“ What are you doing in bhaiya’s room?”
“Nothing.” I replied hiding the sketchbooks behind me.
I sneaked out of the room as mum dusted it, all the while muttering how irritated bhaiya would be if he finds me loitering around his room. I quickly stuffed the sketchbooks in my bag and rushed to the bus stop. First year of college and I was doing what I did as a ritual nearly each year- stealing his sketchbooks from his room. As soon as I reached college, me and my friends gathered in the cafeteria and over a cup of chai, I took them out already swelling with pride.
“Your brother sketched that?” Voices overwhelmed with admiration and disbelief.
I sucked in some more air and the smile got bigger. Yup. That’s what I did year after year. Steal the stuff bhai would make, show off and then carefully put them back. And every time the jaws dropped and the eyes widened, I swelled with pride and felt lucky to have him for a brother. The Psychology dept. Tees that he designed and all my friends swooned over remained exclusive for three years! Two tees he painted for me and rest of the girls begged!
The first computer that we got was way back, around 1989, and I got hooked to the game Prince of Persia which he would refuse to put on and I would never be able to figure. No matter how much I begged, I got the same answer – ‘figure out yourself.’ At that time, he seemed like the evil big brother but after crashing his system a couple of times I did figure out and years later, today, I thank him for prompting me to take the blinkers off and dive right in. Technology and gadgets are my favourite toys thanks to him!
All through the years, I have never told him directly how much I love him (that would go against the sibling code of conduct anyway!) But each day when someone turns around and says “You are Anurag’s sister?” I try to nod and smile politely, trying to contain the excitement and pride! Inside, I am jumping up and down and itching to ask, ‘How do you know?’, ‘ What have you heard?’ ‘Oh, you know he has done this and that…’ But then it won’t look very mature now would it? So I just nod and break into a mental jig.
Each painting, each medal, each milestone of his, meant the world to me. And he would be there for me at the most unexpected of the times. Class twelfth we were supposed to go on this mandatory physical education trip and I was confident my parents wouldn’t allow. There he was telling mom, “Let her go. It’s ok.” And she actually agreed!
Very different from other big brothers, he was always there when I was growing up but was never protective or overbearing. No kids were beaten up on my behalf and neither was I allowed to hide behind him. He just let me be and taught me to take up my own battles and be my own teacher. So I beat up the kids I had to and never hid…mostly ran!
As he turns forty today, I sit here in biting cold in Shimla and thoughts of the growing years flood my heart. I reminisce about all the years bygone, you getting excited at meeting your soul mate who also loved crossword, standing in line to get I pad for mom, the books you sent for Rakhi and I read back to back.…the list just goes on. The chipped front tooth always reminds me of the ride on the front gate gone a little wrong!
So what can I do for making today special? At his fortieth, I have planned a perfect ‘revenge’! What better way than to embarrass your elder brother publicly! So here goes! Each day bhai, you make me proud of you- the brother, the son, the father, the husband and yes the mama! Each day I wish upon you greater heights in everything that you do. Each day I thank God for the absolutely perfect sibling he has given me. No matter where you go and no matter what you do, you shall be followed by my prayers and thoughts. This fortieth shall be followed by many more and each year shall bring you more fame, fortune and content. You, I know, shall forever shine like you always have while we see ourselves in your reflection. Happy birthday bhaiya. Love you!