When I was a little child, I would howl saying, “Everyone calls bhai dushtu!! And I am always the nice one, why Maa, why?”
I wasn’t jealous of my kid brother. But yes, it did bother me that there were always more stories around him. “”Oh! So what has Tukun done now?” I on the other hand was the obedient, docile, ‘good’ girl and good girls don’t have stories around them. You have to be a brat to brag! My brother was all that and much more.
My earliest memory of my brother was when I went to see him in the hospital with a teether that someone bought me. I still remember them. They were a set of plastic keys. I saw him in the crib and to a five year old, it was fascinating to know that my brother was delivered by the same set of doctors and nurses, in the same hospital, and by the same mother!! My mother tells me that I was a brat, fiercely stubborn, with a volatile temper, known to throw fits at all times of the day. It was my doctor who told my parents that unless I have a sibling to share my universe with, I would grow up to be nothing less than a social misfit. And bang…came my brother!
My brother was the ‘lucky one’ in the family. He brought good luck to my father who was roughing it up with a new company that he had joined as Director. We bought our first car, a Maruti van, moved into a bigger house and life was all good. My brother was a late talker. But there was nothing that he couldn’t say without his sign language. As a child he was extremely possessive about his home and so when we were in the middle of shifting he could make no sense of why the packers and movers were taking away his mother’s dressing table, and then the sofas and the kitchen appliances! He would get in the middle of things, point at them and fret. It was only when he saw everything in place in the new house that he was thrilled! He ran from one room to another, surveying, ensuring everything that was in the old house was brought in and settled. This is a habit that has grown over the years. Even now, once he returns from a trip, he walks around the house, room to room, opens drawers, cupboards, looks into the bathrooms and scans every small inch of the house. He needs to know everything is as he left it.
As a child my brother gave us many stories that make us smile even now. For instance, that one time when he was in kindergarten and was learning 3-letter-words. Maa asked me to take his spelling test and the ‘teacher’ in me was thrilled! It was a Saturday morning and we sat down with our books. I would look into his book, read out a word and then dig my nose back into my book. He’d give me the cue that he was done and I’d look back again into the book and read the next word. A few spellings down the list, I realised that he was taking exactly 5 seconds to write a word. 5 seconds!! For a boy of 5 years, I thought it was stupendous speed of writing. Suspicious, I read the next word in the list and looked from the corner of my eye. There!!! The brat had moved his notebook, saw something and started writing. In the middle of his writing he said, “next”! I grabbed his notebook and yanked it away from his hand! And there it was, he had drawn a notebook on the table, under the table and written the words painstakingly on the sunmica! “Maa!!! Look at what he has done now!!” I knew he was in for a mouthful. He dashed for his eraser and rubbed the words that he had written on the table. And what he did next made my eyes pop! He started rubbing his thigh! He had used my pen to write the remaining words on his thigh, covering it up with his half pant!!!! I would cry everytime I would get low marks. I felt let down. He would console me saying that, “Didi, you got a 20 on 30 and you are crying. Look at me, I got a 2 on 10 and Maa scolded me, but I am not crying!!” Despite what his marks were in Class 2, he grew up to be a far brighter kid than me. I was the hardworking and sincere one. He was the intelligent and restless one!
Maa never raised her hand on us. In fact I think we were the only kids in our generation who were never hit by our parents. But yes, Maa had her own ways of punishing us. She would stop talking to us. On one such occasion she went on to have him hold his ears and stand by the plants in the balcony. In those days we had a boy who would work at our house. Khokon Dada was watering the plants, when the brat was looking about trying to find a way to escape the punishment. He asked Khokon Dada to hold his ears and stand in for him. He’d water the plants instead!! But there was also that one time when our house underwent a dramatic makeover. New furniture in every room. New curtains. New paint on the walls. Those were the days when the brat was in his ‘peak’. Maa had to be very careful with him. She told him that we (which basically meant ‘he’) have to wait for the walls to dry and then we could play in the passage and verandah. Bah! Who cared for wet walls?? The brat one afternoon, perhaps just to see why his mother warned him otherwise, decided to leave the imprint of his foot on a wet wall. There…a tiny and prominent pugmark, frescoed on the wall!!! Maa was furious! “Which is the leg that you used? Which leg is it??” “This one!” He proudly brandished his weapon. Maa picked up an old calender she spotted near her, rolled it and hit him lightly. You remember the old calenders that had a tin strip on top? That tin strip scrapped his leg and it broke his skin. A few precious drops of blood trickled out. The brat still remembers that day and everytime Maa tells someone that “I have never raised my hand on my children”, he comes out with the evidence, “Here, this is where she hit me!!”
