I can’t believe I am getting married in a couple of days. More so, I am getting married ‘the Indian way’! The whole big fat Indian set up is actually choking me up! The entire four bedroom apartment is full of people. Thankfully, Mom agreed to let me keep my room for myself and my friends. Though I’ve got to put up with this whole ‘put a fake smile on your lips till your jaws ache’, I am actually having a good time with my friends. Every day is a gossip day and every night is a sleep over!
As the D-day is coming closer, I am regretting my decision of giving into this traditional thing. I am done with these one hundred restrictions. I can’t step out of the house, I can’t meet the man I am to marry (who I have been dating for a very long time). I’ve to deal with facials and the whole beauty treatment. And the worst of all, all I get to eat is sugar! Uhh I am so done!
My invitation card says, ‘No gifts only blessings’. I don’t know if this is a sad thing or a nice one. On one end, I don’t have many gifts and on the other end I don’t have to carry six fans, five tea sets, four dinner sets and so on along with me! I am shifting to the States after my wedding which actually kept people from getting gifts. Otherwise, even after writing ‘no gifts’ on the card, people do get expensive things just to show off! Of course close family and close friends have got amazing gifts for me. However, my own brother has not given any.
I should really not be expecting a gift from him. After all, we hardly talk. Yet, I had thought that he would get something on my wedding. Well, never mind. He must’ve not understood what to give. He doesn’t even know what I like.
Finding it strange, are you?
Well, we are like that.
Even I don’t know what he really likes. Yet I am giving him a gift. It’s Grandpa’s gold and diamond brooch. He wanted it badly when we were kids! And Grandpa had promised he would give it to him on his graduation. But Grandpa left us before fulfilling his promises. His graduation happens next year, and I am pretty sure that I am not coming here to attend that event.
And so, I am giving it to him now.
To me Grandpa had promised his gramophone. I loved his record player since I was a kid. He would say, radios have taken over record players and soon another technology would take over radios but my heart would remain inside this record player. He was right, music became more and more easily accessible day by day, but the replacement of that gramophone could not be found.
After his death, Mom wanted to renovate the house. His room was to be converted into the guest room. Almost all his belongings were given away. It broke my heart when all his clothes were donated to our laundry man. Every day for about a year, he would turn up wearing his clothes and me and my brother would exchange awkward glances. His books were donated to the local library. It was weird, how his things could be just given away, sold or discarded! But maybe that is how life works. Old things are replaced with new ones, but the heart remains where it belongs.
Mom had given me his brooch so that I could sell it and buy anything for myself. But I did not have the heart to do it. I kept this brooch in my bank locker and told her that I had bought a gold coin. I had saved it for my brother, maybe to make up for all the hatred I had bestowed upon him.
Yes, I hate my brother…
I know you wanted Grandpa’s brooch all your life. And you hated me even more when you came to know that I had bought a gold coin out of it. But hey! Guess what! You were wrong. I never had the heart to sell it, but I did not even have the courage to give it to you…
Now that I am going for ever, you get your graduation present from Grandpa…
Aah! You think I am a hypocrite. I say I hate him and yet I write ‘with love’ at the end of the note.
Well, I don’t really know. I could never figure out what our relationship was like.
I called him Sly. He called me Pogo. It’s the story of the days when cartoons made much more sense. Enid Blyton’s Noddy was every child’s role model. Sly and Pogo were the two thieves that created trouble in the Toy Town. Sly and Pogo were at least partners in crime. But I and my brother were partners in nothing! The only thing we shared willingly was our time with Grandpa. Grandpa called himself Mr Plod, Toy Town’s police officer! Because only he could stop war and spread peace.
Well, Sly, Pogo and Mr Plod are all misnomers. My brother was Noddy, the protagonist. He was a BOY, six years younger to me, at lot cuter, school topper and an all-rounder who performed in sports and art as well. Basically, he was everything I wasn’t. I was jealous, plain jealous. But that did not make me hate him. In fact, I’d have been proud of him if not for my parents. Their undivided attention, their extra love, their extra pride for him made me hate him.
I was maybe like, the Martha Monkey, a side character. Someone who had many flaws, who needed to seek attention, who needed to take efforts just to make people realise that even she existed.
And Grandpa, he was Big Ears! He was the wisest, the just and the righteous man ever. Only he loved me as much as he loved my brother. Not more, not less. Just equal.
Now that I am getting married, sure I would be a parent someday. I may not know what I should do as a parent, but I do know what I should not. I am not going to let my child feel less significant, less important and less capable than his or her sibling.
As I am heading towards his room, I realise I never really walk towards this section of my house.
He is not in the room. I have placed the brooch box and my little letter on his bed and I am looking around the room. I realise, I haven’t really seen his room.
No one can believe it is a guy’s room. In spite of all the wedding related stuff lying here and there, his room is tidy. I don’t get why he studied engineering! He paints so well! All the walls are so full of life. His paintings are intelligently placed all over his room and they make it look exotic.
Oh my god! A baseball bat! A country that worships cricket can actually have a baseball fan after all! He has a little library too! Wow! His taste is just like Grandpa’s. I guess he started reading after his death. Because I did the same…
We don’t really have much in common. He is becoming an engineer and I am a designer. He paints landscapes and I draw silhouettes. He likes baseball and I only know its name. He is social and socially acceptable and I am an anti-social disappointment to almost everyone. Only one thing is common between us, we both immensely love Grandpa.
I completed my fashion designing years ago. Well, six years ago to be precise, when I was 21. I cannot forget the convocation day. Because, next day Grandpa died.
