What is it like to have no brother?
Growing up without having a brother as a sibling might seem like having to climb Mount Everest at times, not because I feel so, but because I am made to feel in that way. Along with the words, "You are only a pair of sisters and no brothers? How are you supposed to protect yourself?" paired with giggling and pity followed by the words, I can actually see them feeling sorry for us.
Often when I am fixing a light bulb and one of my mom's friends or neighbours pops up at my doorstep, they get astounded after seeing me standing on the chair. Last Tuesday, while I was trying to change my dining table lamp Irin aunty came in. As soon as he saw me standing on the chair she instantly ran towards me and grabbed my knee. "What do you think you are doing, dear? Are you all right?"
Before I could get the chance to answer her question she started calling out my mother, "Mohua! Mohua! Look what your daughter is up to. She is trying to hang herself with your dining lamp wire!"
"No no, she is just trying to fix it. The bulb got fused last night after dinner and today's lunch will be difficult without it. I tried to call the electrician but she said I do not need to take trouble for such a petty problem. Just before you arrived she got a new light and she was trying to set it while you stepped in," informed my mother.
After she got to know what I was doing, she now seemed to have reached the seventh sky of astonishment. She just could not believe how my mother could allow me to do a man's job. Unfortunately, I just had to stand there without saying a word as my mother tried to explain how I had been changing bulb since my sixth grade and it was not such a big deal. After about half an hour of serious discussion on this bulb topic, she finally rested the topic by saying, "If you had a son you would not have to undergo such mess!"
This is not the only thing that says how unfortunate I am because I do not have a brother as a sibling. The list just goes on and the next item on my list is how I have to pay my house utilities just because I don't have a brother.
Last month I was standing in a long queue to clear my electricity bill. It was the last due day and as expected the line was longer than the Great Wall of China. Suddenly I heard a voice calling my name. I tried to look around for a while until I finally found the source of the scream. It was my neighbour Asish uncle who was waving at me from a distance.
"What are you doing here, dear?" he asked. I told him I was here to pay my electricity bill and was waiting to reach the cash receive counter just as he was. Asish uncle was before me in the line so he was done long before my turn came. Yet, he waited for me and also bought me a bottle of cola on our way back. Even though I could not find the reason behind his generous and humble attitude it still struck once or twice. Later I thought that focusing on the cola would be better rather than paying heed to useless thoughts drooling over my mind.
While he escorted me to my front gate, he called my father who was watering the plants on the balcony. "It's not right to send your daughter for such hard and tedious work, Joel. If it was your son it would have been fine. Send your nephew Niel from the next time onwards. Girls are not meant for such things pal!" One more time, it was sad to see how regrettable it was -- not having a brother.
The most memorable and common things that add to this list of brother-less incidents occurred last winter. My driver was off to see his family and we had to attend a wedding. It was my dad's best friend's son's wedding and could by no means be dodged. Winter winds can be very difficult for my father sometimes as he is allergic to dust and washing the car had become a necessity as my mother would never travel in a dirty car with her best saree.
To make things a bit easier for dad, I offered to wash the car and instantly my dad gave me the car keys and the water pipe. I did not have a driver's license back then but I could drive. So I drove the car out of my parking garage and was washing it. It was chilly and there was no one around.
Suddenly I could hear whispers. After rolling my eyes a bit I saw how my tenant was staring at me from her room window and saying something to her husband. The next day while going to work, she blocked my way down the stairs. "Do you have something you want to say, Didi," I asked her.
"I saw you washing your car yesterday. Did your driver quit his job? It does not look right with you being the landlord's daughter washing car in such weather. It does not look nice in any weather in fact. Your mother is still fit. She could easily take another child and gift you with a brother. With a brother, you would not have to do such things anymore," she said in a very enthusiastic voice.
As time passes by, people keep reminding me how a brother would have been to be with to grow up as a sibling. However, sometimes I really cannot calculate the depth of the curse of not having a brother as a sibling. Is really repairing a bulb, paying bills, and washing cars all I need a brother for?