March 27, 2017

Sibling revelry, writes Shweta Bachchan Nanda

Sibling revelry, writes Shweta Bachchan Nanda

Of all the relationships in my life, the one with my brother is most cherished. He was my first friend, partner in crime, shoulder to cry on and always the wind beneath my wings.

I wonder why we don’t celebrate our siblings as much as we do our parents and friends (well, at least we have Raksha Bandhan), because aren’t siblings both: some part parent, some part friend? Even more than our children they share with us a certain synergy that no other relationship can replicate.

They are a repository of our most embarrassing childhood shenanigans, our greatest teenage follies and cohorts in rebellions against the world at large. No one else knows the trauma of French toast for breakfast on a school-day Monday, or that alfalfa juice every weekend, as well as they do, because they’ve been there and this was their struggle too. As you grow and your universe changes to encompass more serious equations and issues they become the first phone call when you cannot brush things off; or say when your kid wins a gold in the 400m race on Sports Day!

I met my brother when I was a month shy of my second birthday — he came into this world in style. I believe my father popped champagne in the hospital corridors and made sure all the nurses got a sip. He was the tallest baby in the nursery, my mother remembers fondly and he was fawned over by all the nurses. As in birth, so in life, he was always a charmer, always fawned upon, always the center of attention.

Till about the age of 13, we were rivals, he was a boy’s boy and I was a painfully shy girl (let’s just say my Barbie dolls were decapitated at a more alarming rate than Henry the VIII’s wives). Then it all flipped. We reacquainted in our teens. Became cohorts, a band of two — it was us against the world and we always had each other’s back, specially when the report cards came in. Teary-eyed, we sat opposite our father as he admonished us for a poor academic performance (that is when we were unable to hide, forge or otherwise sabotage its receipt).

In college, we shared an apartment and forged the perfect living arrangement. He learned to drive, pay the bills and do all the grocery shopping and the dishes while I cooked and did the laundry. We had one bad fight the entire time and it ended with uproarious laughter.

It was my brother, who, on finding me in tears  — I was unable to put my newborn daughter to sleep — successfully managed to get her to bed in record time. It was my brother who drove me to the hospital, at an ungodly hour, when my water burst and my second child was on his way. It is my brother who I always copy on every column I write. It is my brother who is my greatest strength and my biggest weakness (there’s nothing I can deny him).

Because it is only my brother and I who know what it is like to walk in the shadow and fill the shoes of larger-than-life parents. And I am biased, but even so, it is true — he does it with the kind of grace a lesser man wouldn’t be able to.

As I write this my son snatches my laptop and in mocking tones reads this piece out loud to his sister, they laugh and call me “cheesy” and it fills my heart with joy… a tradition is continued, a bond is reinforced. It’s always us against the world!


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