A beloved brotherhood

Updated - October 18, 2016 01:42 pm IST

Published - April 26, 2016 12:39 am IST

April has always been a special month for me, for more than one reason. If the start of the summer holidays during this month had been a great source of joy in childhood, important milestones and events of the freedom struggle marked in April made an imprint on my mind in later years. But more than anything, my elder brother’s birthday has been the most inspiring beauty spot of the month. And Rangarajan, my elder brother, has been a great source of inspiration throughout my life.

He was barely six (and myself two and a half) when we lost our mother. Whatever little I have gathered about those critical days, Rangarajan’s passionate narration contributed a great deal. He was so attached to my grandfather, K.C. Rajagopalachari, who was headmaster of a school in Walajabad near Kancheepuram. At his instance, to pursue our studies both my brother and I moved to the grandparents’ home at Kancheepuram where they had settled down after my grandfather’s retirement. But nature snatched him before our academic year had even started. But my grandmother would not leave us, and the indomitable courage and care she exhibited in taking care of us is beyond description.

I was in Class 8 when my college-going brother took me to the branch library near Rangasamy tank and made me read various periodicals and books. Back to our parents’ home at Vellore during the holidays, Rangarajan would make me join him to proceed to the big District Library once breakfast was over. Not a single day during the holidays would be wasted. And invariably, we would be the last to be politely sent out by the library staff at the close of reading hours.

He has mattered so much in my upbringing. One day he took me for a very long walk in Vellore and we were at the other end of town, near a cinema. The film being screened was Navarathri, starring Sivaji Ganesan in nine roles. I suggested we walk in. But upon counting the coins in his trouser pockets, he shook his head in the negative. The next moment, he handed over to me that small amount, barely enough to buy one entry ticket, telling he had seen the movie already and I could see it. He promised to return and pick me up after the show, which he did.

Many interesting episodes during our days in Kancheepuram remain unforgettable. He learned to ride a bicycle fast, and the same evening was riding it very fast. A group of people was seen following him, and it appeared they were doing so to appreciate his riding skills. Alas, it was for the wrong reasons. The well-built man leading the group was a distributor of aerated water bottles (soda bottles, as they used to be called) whose bicycle that had been parked at the other end of our street, adjoining the Varadaraja temple. My brother’s bicycle had hit his, pushing down the crates.

Realising what he had done, my brother was quick on his heels and wheels, but the group was even quicker. They made a big claim towards losses suffered, but my grandmother’s heartrending narration of her woes ever since she had shifted to the temple town, the unexpected loss of her husband, non-receipt of family pension, the ordeals of bringing up the grandchildren, and so on, touched their hearts and they left, accepting a ten-rupee note. Once they left, my grandmother promptly asked my brother not to venture out on the bicycle anymore.

The job I secured, I owe to my brother. On his suggestion I took my very first test for a bank job conducted by the Banking Services Recruitment Board (BSRB). When the selection process was on, I had moved to Coimbatore to pursue my post graduation, staying at my parent’s home. By the time the appointment order was delivered, my father, a Deputy Collector, had been transferred to Dharmapuri and we had vacated the house; I was staying in a room elsewhere in the city. The orders were returned to the bank undelivered and the appointment was cancelled. Interestingly, the envelope carrying the news of that cancellation somehow reached me through a friend. I dropped a post card to my brother sharing the news of the cancellation of the appointment. He quickly contacted a bosom friend working in the same organisation and asked me to quickly go to Chennai and represent to the bank authorities. 

That was how I regained the opportunity lost and secured a job. He knew the pains of getting a job and his was a very bitter experience, faced with odds and challenges at every turn. Yet he would never ever complain of anything and his graceful smile would drive out the heat of his plight. One day I called my wife to inform her that I had received the milestone award of a wrist watch given to staff members who had completed 25 years of unblemished service. My wife’s instant reply was that it should go to my brother who was primarily responsible for my securing the job. But he took it very casually, as usual.

It was from him that I imbibed the art of appreciating literature and cinema, developed the habit of greeting the author of any creative work and sharing with others examples of good writing that I come across. As he turned 60 recently, the whole family gathered to joyfully celebrate the ‘ordinary’ man in his extraordinary attire, with my nonagenarian father himself presiding over the function. What better way to repay an unassuming Anna!


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