Wednesday, 14 March 2012

O Brother, thou art ............

     My brother and I share a complicated relationship. Calling it a love-hate relationship is too simplistic. I never really thought about it until recently. I was talking to my cousin about him and I found myself unable to articulate exactly how I felt about him. I have been trying to define the dynamics and nature of our relationship ever since. Maybe putting it on paper will help me make some sense out of it.

    My brother was born today; the same day Albert Einstein was born. I think that this was the Universe's way of subtly hinting at my brother's mental acuity. My brother is an incredibly intelligent person; he can do almost anything he sets his mind to. All my childhood I was amazed by his keen intellect and if I am honest, probably a little envious too. My brother was not as academically successful as I was. He passed all his exams with grades that were above average but not superlative. But no one could deny the spark of genius everyone saw in him.

      He was charismatic and larger than life, flamboyant and boisterous with a large circle of friends. He had has a mercurial temperament; short tempered but quick to forgive and forget. My brother could also be thoughtless and cruel. He could pick on the weak with ruthlessness. He would say and do things that would hurt people without actually intending to. He could be the charming and protective big brother or the bully from hell depending on his mood. It would be easy to blame my brother for the way things stood between us  but it would also be totally unfair. I am as much if not more to blame for it.

     Do you remember the bespectacled overachiever who always stood first in class, was every teacher's favourite and was seemingly oblivious to the seething resentment of his classmates? I was that guy. ( It took me a few years to ditch the glasses, baby fat and the competitive attitude. My transformation from Ugly Duckling to Ugly Swan is a story for another time. ) I was well known but had few friends. I was recognized everywhere in school but I was awkward with a complete lack of social skills. To quote something I read somewhere - " I had the charm of an undertaker and the sense of humour of a corpse." ( I like to think I 've changed a lot since then.) My anti social stubbornness did not help much either. I was vain, opinionated and never backed down from an argument. Needless to say, my social calendar was far from full. I have the IQ of an average person and barring good academic showing at the high school level, I am the very embodiment of mediocrity.

     My brother and I are as different as chalk and cheese. I was the golden boy at home and school. I never put so much as a toe nail out of line. My brother was the problem child. He tested my grandparents' patience and was a constant target of my stern grandfather's anger. ( Most of my schooling was under my grandparents' guardianship ). I had very few, if any, problems at all. My only problem at that time was my brother. We were at each other's throats and we fought incessantly. I thought he was the bane of my existence. I remember thinking it would have been better if I were an only child. I thought that every one else had great siblings but I was stuck with Mephistopheles. I promised myself that I would never forgive him for the hell he put me through.

     My brother moved to another city to start college and I found myself having conflicting feelings. I was happy to finally have the house all to myself but I was also feeling sad and I couldn t admit to myself that I would actually miss him. That sadness lasted for an uncomfortable five minutes before I realised I got my wish and my brother would only visit for the holidays. I jumped up and down with joy. ( I was being a prick ..........I know ) I started College a few years later and I met my brother only a few times in between. We still had our screaming matches and fights. But they were restrained and not as heated as they were only a few years earlier and never degenerated into outright brawling.

      My brother visited me at my college during my first year. He was very attentive and friendly, he was nice to me. I was thrown. I did not know how to handle this sober alternate version of the devil incarnate. I am ashamed of how I handled myself. I was horrid to him, I provoked him into starting a fight and screamed myself hoarse and convinced myself he hadn t changed. The next few exchanges we had over the years  were awkward as I could not reconcile myself to the fact that my brother had grown up. He wasn t the much maligned childhood bully I hated and was past all that unpleasantness.

      It took me a while to realise that I was being childish and that I had to give my brother a chance to mend fences. As soon as I started to be civil to him, I saw the old jerk re emerge. I thought that it would take him a while to realise that his little brother had grown up too. I was right. It took a few months for my brother to treat me with respect and civility. The dynamic of this relationship has changed irrevocably. Oh... we still have our disagreements, we still have our arguments but the undertones of the arguments have changed. There is a mutual respect and sometimes even grudging admiration that is reflected in the argument.

     It took years for the bitterness and resentment to finally dissipate. I promised myself never to forgive him only to realise that there was nothing to forgive. I thought he was the bane of my existence; I now realise that he was the only thing keeping me from turning into a megalomaniac. I thought I hated our fights; I now realise they are the cornerstone of our relationship. These arguments were the chance for me to drop the facade of perfection and vent. The fights made me realise that my points of view were not always well thought out and made me aware of my obstinacy. Our relationship made me a better person than I would have otherwise been. I thank the Gods that I am not an only child.

        My brother and I are still as different as chalk and cheese. I now know that it is those differences that make us that much more important to each other. We keep each other grounded. It astounds me that I never realized that we both are alike in a lot of ways. We are both passionate about what we do;  we share a common set of values; we have a similar work ethic; we never back down from an argument; we have egos the size of Russia and we share the greatest parents in the world. Then again.... chalk and cheese do start with the same letters. 

      Our relationship has evolved over the years. Its nature has changed many times over yet remained fundamentally the same. It is this contradiction that prevents me from clearly defining this relationship. The fact that we are not very demonstrative of our feelings complicates it further.

      O Brother, what art thou? Acquaintance, Adversary, Friend, Foe, Role Model, Competitor, Confidant or Guide? All of them? None of them? Thou Brother. I think that says it all.

      Happy Birthday ...............Have a great one.

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