When my niece told me she wanted to start a library with her friend, it reminded me of a similar enterprise in my childhood. Teensy Weensy Library, my friend and I had called it. When I told her about it, she said her dad had already mentioned it to her! Siblings are a witness to your life, remembering things that you may have forgotten. All through growing up, when we were not familiar with the concept of boundaries, it was a race to find out secrets that my brothers would not share with me, by getting friendly with their friends. They did the same, peeping into inland letters (now archaic) addressed to me.
How many friends would you forgive such serious trespasses? None, I would imagine. But friends do, too, become sibling-like, especially when you’ve literally grown up together, sharing rooms and apartments, going through life experiences that shape you. They, your girlfriends and male buddies, have your back unconditionally, without questioning if it was your fault or someone else’s, in any situation. In a recent video, actor Akshay Kumar’s sister spoke about how she missed out on late night parties growing up, since big brother Akshay refused to chaperone her, saying she should be able to take care of herself. It’s a lesson she took to heart and is something she is passing on to her daughter. The protective instinct is perhaps inborn, as I witness in my five-year-old nephew, who once head-butted someone trying to mess with his older sisters.
But, like all bonds, they require an investment, of the heart. The strongest bonds are forged when you take out time to create memories, when you’re no longer living in the same house by default and when you allow yourself to deal with hurt feelings along the way and move on. Who else can relate to your sometimes weird sense of humour or understand your dysfunctional family, without needing words to explain? Many younger siblings share an almost paternal bond with their older brothers and sisters, particularly those who stepped in to take over parenting responsibilities, whether it was getting homework done or other stuff. It happened then, when in earlier generations, kids could be born 20 years apart and it happens now, with even a five-year gap separating kids.
My aunt, a few weeks before she passed away, met her brother after several years. In her nineties and suffering from Alzheimer’s, when I told her he was coming by, I saw a flicker of recognition in her eyes. When he arrived, she sat up and chatted. And when someone remarked that she perhaps didn’t recognise him, she retorted, “That’s my brother. How can I not recognise him?”
You own your siblings and are owned by them, whether they let on or not. They’ll continue to spy on you, rather lookout for you, whether you’re aware or not. Close or far, even when the distances creep in due to circumstances, it just takes a moment to decide to reconnect. Because if anyone knows you better than you do, it’s your sibling. So, whether it’s Raksha Bandhan or any other day, reach out!
(The writer is an editorial consultant and co-founder of The Goodwill Project. She tweets @anuvee. Views expressed are personal.)