Mo­ments of Mirth - an Ode to my Siblings

Storizen Magazine - - What's Inside - - Mamta Joshi

Fam­ily , a sin­gle word, has ac­quired many dif­fer­ent mean­ings as I have been mov­ing up life’s lad­der. The tra­di­tional fam­ily in the 20th cen­tury con­sisted of grand­par­ents, par­ents, plenty of chil­dren, cousins and hordes of non­pay­ing guests but in the 21st cen­tury, with the DINK gen­er­a­tion( Dou­ble In­come No kids), fam­ily could be a group of friends, pets and the par­ents, con­nected with the ubiq­ui­tous An­droid phone. The im­por­tant link that might go miss­ing is that of siblings. Siblings are like oxy­gen, vi­tal for our very ex­is­tence. Our re­la­tion­ship with col­leagues, mates and friends might be sub­ject to change if there is a clash of in­ter­ests: a lu­cra­tive pro­mo­tion, a cov­eted trans­fer or even a love in­ter­est but siblings are be­side us in ev­ery cri­sis. Thank­fully, most of us were lucky enough to grow up with our siblings and cousins. In the mid of the 20th cen­tury, for most mid­dle class In­di­ans, siblings were syn­ony­mous with cousins. They served as tu­tors, coun­selors, psy­chi­a­trists, guides and very of­ten as mus­cle­men, ham­mer­ing sense into young­sters like me. My sis­ters, cousin sis­ters and I, all would be dressed in sim­i­lar print, look­ing like ob­jects on an assem­bly line. Grow­ing up with them meant pinch­ing or spitting on each other with least provo­ca­tion,

fist fights, hair­pulling, tears, and black eyes. For other times, it was fun times with house-house, car­rom board, ludo, snakes and lad­ders, gilli danda, mar­bles, Vish Am­rit, I Spy, or just spend­ing hours to­gether in cre­ative pur­suits. As we grew older, ed­u­ca­tion, mar­riage, em­ploy­ment took us away to dis­tant lo­ca­tions; the bond re­mained undi­luted. Unas­sisted by adults, around fif­teen of us, cousins in­cluded, went to a bar­ber for the manda­tory crew cut for boys. He was cu­ri­ous to know whether we be­longed to the same fam­ily. My el­der brother, never hav­ing known the dif­fer­ence be­tween siblings and cousins, in­no­cently replied to his query in the af­fir­ma­tive. His shocked re­ac­tion was, “Well! I thought only us poor had so many?” Hu­mor and ru­mor were the per­fect ad­he­sives to glue a large fam­ily to­gether. In or­der to stick to­gether through rough and dicey times, the abil­ity to laugh helped, to let off the steam. Liv­ing in an ar­gu­men­ta­tive fam­ily

could be sti­fling but with a reg­u­lar dose of sparkling wit, ob­sta­cles were set aside in a jiffy. A dear cousin, deep in the throes of ado­les­cent love, comes to my mind. He had been so much un­der the in­flu­ence of Cupid that he had com­pletely given up clean­ing his room. Ob­vi­ously con­sumed by love, he didn’t pay much at­ten­tion to hy­gienic sur­round­ings. He sat for hours, mop­ing on his study ta­ble, with a book open for de­cep­tion, his hor­mones gone for a toss. In a fit of anger at his lethargy and lack of ba­sic clean­li­ness, his mother dusted and cleaned his room, while he was away to do what he did as a mat­ter of rou­tine, gape at his lady love se­cretly, hid­ing be­hind a tree. That spring clean­ing ses­sion spelled doom for the poor guy.

The phone num­ber of his heart throb had been erased, wiped out from the dusty desk. Poor chap could not throw a tantrum lest his love in­ter­est be re­vealed. Des­tiny had made a clean sweep in his case. An­other er­rant cousin was madly in love with his vi­va­cious class­mate. To­gether the love­birds plot­ted to fail in the exam so that they could re­main in­ti­mate for an­other year. Sadly, the girl changed her plans, sailed through the ex­ams with hon­ours, mar­ried a rich, suc­cess­ful guy abroad, leav­ing be­hind the jilted Romeo who had to re­peat the aca­demic year, with­out the pres­ence of his bub­bly friend. My broth­ers and cousins had ac­quired a taste for late night movies. They dared to sneak out af­ter din­ner when the tired house­hold called it a day. Ev­ery­thing went off smoothly. They were not missed by any­one for some months. One night, the ju­bi­lant group came back home de­lighted with some ac­tion packed movie. It was around mid­night when they were climb­ing the drain­pipe to en­ter in­side the house, through the roof. Un­for­tu­nately, at the same time a thief was climb­ing down with the loot. The cousins met the thief half way. Hold­ing on to the drain pipe, they clashed with the thief, in­spired by the moves made by the ac­tion hero in the film they had seen. May­hem en­sued as the fam­ily mem­bers woke up. The thief was thrashed and so were the boys. The high­light was the loot left be­hind by the thief. It had more good­ies in it than what was stolen from our house.

Af­ter that ac­tion packed night, noc­tur­nal ad­ven­tures of the boys were nipped in bud. The for­mula in Math­e­mat­ics (bracket, of divi­sion, mul­ti­pli­ca­tion, ad­di­tion, sub­trac­tion) we learnt dur­ing school days is

down­right ap­pli­ca­ble in real time. In re­la­tion­ships we hold some dear siblings very close, brack­et­ing them within our in­ner-most cir­cle. As we move on the curve of life, the cir­cle of fam­ily mem­bers keeps mul­ti­ply­ing. It is dur­ing the time we spend to­gether, we ei­ther bond or keep­ing spa­tial aware­ness in mind, we main­tain a re­spectable dis­tance, try­ing to keep the hedge green.

The ad­di­tion of rel­a­tives in life helps in keep­ing the roots of the fam­ily tree strong. Those who cre­ate neg­a­tiv­ity in fam­ily ought to be given an ex­tra dose of sero­tonin so that, with the happy hor­mones ,they are paci­fied. Once bad vibes are sub­tracted, peace reigns in the cir­cle of love in­stead of let­ting it go into pieces.

As I type the ode to my siblings and dear cousins, I ru­mi­nate and smile be­cause of their crazi­ness. I laugh be­cause there is noth­ing I can do ex­cept love them like they love me, with acne, warts and all quirks. I am en­veloped by sad­ness also; hav­ing been on the cusp of a ro­bust joint fam­ily ear­lier, now down to a whit­tled, ul­tra-thin, al­most zero sized nu­clear fam­i­lies (on a non-gluten diet) in present times. Life’s ac­tion is more on var­i­ous

What­sapp fam­ily groups ex­chang­ing hys­ter­i­cal Good Morn­ing mes­sages, envy in­duc­ing pic­tures of hol­i­days, self­ies which have pre­dictable gush­ing re­ac­tions and fam­ily frames with grand­chil­dren one is not likely to meet. How­ever bizarre the siblings in the fam­ily may seem, one has to re­mem­ber that the word ‘dys­func­tional ‘ has ‘fun’ in it. The fudge like fam­ily, loaded with `nuts’, is in­deed sug­ary; for a change, this sweet­ness is per­fect for the well­ness of all its mem­bers.

Mamta Joshi did her Masters in His­tory from Al­la­habad Uni­ver­sity. Her poems, re­flec­tive es­says, prose pieces and short sto­ries have ap­peared in na­tional dailies and in­ter­na­tional emagazines. A free spirit ,she works with equal ease in Hindi and English.

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