Sisters | Women Uninterrupted podcast - Season 5, Episode 3

On relationships between sisters & between the women of a family: the negotiation of shared spaces and the limits of sharing.

Published - April 17, 2024 03:48 pm IST

An inside look on the sisterhood pact, the limits of sharing thoughts with parents, negotiating chores, vocabulary and safe spaces – all that “generational stuff”: a conversation between a mother and her teenaged daughters.

Women Uninterrupted is a podcast by The Hindu. We bring you difficult, different and uninterrupted conversations between women.

Host: Anna Thomas

Guests: Kavitha, Namratha & Nishka Komanduri

Editing: Tasmin Kurien

Title music: Maya Dwarka

The gift of sisterhood

By Megha Gupta, student

In a world where a woman still struggles to find support and encouragement, sisterhood is one of the purest gifts she can receive. It’s an unwritten promise of unconditional regard - from someone who wants the best for you, who understands your challenges, and who does not view you as competition. I am lucky to have found all this with my older sister.

Megha & Tanvi Gupta

Megha & Tanvi Gupta

Together, we are a united front in the silliest of family fights - where I know she will always be on my side. Many years ago, she even fought with her closest friend, simply because I was feeling sad and left out. She and I can call each other at any time of the day and vent about academic stress, drama in our school lives, or even about our parents being difficult. I would not choose anyone else to reach out to.

Having grown up in the same circumstances, we know and have experienced similar hardships. From deciding what to eat to helping me make decisions about my future, our mindsets are often in sync. Her experiences make her a good guide: she uses that knowledge to ensure that I don’t make the same mistakes.

That is not to say that we don’t fight - all sisters do - but we never belittle one another in the process. I love the safety and security within this relationship, running successfully now for 18 years.

AUDIO TRANSCRIPT

Host: I’m your host Anna Thomas on the Women Uninterrupted podcast. This episode is part of a series on relationships, and we are talking to a mother and her two teenaged daughters about growing up together as women. With me, I have 14-year-old Nishka Komanduri; her older sister…?

Namratha Komanduri: Namratha?

Host: …Namratha, and she’s 17; their mom, Kavitha. And we are here to talk about family: relationships between mom and daughters.?

How often do you have conversations about anything other than school, food or what time you have to wake up??

Namratha: Like, yesterday, we were coming back from school and I was ranting about some person in my grade and my mom was like, you should sort of calm down just a little bit; learn to, like, accept people. If you don’t like them, maybe just stay away from them. It’s like, we have these conversations a lot because I’m comfortable enough.?

Kavitha, Namratha & Nishka

Kavitha, Namratha & Nishka

Host: This is a safe space for you, your mom, your sister…?

Nishka Komanduri: Yeah. More my sister than my mom because like, I have like, no secrets at all.?

Namratha: I feel like it’s a sort of oath that we’ve taken that we keep things between us if it’s not that deep; it’s like the Hippocrates oath or something.?

Host (to Kavitha): You knew about this.?

Kavitha Komanduri: Well, they have been very open about the fact that they have secrets from me. I’m OK with it. I mean, they can keep things to themselves. That’s what sisters are for. I’m a parent, after all, at the end of the day. But I keep telling them that this is a place where you can tell me your darkest thoughts, lowest of lows, and there is no judgment, but you have to understand it will be mixed in with a reaction. But I’ll tune it down.?

Host: What are the most difficult things to communicate with your mother??

Namratha: I’d say the thing she doesn’t really agree with us on, like, people in my grade who are like, homosexual - she doesn’t say much, but she always has that face like (hushed tone): I see. Are you that??

And it’s always like, I’m just TELLING you…?

Nishka: It’s not difficult. It’s just awkward sometimes. And when you have differing opinions from her…I mean, I can’t really speak my thoughts well, so it’s always like she wins those discussions…she can be very persuasive.?

Kavitha: Thank you (laughing). I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing!?

Host: I think as mothers we tend to use certain trademark terms and kids pick up on it.?

Namratha: That, and that tone of voice hmmmmmm…?

Host (laughing): Yeah, tone of voice…?

Namratha: and that inquisitive: This is, like, interesting. Tell me more.?

Host: As mothers, we’re told to affirm…keep being affirmative…?

