is well aware of the nature of both the sisters and also of the fact that the younger sister can opt for any ways to get things done her way.

Younger Sister’s Strategies

“Like any disadvantaged species

she has turned the handicap

in her favour: she’s bolder,

sneakier, sweeter than honey,

obeyer of commands, underminer of rules,

producer of tears, yeller, complete”

Sisters Saleem Peeradina Summary: The younger sister knows that the age gap between her and her sister is a big disadvantage for her. Therefore, she tries every possible way to turn that handicap in her favour and uses different strategies. Her manipulative behaviour is one of those tactics by which she outwits the elder one. “She’s bolder, sneakier, sweeter than honey, obeyer of commands, underminer of rules, producer of tears, yeller, complete turnaround.” These words show that sometimes the younger sisters uses her sweet tongue and obedience to impress her parents so sometimes she breaks the rules, cries, and cheats to do the same.

Father’s Partial Attitude

“Turnaround. The older one gets

the tough end of it. Most times

blames end up in her sullen face.

Fighting back, she argues, attacks

me for talk her the way all parents”

Sisters Saleem Peeradina Summary: Knowing the younger sister’s disadvantage, the father is always partial towards her. Every time in a dispute between the elder and younger sister, he asks the elder sister to tolerate and be submissive even if the mistake is of the younger sister. This way, the elder sister becomes the target of younger sister’s manipulative behaviour and tries to fight for herself. She is old enough to understand the unfair behaviour of her father and questions his moralizing. She already knows the difference between justice and injustice and tries to criticize her father’s decision of standing on the wrong side.

Sisters Saleem Peeradina summary - Saleem Peeradina pic
Saleem Peeradina | Source1/Source2

Elder Sister’s Rebellious Behaviour

“At all times have tried explaining

to the elder child. living up

to her inheritance, she blazes back

at moralizing. On bad days

I shout her down, immediately

regretting my words.”

Sisters Saleem Peeradina Summary: As the father tries to moralize the elder sister in a pleasant and calm way she still refuses his kindness and rebels against his unfair attitude. Sometimes when the father is not in a good mood he even shouts on the elder sister but then regrets and feels sad for his shouting.

The fact that the father admits that his moralizing and behaviour is unfair towards elder sister shows that he is kind at heart and wants equality for both the sisters.

The Impact Of Father’s Shouting

“But even as she retreats

into simmering silence, she stands her ground

knowing me to be unfair. Secretly,

I rejoice at the lesson never intended

but so well learnt: how to overcome

fathers, real and imaginary.”

Sisters Saleem Peeradina Summary: The father’s unfair shouting forces the elder sister to lapse into silence but she is still angry at her father and is fighting towards the unfair treatment from inside. Although the father shows angry gestures to the elder sister, he silently joys at his heart that he has taught her daughter the lesson which he never intended to teach. He teaches her the lesson alluding the judgment of right and wrong and how to fight for one’s own justice against all the authoritarian members of a person’s life. The term “imaginary father” refers to those authoritarian people who may come in the elder sister’s life and try to control it.

Sisters Saleem Peeradina Summary: Question And Summary

Q: What is the “inheritance” that the elder sister live up to?

A: In the poem “Sisters” written by Saleem Peeradina, published in Oxford Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry, the father is shown explaining her elder sister to tolerate and be submissive, but she lives up to her inheritance and rebels against him. The term “inheritance” means the knowledge of judgment of right or wrong which the elder sister have as an advantage of being the older sister.

Q: Can you list some of the characteristics of the elder sister in Saleem Peeradina’s poem “Sisters”?
A: In Saleem Peeradina’s poem “Sisters,” the elder sister is one of the main protagonists and always becomes the target of her younger sister’s manipulative behaviour. From the poem, we can clearly see some of her characteristics like she’s bolder, she’s submissive, she also obeys her father’s commands and fights with her younger sister. Although the father is partial towards the younger sister but he’s more sympathetic towards the older one. The words “Living up to her inheritance” and “she retreats into simmering silence” proves that the elder sister is responsible and knows when to retreat or fight against injustice.

Q: “The lesson never intended but so well learnt.” What do these words mean?

A: In the poem “Sisters” written by Saleem Peeradina, Oxford Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry, the father is shown shouting at her elder daughter when the words, “The lesson never intended but so well learnt” have been used. These words mean that although the father has shouted on elder sister after being unfair, he has still taught her a lesson which he really never intended to teach which is to stand up for oneself and face the authoritarian people fearlessly.

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