Sibling Love: From A Pokey Triangle to a Circle of Love

My younger brother sends me a link to sign up for organ donation and I’m amazed at the ease in doing so. It’s as easy as setting up a Flipkart account, and when I’m done, my conscience feels lighter (rather than when I’m done with Flipkart, and my conscience weighs heavily on my mind).

I’m solitarily gloating in my selflessness at becoming a certified organ donor, but as I proceed to laminate my freshly printed donor card, a stab of suspicion stops me in my tracks.

I fish out my phone and go to my family’s WhatsApp group to instantly share my concerns with my siblings. This donation thing is all fine and dandy except that I don’t completely trust Nandy. I make the sibs promise that they will have to come and verify that I am really dead before Nandy hands me over to the hospital to have my organs plucked out. They laugh and agree and we emoji-handshake on it to seal the deal.

This comfort of having someone know where you come from, no matter what you say or how idiotic you behave, comes from a solid history of elbow-jabbing, tattle-telling, prank pulling, butt-of-the-joke making meanness that ensues between siblings. There’s a deep sense of trust that emerges between brothers and sisters from years of completely distrustful behavior with each other.

In my case, we are 3 kids of which my eldest sister was the perfect one: the first grandkid, while I was the mean, angry, no-one-loves-me middle child, and then came the adorable, doe-eyed chirag* of the family (named after God Ram himself). In this equation, it was easy to guess who got the most amount of shoutings and slaps, deservedly so!

Growing up, the three of us shared a bed. It was a massive, exquisitely carved, old style bed, with enough place for 3 capricorns between the ages of 3-10 years but my poor brother would get incessantly kicked by me as he rotated in the middle, consistent as the minute hand of a clock, throughout the night. My poor sister was no less than Sister Florence Nightingale, always saving my brother by pulling him to her side so he could stay away from my evil claws.

Florence would spend hours telling Ram Sukhyari-Dukhyari stories (about Sukhyari who didn’t have much but was always happy and Dukhyari who complained no matter what wonderful circumstances she was gifted). She would whisper the story to him as I complained that I couldn’t sleep with the sound, while I actually tried to hear it myself, enjoying it but finding it all too familiar when it replayed in my dreams, with me playing the disgruntled Dukhyari and my sister starring as the perennially happy martyr, Sukhyari.

Just like the protagonists of the movie, “Amar, Akbar, Anthony”, we three are bound by blood but have always been as similar as chalk, cheese and chimichangas: my parents’ Florence, Medusa and Ram. Three kids born under the same star sign, challenging the science of astrology by our differing personalities, but after all these years, bound by an understanding that only all of that childhood turmoil can create.

Sibling love fueled from years of sibling hatred (and parents wondering was it really the right decision to “gift” their kids their sibs) is a force stronger than gravity, wherein whether we talk every day or not, we eventually always bounce back to each other. The childhood secrets, the insider jokes, the sarcasm about the eccentricities of our parents and our undying love, despite each other’s annoying ways, is what creates a circle of trust that no one can infiltrate. That’s when these three divergent corners of the triangle come together to form an infinite inner circle, one that even our parents feel left out of sometimes!

*chirag- lamp, light, Heir who shall light the path to the future and guide the family.

Needy Babies to Needy Mommies: Growing Up or Growing Old.

I wake up to BabyA’s sobs and find that she’s having a nightmare. I imagine that she must be dreaming of me being brutally murdered, judging by the intensity of her cries, but she wakes up and tells me her bad dream is a secret. After some coaxing, she admits, “Mamma, I was dreaming that you left me and went for dinner. I couldn’t come because it was an adults’ dinner, and I missed youuuuu”, she says as she trails off into another sobbing bout.

Talk about really slapping on the guilt: her worst nightmare was me going out for dinner? This intense separation anxiety started around one, and peaked at about one and a half, staying at an Everest-high till a few months before her fourth birthday.

I love my daughter immensely but at the worst moments, I have wanted to palm her off to any class that would give me one hour of breathing time. I felt suffocated by her constant need for me: sitting on the potty with her on my lap was always the lowest low that I had experienced as a mom!

Sending her to Nani’s house so I could enjoy some hours just doing whatever I wanted (which was usually sleeping), or sneaking out of my house like a thief (moving slickly, sticking my body to the walls as I moved and not breathing so she wouldn’t spot any motion), I have done it all! No material gift could have replaced anyone willing to take her off my hands and give me some me-time!

Once she started ‘big school’, I started seeing a change in her. She started becoming independent (“Mamma, I can open this on my own”, toys all cleaned up after playing, clips never lost- no matter how bouncy the castles had been). Slowly, she started drawing on her own: “Mamma, can you help me?” Sometimes I would, and sometimes I would ignore her and phase out, lost in a world of Insta selfies and FB viral videos that had nothing to do with snotty-nosed, attention-needy children.