Kavitha: I don’t think I am that kind of a person. I’m pretty unfiltered. I can get negative. I mean, I have tried a little bit more to curtail it but at the age that I am, I have to say that I don’t succeed all the time.?

Host: Kavitha, I’m going to ask you something about the limits of sharing. So, they told us that you are a safe space, and they are a safe space for each other. How far do you want that to go? Would you like them to say everything to you??

Kavitha: I know they set limits for themselves. My take is, they should be able to come to me with everything. It does not matter how dark, how ugly, how stupid they think it is. Because, end of the day, when you voice something out and you hear yourself speak about it - we call it in Tamil…we say veeriyam - the intensity of the emotions, dark emotions - come down. I want them to come and tell me their insecurities. Nothing’s off the table. They can come and ask me; I might say no at that time, and then I might explain it once I figure out how to explain…?

Host: Nishka, you said no in the first place when I asked this question. So, what stops you??

Nishka: I mean, there are just some things that should stay between me and akka (sister) It’s like very generational stuff. Or it’s like, things that I don’t think Amma will be good with…I get the reaction I want from one person, so why would I go and tell another person? Like, akka gives me such good reactions when I tell her about stuff. With her, I can be as unhinged as I want. I can say whatever.?

Namratha(amusedly): Oh, my god.?

Nishka: I’m like, everything that’s in my head…I just tell it to her freely. But with Amma…Amma, I can also do that but like, the less unhinged thoughts.?

Kavitha: I understand what they are saying, right? I mean, see, my taste is going to be different. Let’s take a simple case in point: straight parting versus side parting, and then…then you know (pregnant pause) Exactly (laughs).?

So, this is something that we say as parents - what we think they look good in. And they have an idea, and they’re going to go to a person who agrees with them. She wants to hear something that…you know, somebody resonates with her thoughts and fears and whatever she’s going through and she’s going to give her a reaction to it. And she trusts that reaction. I understand that. But as a parent, you have a role to play. I keep telling them that, you know, there are certain things you cannot handle on your own; you should be able to come to me.?

Host: Let’s talk about relationships. I’m talking about romantic relationships or relationships with people outside this family. I’m talking about whatever kind of romantic relationship you both decide to have. Like, how much of this do you think you can discuss with your mom or with each other? Let’s start with mom.?

Nishka: The only, like, time I’ve ever been associated with romance, I’ve told her about it. She was, yeah, she was there when it was happening, and she agreed with everything that I said. And it was…it was really nice because it was more like talking to a friend and less like talking to my mom about it,?

Namratha: …because I think my mom lives for the tea and so does my dad. So, if it’s like about us, they’ll be like, Oh my god...Any progress??

Host: You were talking about the cup - using the menstrual cup - that you were the first adopter.?

Kavitha: Yes.?

Host: And you encouraged your daughter to adopt the cup when she was 12.?

Kavitha: It’s not as difficult as people make it seem because very frankly, the taboos are in your head, not in theirs. It’s how you do not unburden that baggage on them. It was never a conversation about the cup. It was a conversation about the environment. I want to do things sustainable. It was never about, you know, the body parts. It was about just facts. And…go convert 10 other people and, you know, and you’re saving so many plastics from going to the ocean.?

Host (to Namratha):And now you are a cup advocate.?

Namratha: Yeah, I’ve done like a few presentations and stuff and I’ve also like, told my friends to start using it, which they have.?

Host: Do you find a difference when your friends speak about their moms - relationships with their moms??

Namratha: If I ask any of my friends about their moms, they talk about like, similar things, not…not about how open we are about those kinds of conversations, but definitely about dating and stuff, because I think my friends - they have a much more vivid dating life than I do.?

Kavitha: She tries to beat herself down and I tell (her) it’s just a personal choice. You have only so much energy - so if there is finite energy, you are either splitting the energy in terms of the focus you turn towards education and this; or you are just focusing on that. And there is a time and place for it. But however, I do understand that you are a teenager. You are going to meet people. There is going to be a quote unquote “rizz” factor.?

Namratha & Nishka (exclaim together): Ohhhhhhhh?