His memories make my eyes water the same way they did six years ago.
He would take us on long walks which ended in food joints. He never bought us chocolates or ice creams. He would in fact take us to places for pancakes and smoothies. He always made sure that we tasted something different at the end of every trip.
As we grew up, he would talk to us about everything. About life, about love, about ethics, about morals, about feelings. He would also have lengthy discussions about politics, social evils, economic conditions and many other things. He would always make sure that we were aware of things. He never really refrained from bringing up any topic. He spoke freely even about the sexual changes in different milestones of life, a topic even our parents did not bring up. He knew how important it was for children to be aware of things before being able to differentiate between right and wrong.
Whenever I was alone with Grandpa, he would tell me how I could be a better woman. He told me that I shouldn’t waste my time fighting with the men around me, debating on how women are equal to men! In fact, I should prove it as a matter of fact by being successful. I should let my success speak for itself. He believed that men and women are not equal, they are different. In some places, men have an advantage while in some, women are superior. This makes them balanced. This makes them complete each other. And every time he spoke such things, his eyes sparkled and I knew he was thinking about Grandma.
I am sure, my brother too got such life lessons in their alone time. He was fifteen when Grandpa died. By then, he knew I hated him and he reciprocated my hate, until that day…..
It had been almost a month after Grandpa’s death. We both couldn’t get over it. It ached. And it ached as much as it did on the very first day. It must have been 1 a.m. when I entered Grandpa’s room. I was in this different state of mind where I thought going to his room would make a difference. As I entered, I heard someone crying bitterly. I knew it was my brother.
When he realised my presence, he stopped crying. Or at least did not make a sound. The room was dark and I did not switch on the light. Because I was crying too and it would have been impossible to face each other at such a vulnerable moment. He was sitting on the floor, his back resting on the other side of the bed. I sat next to him and placed my hand on his. After all, he was just fifteen and my brother. I felt, I should be there for him, for only I could understand what he was going through.
“I miss him too,” I said in a low voice.
“Can he not come back?” it was the impossible possibility that lingered in his head.
“No, he can’t. We all have to go one day. You, me, everyone!” I was telling him something that even I found hard to believe.
“You sound so much like him, all wise!” he almost smiled saying this.
“I am wise!”
“Wise enough to hate me for no reason,” he said blankly.
This was going somewhere else. I was not ready to handle this.
“I don’t hate you,” I tried to lie.
“You do! You do hate me! I know it.” he was complaining.
“I don’t hate you, I hate the fact that you take away what is rightfully mine.”
“But it is not my fault!”
“I know it isn’t your fault! And even you should know, that deep inside, I do love you! You’re my very own brother!”
He just hugged me tight in response. Tears flowing through our eyes. We cried all night. We did not even realise that we both had slept on the cold floor.
When Mom woke us up in the morning. All of this became a huge embarrassment. Going to Grandpa’s room and being found asleep on the floor without any mattress, eyes all red due to crying and lack of sleep, all of this looked like some psychotic illness. That is when Mom started with the whole renovation procedure and slowly changing Grandpa’s room to guest room.
I and my brother did not get along even after that night. Something that was going on since fifteen years could not be changed overnight. But little things did change. I realised that no matter what, I loved him deep inside. And I guess he loved me too.
When I got my job and would be late from work, he never slept before I reached home. He always had some excuse ready for keeping awake. Whenever I had an exam during my masters, he bought pastries. It was Grandpa’s habit, as he knew I crave for them when I am stressed. When he started going college, and had his own two wheeler, almost every time I had to go to some other place than my office, he seemed to have some work on the way. In fact, when my parents found out about me and my husband-to-be, he only convinced them.
Since that night, even I started being a little more reasonable. I stocked dry snacks on weekends as his best friend turned up for a game and he always forgot to get them. When he was going to Ladakh with his friends, I bought him a DSLR and said it was a Diwali gift I did not need. I edited his essays and speeches that he would write on the computer as I always had an upper hand at grammar. Every time he achieved something, I brought kaju katli, just like Grandpa did. Whenever he fell sick, I brought books for him.
We both silently cared for each other, it was very difficult to say it out loud. It’s this whole ‘image’ that we had made, made it impossible to accept any kind of change. I am going away now. Away from my discriminating parents, away from my brother, away from everyone! But before going I want to make up for all these years.
And so, I have placed the brooch and the letter on his bed. Mostly no one else would enter the room as they have all gone for a function I am not supposed to attend. He has not gone there. He probably had something else to do. It’s safe to leave it here and hence I am going back to my room…
Okay, what is this now? Such a huge box in my room! That too gift wrapped! Wait, there is a letter too.
I know Grandpa promised this to you on your wedding. This gramophone belonged to you, always. I am sorry I kept it from you for six years. But Mom had told me to give it away. I couldn’t keep it at home. I’d kept it at a friend’s instrument shop. Don’t hate me for not telling you…
My brother gave me tears again. Just like he had done all his life. But this time, he gave me tears of joy. I loved him, and he loved me too…
I quickly stepped out of my room and found him midway. He too had my letter in hand. Both of us ecstatic, yet spellbound. We smiled but there was an awkward silence. Both trying to say a lot of things at a time but failing to even utter a syllable…
“You’ll call me at times, right?” I finally said.
“I’ll miss kaju katli on the convocation day!” he said.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get it for you.”
“If you invite!”
He just smiled and hugged me tight. Even after six years of being away, Grandpa was there, stringing us together….