After a couple of months more, I could go for a lengthy shower and come back to see her still playing with her magnetic tiles: building castles and weaving fantastic stories around them. I felt happy that she was developing such focus and didn’t need me all the time.

Now it’s over a year of going to big school, and turning 4 has completely changed her. Gone are all the tantrums of toddlerhood because she’s happy to listen if you dole out logic (or even if you give her complete nonsense but package it into a fabulous story). Along with that, is a lot of stuff that isn’t as easy to digest- namely, her growing need to not need me!

One day, she came home, opened her doll house and started playing. As Nandy and I walked in, she said, “Please go! I’m playing in my room.” On seeing her father’s face drop like she had just tap danced all over his heart, she volunteered, “After my work, I will play with you, ok?” The husband and I looked at each other, and I told him that this is it. We had a little phase (which at that time seemed insurmountable) where she needed us, but now for the rest of her life, we will be the needy ones: “Darling, give Papa just one kissy?” “Chikri-poo, just spend five minutes telling me what you did in school”.

I have dreamt, prayed, cried for this solitude, and now I wake up in the mornings to see she’s been up for hours and hasn’t knocked on my door, needing me. I feel completely dispensable. She leaves for classes, waving goodbye happily, or sits around for for hours, colouring her life-size cardboard rocket, and I can see my dreams coming true.  My little girl’s growing up, and as I foresee her rocket, ready to be propelled far, far away, I’m left wondering, why did I long so much for this loneliness in the first place?

SakuBai, FaceTime se Phone Karna

I just turned down a friend request by my driver and then as I log on to Twitter, I find that it says, “Sheela Sharma is following you”! My maid refrained from sending me an FB friend request but is now part of my Twitterati.

I think it’s amazing how keyed in this new generation is to technology, and now with Jio offices having lines that serpentine all the way around the block, I envision Mukesh Ambani virtually patting my maid on her back, saying, “Jaa Sheela! Jee le apni Zindagii!” After all, everyone (regardless of socioeconomic background) has the right to Jio, and let Jio!*

In the afternoon, as I pass my house’s “hang-out” area for the domestic help, I see all of them lying down, cut off from their daily stresses of differentiating between julienning and dicing vegetables just the right way to keep the matriarch of the house smiling. Ear phones connected to their Androids, each one has a separate Bhojpuri flick streaming, but all with Ravi Kishan gyrating his birthing hips sexily on screen.

I wonder if I may have slipped up and given them the wi-fi password at some point (which is strictly forbidden after hearing horror stories of people’s staff watching unmentionable stuff while being logged onto their wi-fi). They couldn’t possibly be watching movies on a measly data pack (even in pre-Jio days).

I know how my hand quivers on holidays, as I hand BabyA YouTube (my invisible straight jacket for a very naughty baby), and she watches hours of Horrid Henry (her personal guru)! I shiver because I know my hubby is going to be annoyed with the constant updation of pricey booster packs for data extension. So how could these guys be nonchalantly streaming movies every day?

I often find them very distracted during work times also, armed with technology; constantly having to finish their candy crush games before attending to a “preschooler spilt milk” emergency, but I can’t say that any of us are any different, so it’s hard to blame them. When I’m such a phone/social media addict, how can I fault my staff for feeling the overwhelming urge to volunteer feedback to a friend’s new hairdo on WhatsApp rather than attending to my daughter’s call of hunger.

As this next gen of domestic help has the intelligence to keep up with modern gadgetry, they are able to make my life easier due to their savviness but technology plays the role of a double edged sword. From being able to rest my lazy, mommy bum for a moment longer on the couch because my driver can go and choose the seat covers for our new car (and WhatsApp me pictures as he picks) to my maid alleviating my separation anxiety by sending me videos of my little ninja at a birthday party, dancing to “Chittiyan Kalaiyan Ve”, while meaningfully mouthing “Mainu Shopping Kara De!” into the lens (preschooler wants don’t stop).

The marvels of this SmartGen are as many as the banes of their Smart Phones. From being able to read English, and subsequently, being able to find the one med I forgot to carry (kept amidst so many other tablets in my drawer) when I left home, to understanding every word of the family gossip my mom and I share as we sit together in the car. I celebrate every time I can just WhatsApp my maid the picture (screenshot of Uber details) of the driver, but flinch when I see her status as constantly ‘online’ on WhatsApp as she rides back home with my child in the Uber.

So now, as I browse through my FB newsfeed, it implores me to send a friend request to my 25 year old dhobi by constantly badgering me, “Do you know (him)?” But just the way a CEO doesn’t want his employees to see 3 am snapshots of him doing tequila shots off of a Russian waitress’ navel, I don’t want to include my employees in my circle of friends either. I’m happy they are connected to the larger world through social media and the World Wide Web, but I prefer to be a stingy spider, and keep my world web exclusive!

*Live and Let Live