The most prestigious school in town was an all boys school. And having graduated from the most famous prep school in town, we were hopeful that Saurav Ghosh would go into a Jesuit school like his father. We walked in through the school gates , Maa and Baba holding his hands and I walking obediently by the side. From a distance he spotted his prep school friends. All dressed prim and proper, holding their parents’ hands and standing in the queue to give their interviews for the BIG school. The brat decided it was time to show who was the leader of them all. He let go of Maa Baba’s hands and sped towards his friends. The brakes were late and he crashed into a few. Next he walked down the queue tweaking his friends’ ears!!! We were frozen! The parents seeing their kids assaulted right under their chins were shocked!!! What kind of a kid is this?? I walked up to them, picked him up with all my might, suffered a few kicks here and there and walked straight back to my parents. They held him firmer and walked up to the counter for registration. The stars were all wrong that day. His number was 420!! And parents whose kids were attacked felt vindicated. They laughed, some sniggered, some other commented very maliciously, “Suits him!!” The brat was too young to know what the number signifies, but by the comments his roll number garnered he knew it wasn’t flattering. We took him to one corner, went through a final round of revision perhaps, and hoped all would go well. But didn’t I say the stars were all wrong that day? Roll Number 420 was called in. By then I assume, the boy had taken upon himself to avenge his loss of honour. First of his sister picking him up from the site of action, to parents of his friends sniggering at him and then of his family trying to temper him down. He ran again. This time too the brakes were too late, or perhaps he didn’t bother about them. He crashed again. Into the table behind which was standing a Father from the junior school. The table toppled and with it the Father standing behind him. That was the end of the story behind Saurav Ghosh and his admission to the most prestigious boys school in town!
But he did find place in another BIG school. My parents having been to boarding schools always wanted to put their kids into one. This came true when they started their rounds to admit my brother into one. The school was on a hill. In a town that was pretty. He was in Class 4, going into Class 5 and the year was 1996, the year we had a fire accident in the house and Maa was hurt. She could no longer run after the brat and with serious disciplinary concerns my parents decided a boarding school was best for him. He didn’t protest. Till date, I don’t know how he felt when we left him behind in the school. The last thing I remember was that he went to join a bunch of his new friends, one of them had a videogame. The admission test went super! He was asked to write an essay on ‘A day when everything went wrong’. I, a 16 year old then, would have liked to imagine my day when I perhaps ran in late for my school exam, lost my precious pencil box, don’t know what would I have written…but he decided to write an essay where the Prime Minister of the country had forgotten to wake up in the morning and the country was running hay wire!! That was the time when Devegowda, the then PM was found napping on the floor of the house. For the next 8 years, Shimla and its nearby hill towns were our regular holiday hot spots. In Class 9th, the brat decided to slap a junior boy for allegedly calling a friend of his a “*#$%^@!” The boy happened to be the Punjab Police Commissioner’s son! A complaint was lodged and I went to Shimla to sit him down for some serious talk! He was on his way to the school council next year. Clearly, that was not to be. It so happened that it was a case of a failing love affair that was on his head…poor boy, he was never so helpless! I still have the letters he sent me from school, all of them, I was the only one he wrote to then.
When V was born last year, Maa told me, “You would make a great mother for a boy” It felt nice. Your mother telling you, that you would make a great mother is a terrific certificate of confidence. For 5 years, I mothered my brother. He had passed out from school, moved in with me in Delhi, finished his college, changed courses because he flunked a year, fell in love, fell out of it, moved in for post graduation, fell in love again, partied when I was not there, went for late night drives and birthday parties, fell ill sometimes, gave me company on most others. Those 5 years I believe is when I learnt that my brother is not a baby anymore. Maa and Baba tell me that he fears me the most. It feels good that I am an important part of his life. I have stayed up for him to return, only to sleep once he’s entered the house. Counselled him when he needed help, and yes there were many such occasions.
Some say he is born with the silver spoon. A sheltered, protected life, away from the roughness of what the real world is all about. He doesn’t have a story of struggle. He has always got what he wanted. His father let him complete his studies and then pursue a sport that he wants to pursue as a career. At 25, he is the ONLY boy who I know has a father who isn’t pushing him out of the house to earn his own bread and butter. His bills are taken care of and even now he can get away with a few demands here and there. Yes, he is spoilt. Yes, he has a sense of arrogance about himself. He believes the world is an easy place to live. But not any more…
On 6th May 2012, he met with an accident while driving from Pune to Jamshedpur. He has a lot many broken bones than we can count. In the span of the last 24 hours he has suffered more pain and hardship than what you and I can possibly imagine. Today all he wants is to walk again, to play his golf again.
I was the first one to speak to him yesterday and I will do anything to take away the pain that he is undergoing right now. But before I reach him and give him a hug, this is the best I can do. Write, to remind of all the good times we’ve had. I can write to chronicle and recount our happy memories. This is the only way I can send him the warmth of my love and some positive energies.
To Maa and Baba, hold in there. This is again one of his pranks gone wrong. We will bring him out of this, like we always have.
I love you Kiddo…you will be up and about in sometime. I have always been there for you and I will do so forever.
P.S: I just realised I can write a book about you, Saurav Ghosh!!!
and yes, this is V’s message to you, right below. He says “Get well soon Mama, see you on Thursday!”