>Does it matter that I do not have a brother? I’m forced to think after watching the deluge of Raksha Bandhan ads on TV, after seeing the markets flooded with rakhis of different shapes and sizes – pretty, ugly, attractive – all kinds, after hearing friends tell me of their endless plans for today. But I can’t miss what I’ve never known – this excitement, this euphoria of having a brother whom you fight with all through your life and still bond with. I have a sibling, albeit a girl, whom I can do all that with. Does that not suffice?
At the risk of sounding repetitive, I’ll expound on how my early life was spent in the company of women of all ages. There was my grandmother, ma, badi ma, badi ma’s two daughters, my sister and I. The men, except for the ones who were my father’s age, were conspicuous by their absence in my family: there was dad and bade papa, and a cousin from another uncle who lived with us. You get the girl-boy ratio in the family? Even among the cousins, the boys were few and far between and existed, for me, only on the fringes of my existence. On my maternal side too, the genes were tipped in favour of pretty girls. The boys were royally ignored in girlie games and talks during the growing-up years, accommodated with great effort in whatever little way possible.
Thanks to our (our = me and my siblings) education in all-girls schools, there was a distinct dearth of friends-turned-rakhi brothers too in our family. And even when we did have friends who were boys, there continued to be a dearth of friends-turned-rakhi brothers. There simply wasn’t any room for them.
And life was still fun.
Except for on those occasions when we needed a boy/man – whatever to chaperone on us to late-night parties and because there was none, we had to forego those parties for a long time. I was so desperate at one time in my teens for a brother who would quell the fears of two girls’ parents, that I ended up making some unreasonable demands on my mother: I wanted a brother, an elder brother. My mother wasn’t interested in listening to more reasonable demands either that I could have made but never did – simply of a brother.
Those were rare moments when I wished for a brother. Most of the other time we spent defying this boy-obsessed society, revelling in the fact that we didn’t need a brother/son. When my sister and I would accompany mum to those stores she’d been shopping at since she was a child, the lalaji behind the counters would look at the three of us sympathetically and ask for the umpteenth time about “no baba?” I hated those lalajis, my mom matured enough to know they were best ignored.
But every Raksha Bandhan, I look on half-dazedly at the scores of brothers and sisters celebrate this festival. And I look around too to find myself a boy who’d be worthy enough to be my rakhi brother. But I haven’t managed to convince myself yet that I need a brother. Can you?