Kavitha: And you know, if, of course push comes to shove and there is some conversation that we need to have, I’d rather you have it upfront, not as…not afterwards.?

Nishka: Some, like, some people just aren’t that interested in dating, like both of us. I mean, she might be, I don’t know…?

Namratha: Yo. Don’t put words in my mouth, OK…?

Nishka: I’m not that interested, especially because I’m in 9th grade. And it does not matter at this point.?

Kavitha: You know, the conversation…that’s, I think, that’s what we are trying to say. But it has never happened; my elder daughter has never told me.?

Namratha: I have no charisma. It’s OK - I have so much charisma…people just can’t see it. (Kavitha laughs)?

Host: Let’s talk about swear words.?

Namratha: I think we’ve been so desensitised to it that it’s like, not even swear words anymore. Like…?

Nishka: …it’s just words.?

Namratha: Yeah. There’s like, a word where she draws the line; obviously - the F-word and the B-word where she draws a line. But if I say like, shit, like, if I say that, my mom won’t…?

Nishka: I said it, like, 17 times yesterday.?

Host: Let’s talk about one eternal conflict point – household chores and the ever-busy teenager with all your extra-curricular activities, your hectic social life, so many school projects…?

Nishka: We’re better than most kids; you have to admit.?

Namratha: Yes. We do it without bothering you.?

Kavitha: Yes.?

So, no.(girls laugh in confusion)?

OK, let me put it this way. A chore, if told, will get done. But I am at the stage where it needs to get done automatically and it doesn’t. If I ask, it’ll get done, if I’m in need: so, from my elder daughter, it will get done if I ask. No matter how busy she is, how tired she is, it’ll just happen. When I am sick, my needs are anticipated by my younger daughter and she will mother me.?

Host: What’s one thing that you want to change about your mom??

Nishka: You need to be more affectionate physically!?

I went to her room yesterday. I slept with her. She didn’t hug me a single second. I’m not supposed to ask for it. She’s a mom. She should give it.?

Kavitha: Yes, yes.?

Nishka: You need to be more enthusiastic when I tell you things…Like if you’re just there, like, oh nice, then I feel bad about my…?

Kavitha: Agreed. So, I think celebrating their small wins is something that I can do better, and being more expressive with them is something that I can do better because…it just doesn’t come to me naturally.?

Nishka: That’s kind of why I don’t tell you stuff, because, from akka, the reaction I want is very enthusiastic... It’s exactly what I want. If I tell you, you’ll be like…hm.?

Kavitha: OK, here’s a conversation: Akka, Haechan came out with this video! I’m like, Ok, H1. Who’s H1? Yes, K-pop; I get it now, see. What I’m saying is that there is a level of enthusiasm that will be because of their common interest.?

Host: Do you have different tastes in music??

Nishka: See, amma barely listens to music. She says, whatever you want to play, play it, but after a bit, it’s my turn - I’m playing Tamil song.?

Namratha: I think the main thing she objects to is explicit music. Even if it’s like the smallest swear word, she’ll just: Nishka, change it!?

Kavitha: Yeah, and I do not like…?

Namratha: …谤补辫?

Kavitha: …rap for that reason, because they make it so…?

Nishka: …vulgar.?

Kavitha: Vulgar.?

Nishka: These days I hate like, the trending English songs. The lyrics are so gross, I don’t know…?

Kavitha: I don’t think they should be listening to so much of that.?

Host: Books…are they allowed to read everything??

Namratha: A lot of girls like this one author named Colleen Hoover. She’s very problematic in the sense that she romanticises abuse in all of her books. Books are a slippery slope.?

Kavitha: Other than that? You read nonfiction??

Namratha & Nishka: No.?

Kavitha: There you go.?

Namratha: We read textbooks all the time…?

Nishka: …nonfiction enough.?

Namratha: To relax, we’d like to go into some fantasy world. Not even fantasy. To just be some…?

Nishka: …very slice of life.?

Namratha: Yeah.?

Host: Thank you, all. Thank you, Nishka. Thank you, Kavithamom. And thank you…??

Namratha: Namratha (laughing)?

Host: Signing off on this episode of Women Uninterrupted, a podcast where we host difficult, different and uninterrupted conversations between different generations of women, brought to you by The Hindu. ?

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