I have a soul sister. Big deal, you say. Most people form karmic connections in their lifetimes, connections that seemingly defy time and space and all such notions of relationships that society presents us with. The thing is my soul sister and I are separated by some five decades of life and death.
I was eleven when I first started diary writing. It was meant to be; me and a diary. I remember writing about a recipe I invented and the pretend games my best friend and I would play in either her room or mine. That was 2003. Then one day, only a few weeks after I first started my own journal, my mother gave to me an old book that she possessed: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.
She was thirteen and I was eleven. Then suddenly, she became an adult and I hadn’t even become a teenager and she was helping me dive, headfirst, into emotions and suffering that I could not even begin to understand.
I was in modern, urban, middle class India and she in war-torn Amsterdam, fighting, fighting every day. What thoughts did I first have when I read her descriptions and realized, with horror that such evil could exist?
My diary became a shadow of hers. I built a world for myself which was not so close to the reality that surrounded me. And I grew. I thought. I cried with her. And never, in all those years did I feel that she was dead. That she had died decades before I was even born and that I had never met her, heard her voice, and seen her never mattered to me. She was my best friend and I would cling to her.
Her experience with Peter was innocent love, locked up in a warehouse and forced into a perpetual duel for food, space and the few comforts they could afford in such close confines, Anne found peace and quiet in the only place she possibly could: Peter’s heart. They defied the adults who were too stressed out to understand the battles these teenagers fought. It was Anne’s first and last love not because she chose it that way but because she had no time. I could understand her; I felt the lovely warmth bubbling inside her and me when she was in Peter. It was so wrong and yet so right for them to sit in the attic and talk, to watch the birds fly across the sky as also the fighter planes; symbolic of a world gone wrong.
There were times I have felt so wretched and wronged. . I would cry when people would not listen to me or when they would make fun of me. I would cry if I did badly in a test or if I could not watch a particular movie. I would cry about so many things, like we all do as children when we do not get what we think we deserve. But my soul sister held on to me.
‘Look at me’, she would say. ‘Can’t you see how I long for the things that you so easily accept as a part of your life, your inalienable rights? I long to just be able to walk freely down a street, so this Star of David I wear on my chest would not get me into a concentration camp. I long to run and feel the wind ruffle through my hair, to scream until my lungs are on fire. I long to be able to travel and write, and meet my friends again. I long to go to school and understand how I have changed and how we are all so much more different. I long for the war to be over, so we, who were wronged without cause, can be free and happy and just human again. For once, I want the word JEW stuck to my name to mean nothing more than just something that was never in my control. I want me and everyone around me to live, to breathe.’
And I would shut up. What need would I have to cry when I was all this and she had nothing? Yet she hoped, yet she dreamed. She fought and she believed. She taught me to have faith in that divine power and I have always known, deep inside of me, that even though she died and everything was so unfair, she still believed until the very last. And ever since then, when she first taught me how God exists, even when humans are warring, even when there is no light in the end of the tunnel, I have believed in Him and I have known that pain and suffering are not signs of His absence, rather they are subtle hints that He exists. I know that when Margot died and when Anne was dying and had lost everything, her last thoughts were not of revenge or anger or hatred. She did not say, ‘Curse the Nazis for all of this’.
Instead I know she thought of her mother and father, of her friends and sister, of all she lost and underwent, of all she wished for but could not get and she thought, ‘How happy I am to finally be free. I am going away from all this misery.’
I have never met my soul sister. I know her through her and what better way can there be? I don’t care how others feel about her; there are so many who are touched and moved by her story, and so many others I know who go, ‘You are crazy’ when they praise Hitler for disciplining Germany and I refuse, point blank, to believe that he was human. Indeed, I ask, what was Hitler? How can anyone ever consider the brutal, mass murder of an entire faith? What sort of belief would induce anyone to kill, kill so sadistically and for such ridiculous reasons?
But Anne Frank is, and will be my personal friend, mine only, not to be shared. I don’t care if she never even knew me. There was a time I went about pretending I was her. There is no way to know where she went from there. She was definitely not extraordinary by birth and in death; her soul was like any one of the million others that Hitler killed. But in her lifetime, her circumstances turned her into the voice of an entire generation that had had its laughter stolen from it. In that context, she outshone and stood out. So I cannot really be Anne Frank in another birth. Or I can. I won’t deny the possibility but I won’t think of it as a glorious something. But there is a force that binds us for sure, two teenagers in different time zones, in different periods with such different lifestyles. What is wonderful is the power of love that lies underneath all the layers. I cannot deny it and neither would she. She is happy; she has got to be happy that she has done so much for so many of us.
And if I could go back in time like I have so often imagined myself do, I would go and hold her frail hands when she was crying. I wouldn’t bring her back to 2009 with me, what will she even do here? But when we will be there together, even if I have nothing to say to her, even if there will be nothing I could do for her, we will sit in silence and admire life and the way it moves. I will watch her and I will think of her as God’s very own messenger, my special little friend. Within her soul, I will continue to see an angel. For what else could she have been, so ethereal, so goddamn wonderful?
There is less in common between us now. I have grown, I am almost an adult. I am assertive, I have dreams and I am living in 2009 unlike when I was fifteen and lived in 1945. This loss of innocence is sad. She never got to outgrow it completely. She was pristine. She was so much more than just another teenager. She saw too much too early.
I see her photograph in the cover page of my copy of her diary. It is probably the most widely circulated Anne Frank photograph. She is smiling, her eyes twinkling innocently, unaffected by the world around, which is just beginning to fall apart. I can see the dreams in her dark eyes. Her locks curl playfully around her neck. There is life in her still; life and joy and hope. She has so much to look forward to, so much to do, and so much to learn! Her entire life lies ahead of her and she is a flirt, she is a writer, a dreamer, a rebel and so much more. And I cry silently. It never mattered.