My brother was born a year after me, actually three days short of a year after me, and he dethroned me. In fact, as per my mother, the first word I spoke was “Cockwoch” pointing at him crawling on the kitchen floor. I beg to disagree, it seems a bit too polite by my standards.
He started walking and became the unwanted and unnecessary entourage that trailed after me everywhere, friend, playmate and snoop. Once we got back home, he would artlessly prattle the day’s doings to my mother and get me into trouble. I could not act ladylike and he could not keep his mouth shut. That, compounded by the fact that Ma liked him more than me (Punjabis and their obsession for making princes out of their male children) brought forth all the pettiness in my nature.
The battle lines were drawn.
As long as I was bigger than him, I pounded him into pulp. Somewhere along the line, a sort of friendship was forged. I was the leader, he the follower and together we made a team. This lasted as long as we hit puberty and then he was more into his gang of boys and I was left to girly pursuits. That failed miserably, since I am not ‘girly’ and books became my friends.
My older son was eight when the younger one was born. Did it avert sibling wars? Oh no! It never does. And it got compounded by my anxiety to have them get along. I interfered and it worsened the situation. Until one day, they turned around and said, “Stop butting in!”
When I stopped butting in, they became awesome friends. And I learnt a lesson, albeit late.
- Sibling rivalry is not all negative. It is just an issue of fairness and a chance to blame your parents for real and imagined favouritism. Both my sons think I favoured the other. Both are right, I plead guilty.
- When we are small we tend to think that love is like a box of chocolates, it will finish soon so we got to grab the lion share. It is not. We don’t need to compete, but we learn that too late.
- Fighting with a sibling is good for the soul. It teaches us a lot about relationships. It teaches us how we can really hate a person, be hostile and aggressive and yet deep down still love the person enough to negotiate a truce and live with him or her.
- It teaches us to lose, and live to fight another day.
- It teaches us to plot and plan, wage a war with our dearest frenemies.
- It teaches us to hide goodies and share our favourite toys – even forced sharing works.
My brother died when he was twenty-one years old in a traffic accident… it was devastating. All I could think of when they brought his body home was that he would no longer dog my footsteps anymore. I never felt lonelier in my life.
Ritu Lalit is the author of two novels, A Bowlful of Butterflies published by Rupa & Co., and Hilawi published by Popular Prakashan. She is a single parent and blogs at www.phoenixritu.com