For the first seven years of Marini Ramlan’s childhood, she was pretty much on her own, despite having a younger brother, Adam, living in the next room. Before her younger sister, Didi, came into the picture, Nini spent most of her days holed up in her room with her imaginary friends, much like most children did.
She attests that when Didi was born, she thought that perhaps one of her imaginary friends have come to life, and she could finally have someone in existence to have fun with – playing dress up and having pretend tea with her tea set. However, as the years went by, Nini realised that Didi was anything but the sister she has been waiting for, what with Didi’s tomboyish personality, and her preference towards games and sports rather than dolls.
However, that did not stop Nini from spending time with Didi, or taking care of her – a natural maternal instinct of hers that kicked in, especially when their mother was away from home working a lot while they were growing up.
“I always went around telling the people we meet that she is my mom instead,” Didi confesses, as Nini nods along in good humour. “Our mom would be out, and Nini would have us eat random dinners every night, like ice cream with 20 different cereal toppings!”
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Even till today, as grown ups, Nini still looks out for Didi, steering her to a career in event and artist management with Frisson 369, in which Didi has enjoyed years of booking international acts like Dua Lipa and Katy Perry for the country, as well as managing the local-turned-international hometown glory, Yuna.
“When the time came for me to quit my job and embark on my first trip to the States, Nini provided me with the support I needed then, to do something that not a lot of people can do on a whim, and gave me a memorable piece of advice that I will treasure for a long time,” Didi mentions.
“She told me that money is always makeable, and someone out there will always want to hire you. As long as you know yourself, the work you can do, and the skills you have to do it, you’ll always be employable, and you’ll always get the money you need.”
“Didi is living the life that I can’t, and watching her live the way I think life should be lived, I have to say it’s rather inspiring,” adds Nini, a high-level personnel in Malaysia’s leading media company, Media Prima, who moonlights as an artist, and who has had her fair share of life’s adventures as well, especially when she went on a trip with Didi to Iceland in 2015.
The better travelled of the two, Didi has taken charge of the entire 10-day trip, doing the accommodation bookings, and going on impulsive road trips to places that came to Didi before breakfast alongside five other impossible things. Nini was at her every whim, much to her discomfort and chagrin.
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At one point of their trip, Didi had the grand idea to visit the Westfjords, a mountainous peninsula at the northwestern tip of Iceland, where the barest minimum of the country’s population lives (a mere 2.32% as recorded in 2007), with an even minimum number of tourists visits, due to slippery roads in bad weather and heavily indented curves that make driving difficult. As Murphy’s Law goes, it was almost winter, when the hired car stalled in the middle of nowhere, and the Ramlan sisters found themselves in a strange land, totally unprepared for the worst case scenario, which got worse when it started snowing.
Fortunately, Didi managed to dig her way through the snow to get the car tyres free, before making a 200-degree three-point turn along the narrowest one-lane road to return to safety – all the while maintaining a cheery disposition, as Nini fumed on the passenger seat.
“I didn’t speak to her for three hours, because I was so pissed off!” Nini exclaims, as Didi cackles in retrospect. “Anything could’ve happened to us. She could’ve died, and I could’ve been killed, because—let’s be real, Didi is always the more favourable one.”
On less audacious days that border on hazardous, Nini and Didi choose to spend their sisterly bonding time together in their PJs, binge watching TV shows after TV shows, while shoving fistfuls of junk food into their mouths.
“It’s a lot for our friends to take in, whenever we’re out together, so much so that we have to consciously separate ourselves, and spend time away from each other,” Didi says. “But whenever we’re together, we just become one and the same, even though we’re not necessarily the same characteristically—we are same-same, but different.”
Photography by Kimmun / Hopscotch Studio
Videography by Andrew Loh
Art Direction by Joyce Lim
Makeup by Joey Yap, Wanning and Rachel Wong
Hair by Derren Fong / Shawn Cutler