The Star (Nairobi)

15 September 2012

Kenya: Relative Values - I Had My First Relationship in My 20s, It Was Approved By My Sisters and Friends

Photo: Capital FM
Ruhila Adatia-Sood

interview

Ruhila Adatia is a media personality. A last born in a family of four girls, Ruhila was brought up with more than two parents with her elder sisters taking care of her and grooming her to become who she is now. Her three sisters, Pinky, Farah and Shina describe her as a go-getter since childhood with each calling her their 'baby'. Born and brought up in Nairobi, they now reside in different parts of the world but their childhood memories bring back much nostalgia. Ruhila and her sister spoke to Catherine Mukei

Pinky Adatia Arnaud

I was so excited when I heard my mother was going to have another baby but I wanted a baby brother. I believe that was normal as I already had two sisters and I thought why not a brother this time round? However, when she was born my for love her grew. Being girls only in the family, we had to find a way to enjoy ourselves. We all loved listening to radio. We also loved TV and watched serials and movies together. I guess that's how Ruhila became passionate about joining the media. Ruhila was a good child, well mannered and positive. She made me see things from a different perspective. She was clumsy though.

I don't remember her being punished but we had our bad moments like any other family and we just kept out of each other's way till things cooled down. It was not often that Ruhila and I disagreed over things. We were quite compatible. We got along well and whenever we were mad at each other, we stopped speaking to one another till our tempers cooled down.

Not talking to one another was sufficient punishment since we were not just sisters but friends as well. We went for movie trips to Mombasa and clubbing. We shared similar interests and loved shopping. Her performance in school was good. She worked hard at school and in the university. She was very popular and was always the MC for school events like debates.

She was a prefect and was voted the most popular girl in school and had two pages dedicated to her in the annual school magazine. She, however, did not help much with household chores. The rest of us did most of the work to afford her time to concentrate on her studies. I remember her closet was always in a mess. She was not a good cook.

The only thing she made was fried eggs. She was always corrected whenever she went astray to help her distinguish between right and wrong. We were there for her whenever she needed our help and advise. I was happy for her when she decided to get married. It is a big step in life. I was delighted that my young sister had grown up and was responsible enough to take this step. I knew she was ready for it. She is the last born and will always be my baby sister. I was quite eager to see her reaction when my daughter was born. She is a great aunt to my daughter.

Farah Adatia Gomes

When our mother gave birth to Ruhila I was excited that it was a baby girl. I had prayed for a girl. My elder sisters had wanted a baby boy. We fought over it and I told them I would pray for our mother to get a baby girl. So when Ruhila was born, I was so happy thinking it would finally be two against two but sadly it did not work out. When she was born, for the first few months, she looked greenish to me. She used to be so ill that I kept asking my mum why. I remember my mum told me that she used to crave for hot tea and that is what happens when you take a lot of tea. To date I don't know if that is true or if it was just my mum's way to get us from drinking too much tea.

Ruhila loved reading, listening to music and watching TV though she never really got to watch what she wanted as most of the time we used to bully her into watching and listening to what we wanted. She was charming and outgoing, always a leader. I remember teaching her and her friends a dance for a variety programme.

I lost my temper because they could not just get it right. I was so mad that I walked away. All of them looked at Ruhila, maybe because I was her sister and thought she knew what to do. Being a teenager, Ruhila looked confused and I think was more embarrassed that I was yelling at her friends but she took over and made things right. She talked to me and we finally performed this dance. She always took challenges in stride.

If she was not leading, she would listen and do whatever she was asked to do but if she felt something was wrong, she always questioned it. She was a girl guide. She was mischievous. I know she used to get into a lot of mischief at school and there was this teacher who used to meet my mum in the mosque to complain about Ruhila. She was not allowed to use my music system and I suspect she used it many times when I was away. Whenever I asked, she would very innocently state that she had no use for my music system since she had her own. I, however, caught her red-handed one day.

She never gave up. I was very reserved and hated hugs and kisses but Ruhila was so affectionate and did not mind whether I wanted a hug or not. She usually gave them to me. Her conduct used to drive me crazy. She knew I hated it but she still hugged and kissed me till I resigned myself to it. She still gives us the hugs but not as much as she used to. Since she was the youngest, my parents were more lenient with her.

My elder sisters always ganged up and defended her whenever we got into an argument. I remember when I caught her using my stereo we had an argument. I was so angry. I decided to throw her things out. She had been arranging her stuff and it was in neat piles. I was more than glad to mess it up. Ruhila was yelling and trying to get me out.

She managed to push me out and I was still incensed. I locked her in her closet for five minutes. We did not talk for days. Whenever we shared a room, we would stay up late talking about many things but mainly boys. Compared to us, Ruhila was young but she never told our parents what we discussed. That always impressed me. I remember planning her birthday parties. She fought so hard to go to South Africa to study. All of us were against her going for a number of reasons. Only my second born sister approved of her going.

She eventually went to South Africa to study. There is a time I saw her eating rice and curry from a glass. I still can't figure out why she could not eat from a plate. She was good in class but also loved extracurricular activities. I was never overprotective of her. As her elder sister, I worried about her but never interfered with her life and decisions. She left for South Africa and I got married and then left Kenya. We kept in touch via email.

We also knew about her relationship with Ketan and we (my husband and I) were very happy for her and Ketan. I could, however, not believe she was getting married. I was excited when she joined the media but worried as it is a tough field. But when she told me she was working for an Indian Radio station I was happy since I am a great fan of Hindu movies and songs.

Shahin {Shina} Adatia

Just like my sisters, I expected a brother. Since childhood Ruhila is a very strange eater. She comes up with the weirdest concoctions. I miss that especially when I come home and have to cook for myself. There is no one to order around to make fabulous and strange meals. Ruhila was very quiet and I always thought she would study law.

I was surprised when she chose a career in the media. My sister Pinky was her inspiration and she learnt the art of diplomacy from her. She learnt the value of standing up and believing in herself against all odds from my sister Farah. My parents inspired her love for music and movies. We all grew up immersed in the arts. She is more mischievous now than when she was a child. She was a good child. She was respectful and full of dreams and very different from the rest. She was daddy's little girl and the word punishment did not exist in her vocabulary or his.

When she was in her teens, we disagreed about almost everything and then I left Kenya and didn't see her for 13 years. We get along well. I hated most of her friends. My most memorable moments with her is walking from Limuru road to Sarit Centre. Imagine Hindus walking in the heat of the day. That was not common in the 90s. I remember her fixation with CNN during 9/11. She drove me mad. I am not a fan of CNN. Her laugh is so infectious. She gets me laughing no matter how humourless the situation may be.

Ruhila Adatia-Sood

Being the last born was fun. I loved it because I was spoilt and also disciplined by my three sisters which molded me into the person I am today. My siblings were never jealous of me. They expected me to be loved the most. I am quite lovable. My most memorable moments with them was writing and reading with Shina, shopping with Pinky and watching movies with Farah. My sisters dealt with anyone who tried to bully me. They protected me.

I am grateful to them. Amazingly, my sisters would pool resources to send me on trips, host board games and parties for my friends and I. My eldest sister Shina always made sure I was learning a new skill. I felt so loved. My first relationship was in my 20s. It was approved by my sisters and my best friend Aliya. I need them all the time. Even though we are worlds apart, I always email them for advice. They supported me after my parents advised them I'd be a better journalist than a lawyer and they were right. I actually grew up believing I wanted to be a lawyer.

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