Arjun was tired of playing big brother. He felt his brother Arun had a better deal at everything just because he was younger. It did seem rather unfair at times.
I sat there seething with anger. I widened them in an effort to get the anger out and my mom said, “What are you staring like that for? Say something!”
She too was angry, I could sense that. But what could I do? She was big and my mom as well. I was only seven. At such times I felt that seven was not big enough.
But they always told me I was big…and Arun was small. Big and small. How is one expected to behave when one was BIG? And why was Arun always excused for anything he said or did because he was small? All these thoughts swirling in my head and my mom is still staring at me, waiting for an answer. I mumbled.
“Don’t mumble! Speak loud and clear!”
“Sorry…” I said.
“Well, I am glad to hear that. You should be sorry that you treat your baby brother like that!”
Baby brother! He was five years old! Once again I felt the anger rising in me.
Big and small
So this is my life. I was BIG and Arun was BABY. Life was so unfair. Why was I born first? Why couldn’t I have been born second? Then Arun would have been big and I would have been BABY.
The very thought made me smile. I began to imagine what my life would have been like had I been born second. Then everyone would fuss around me and, ignore Arun.
With such happy thoughts I got dressed for school. had my breakfast and left home when the van came. Luckily Arun went to a different school, a play school that was closer home and his timings too were different. So for the whole day at school I was free of Arun. I was myself and could behave the way I wanted to. My teachers liked me and I had good friends.
But at the end of the day I always had to come back home. Back to mom, dad and Arun. After an afternoon of napping he was always bouncing with energy while I was already tired. And I had homework too. Arun would sit near me and keep chatting or meddling in my pencil box. If I got angry with him — just one stare or a sharp word, at once he would begin to howl and I would be in trouble. If his howling did not stop or became louder, dad would also pitch in.
“Arjun! What are you doing to that poor child?”
Anger would fill my head and my eyes would become hot. Earlier I used to cry at such times. But I only got more scolding for that.
“Imagine a big boy like you crying. Are you a boy or girl? Look what a bad example you are setting for little Arun. If you carry on like this he too would begin to behave like you.”
Now that was another thing that I neither understood nor agreed with. Boys are not supposed to cry. But I have seen my dad cry when my grandfather died.
At that time his uncles said, “Oh Maneesh, cry it out, don’t bottle it up…it is good to get it out.”
So if a grown man could cry why can’t a small boy like me? Even teachers seem to think that it was wrong for a boy to cry.
As my thoughts raced it was time to leave for school. That took my mind off this major problem in my life — that of being the first born with a younger brother in tow.
Soon the weekend was upon us and all was quiet. I was watching TV with Arun when mom and dad came into the room and said, “Tomorrow we are going shopping!” I just nodded. Mom said, “Hey, don’t you guys want to know what we are going to buy?”
There was silence. Finally, dad said, “Okay, three guesses!”
Now it became clear that it was something that involved us. So we became a bit more interested. But we could not guess and finally they said, “We are going to buy a bicycle.”
“Oh goodie”!” screamed Arun. “I know exactly the one I want!”
“Aha!” said mom. “But the new bike is for Arjun because you will be taking his old one. That has become too small for his long legs!”
Arun’s face puckered and he began to cry.
“No no, it is always a new bike for Arjun! He gets everything new while I always get only the old ones. I have to wear even his old clothes. I hate this.”
I had never seen Arun so angry before. I began to pay attention to what he was saying my eyes large with surprise.
“I hate being small. I hate being the second one.” He wailed. “How I wish I were born first and not second!”
Now that was something that hit me like a ton of bricks. Here I was wishing I were born second and here was Arun wishing he were born first. It should have been funny but it was not. Suddenly, I felt older and wiser. Going up to Arun I put my arms around him and said, “Okay okay Arun! It is all right! This time you will get a brand new bike. I do not want one.”
Both mom and dad were looking at us in surprise. I understood what he meant and my heart was full of love for him as I hugged him tight and wiped his face.