- Manual for the helicopter mom
April 20, 2013
What to do when the kids have grown and flown the nest. . . and then flown back?
- How Buenos aires children go to bed late
April 6, 2013
Most at-home events - birthday parties, barbecues, and so on - welcome kids; it's rare to get a no-children-allowed request...
- Princeton charming
April 6, 2013
A letter advising Princeton's female grads to find a husband on campus has been dubbed regressive.
- In This Section
- Entire Website
From the Times Of India
- MOST POPULAR
Comparisons with a more successful sibling drive a man to despair and death.
I hate to remember him but it's not easy to forget either. I fondly addressed him as bhaiyya (elder brother) because he was older than me by about a decade. He was a frail young man who wore unfashionable Gandhian spectacles. And he was enviably brilliant. In fact, I had heard an uncle - and a man of literature himself - say that bhaiyya was the first young man he had met who could analyse Gunter Grass at the age of 18.
This was high praise since I, then a student of class I, wasn't capable of distinguishing between Grass and grass. But, even when bhaiyya discussed my homework with me, a kid in the neighbourhood, he dealt with my doubts with such confident fluency that I heard him out in hypnotised wonder.
Several years later, I had shifted base from Patna to New Delhi when a telephone call from my hometown left me numb. "Your bhaiyya has developed some grave mental problems, " the uncle's voice quivered, "He has been sent to an asylum. " What he said thereafter is lost in a haze.
Till then, my response to bhaiyya's talent oscillated between pure jealousy (since he was so much better than I was) and the desire to emulate him (as a struggling writer, I wanted to produce at least one sparkling sentence which could match up to his creative skills). But, during my saner moments, I always knew that all I wanted to do was understand and interpret literature the way he did.
When I left for Patna to be with my family a few days later, just one question occupied my mind. How did bhaiyya become mentally unstable? I asked around, but got evasive answers. "He was into drugs, it seems. " "He was reading too much, and talking to himself about what he read all the time. " "He wanted to become a world famous writer, but could not face the fact that he wasn't good enough. " None of the answers convinced me, till, one day, a distant cousin of his told me, "Bhaiyya went mad because he just could not handle comparisons with his bhaiyya, a scientist in England. He was subjected to taunts all day. He wasn't allowed to forget that his elder brother was a lot more accomplished than he was. "
Sibling rivalry is a fact of life most of us live with. What aggravates matters is when parents and relatives make comparisons. Why bhaiyya's kin needed to be so sadistic beats me. All I could do was hope that he would come back home one day. I prayed that it would happen soon.
Exactly one year later, when I went to Patna on my annual visit, I saw bhaiyya on the street. He looked shockingly untidy, knotted, thick wild hair falling to his shoulders. One lens of his Gandhian spectacles was broken and he wore a pair of torn shorts which seemed like they had not been washed in ages. He looked lost - till he saw me. I was wondering if he would even recognise me when he walked up to me and said: "Come on. It's been a long time. Let us discuss books. " That evening he told me a mix of stories: some from literature, and a few from his life including how he could never understand why he needed to be compared with his brother all the time. I sat quietly, hearing him out. For some strange reason, I could not help feeling that I was talking to my idol for the last time.
It was after I went back to New Delhi that I heard the inevitable. "Your bhaiyya passed away. His body was found on the balcony of his bungalow. " Uncle had delivered bad news again. Somehow, I was a lot less upset than I was when I had heard about his him being admitted to an asylum. I had always believed, and I still do, that bhaiyya could have given a lot to the world if comparisons hadn't killed him. By dying young (he was barely in his mid-30 s), however, he had finally found peace.
Register for Full Access to the Crest Edition
Don't have a Facebook Account? Sign up for Times Crest here.
Subscribe to The Times of India Crest Edition and stay connected with our unequalled network of correspondents, analysts, writers and editors to figure the changes bubbling below the surface of society.