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Part 1: What is love?

Family


“When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching — they are your family.” ― Jim Butcher

He remembered teasing his brother, disturbing him countless times, and not letting him study during the crucial years of his life. But, of course, he was the youngest in the family. And he never really grew up. And they never really cared. He was always loved. Earlier, all his tantrums were fed as much as possible, with a very loose but stern discipline. Later, most of his needs and material wishes are still carried out without him lifting a finger. He has had loving siblings, uncles, aunts, and grandparents who have always cared for him, even when he was too self-centered to notice.


Family has been such an understated part of who he is that he has almost always taken them for granted for most of his life. Now that he has seen some of the world, he realizes how lucky and unique he is to have a family who has always had his back. Be it his mother who catered to his every whim despite juggling a hectic professional career. He didn’t see her as a natural person until very recently when the realization came to him out of nowhere that she had other responsibilities, too. But never for a moment did she make him feel like he was priority number 2 for her. Maybe there’s a thing like excessive love, and perhaps she did satisfy him, but those childhood years, those memories of him sitting on the staircase, waiting so that she would come home from work, feed him, and listen to how his day went, those memories will stay with him forever.


Mothers always have your back. Even when you know you are wrong, you can hide behind her and feel protected from the world. He will never forget riding with her on her Kinetic Luna, begging her not to leave him in a crèche, never imagining that there will come a moment when he’ll be independent of her. I guess that is what makes childhood unique. You are unconditionally loved in your childhood. You don’t have to be an achiever, you don’t have to be well-behaved, but just you! Parents were the only ones obligated to love you; you had to earn it from the rest of the world.


With his brother, he scarcely remembered a tranquil moment from his childhood. They had always quarreled, constantly in dispute, always at each other’s throats (at least himself being the younger one, he was always looking for a conflict because he was the attention-seeker in the family). And most of the time, he got away with it. It is difficult to imagine how his elder brother lived with such an annoyance.


Countless memories come to mind. The first person who taught him how to play cricket, the one who told him who Sachin Tendulkar was, the one who introduced him to the world of comics, the one who showed him how to operate a computer, the one who showed how if he draped a towel around his neck and jumped from the bed, for a fleeting moment, the towel fluttered as a cape, and he could be flying. As they grew up, he never thought there would come a time when seeing his brother daily would not be a regular occurrence. It would be something for which he would have to spend a lot of effort. He never thought life would get in the way of those angry fights and his innumerable times saying to his brother, “I never want to talk to you again.”


He never realized his brother had a life outside his own, too. He was somebody in his school and college, which the younger brother would later join. Everyone always saw the achievements of the younger one and lauded him. But no one ever saw the constant guidance he got from his elder brother. The elder brother pioneered and led the way; the younger one followed in his mighty footsteps on the freshly paved path.


He can never forget his empty feeling when his brother left his hometown for work. At first, a sense of finally being free and having the entire house to itself was what he was expecting. But the emptiness in the house hit him hard after he returned from bidding farewell to his brother at the bus station. Life moved on, and he became used to it. But still, things are always the same whenever they both are together. Sometimes, being a brother is even better than being a superhero.


“When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the man around. But when I got to twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” – Mark Twain

He had never really had as straightforward or flexible a relationship with anyone as he had with his father. In childhood, he never looked into his father’s eyes and had minimal conversations, which he initiated. After all, his father worked extremely hard. He went early to the office, came back late, had to go on tours, ‘Sundays’ were not a part of his work week, and there was nothing his father didn’t know something about.


He rarely spoke in his father’s presence because he always listened. And he always observed. Every father should remember that one day, his son will follow his example instead of his advice. He used to fake sleep to make his father carry him up the stairs after returning from functions late at night. From his father’s strong arms, he used to wink and tease his brother, whose ‘getting carried up the stairs’ was over because of the hooligan in the family. His brother, honorably though, never used to squeal on him and tell father that he was awake and could as well walk. But, as he recollects it, he guesses everyone knew, and they let the hooligan believe that he was getting the better of them. After all, that’s how pampered kids are treated.


Father always had words of wisdom for every occasion. He was always reading something informative, which is how the addictive habit of reading was passed on to the sons. The strong sense of discipline imbued in them in those early years, the moral code instilled in them was the very foundation over which their education rested.


In later years, this unyielding personality turned radically (for him, to the outside world, of course, it was the very same person), and he found himself being so frank with his father that it astonished him that this was the same person he feared in his childhood so greatly. The fear was there, but it had run its course and transformed into an immense sense of respect. Everyone has imperfections, but if you can segregate the qualities of people around you, and your conscience has been taught in such a way as to accept only that which is proper, you really cannot ask more from your family.


Teaching him how to ride a bicycle, always telling him to perform his best, scolding him for not getting top marks, yet coaxing him to take a break when he looked overloaded, showing him how money is not everything, showing him how you can do everything right, yet fate can have something else in store; always, always being open to information, never procrastinating, never being proud, always being humble, always remembering one’s roots, trying to live life with your head held high, and the list goes on.


“At one level, all parents are the same. Some look sterner, some are less fun, and some are embarrassingly weird, but for each parent, the bottom and the top line of their lives is this – you kids are their greatest source of happiness. Parents want nothing in return, just that you respect that feeling, that’s all. I lost my parents very early, and I miss them dearly. So, all of you who still have yours, don’t listen to them; fool them if you must; a bit of lying is also welcome, but make sure you cherish what you have because when you don’t have them, like me, you miss someone to be rude to – someone you can take for granted, someone to say and do whatever you wish with. You miss the comfort of being loved unconditionally.” ― Shah Rukh Khan
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