It’s almost evening here in Bangalore. The day has been overcast with a few patches of sunshine. It’s time for the part of the day I look forward to – my Skype “sessions” with Travelling Birdy. But when she calls me in tears today because of something awful that had happened, I react as I have many times – I freeze. Why am I so fucked up? I think. “Why can’t I offer my friend the support she needs?” I have no answers.
The way I process emotions has been a learning curve for me. I have struggled all my life, and I continue to do so today. But this post is not about me. It’s about today. It’s about a day that was made special because it’s my brother’s birthday. It’s a day I ought to celebrate. Yet…
“I have increasingly realized that of all the things in life – it’s not what I have done that I regret the most, but what I didn’t.” When I told my friend this, I was in tears too. I don’t know why I cry even now when I think of it.
I was in tears because it’s on this day that I keep thinking of the one thing I wish I had done. One image comes to my mind. I remember even now my brother, all muscular chest and biceps rippling through the thin vest he was wearing, leaning in front of me, hands on my shoulders, and asking me, “So, you won’t wish me today?” I had refused. I was maybe 12 or 13 years old. Stubborn and egoistic over a fight I can’t remember now. I didn’t wish him. I never got another chance again when he was to die 20 days later.
It’s why birthdays are precious to me. And regrets are precious too. We need to learn from our mistakes -we need not live in the past – but we also should allow mistakes to blind us the possibility of change. Regrets are beautiful lessons. In my case, it was the harshest lesson.
But who was my brother?
- He was an amazing protector
My brother could terrify me with his anger and intensity. He would yell at me if I did something he didn’t like. He could bully me into doing something I didn’t like. He could do all of that – but no one should do anything to me.
I remember when my Mom was yelling at me because I had taken sweets meant for him, and when she came to hit me, there was my brother at my side. I sunk into his side as he cradled me. “You won’t hurt her,” he growled at my mother. My mother didn’t. I miss that protector. I miss having him at my side. Miss having him where I could just sink into him with that fierce love.
- He was intense
My brother was an angry young man in every sense of the word. I have inherited my intensity perhaps from him. He could be terrifying with that intensity – love and hate both came equally to him. There were no half-measures from him. Only an intensity like that could make someone take their life. I remember him tearing down windows in his rage. He could have killed in anger. He could have also killed you with his love.
- He was an ardent movie-lover
I love watching movies, and the person who introduced me to the magic of movies was my brother. Those were the times we had only a VCR and no cable network. He would always have a few tapes ready to watch. I watched so many old Western classics with him. And horror movies too, which I shudder to think of now.
- He loved working out
My brother was skinny most of his life. Then, one day he fell in love with Salman Khan. That was the time that ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ was all the rage. That triggered his transformation. There were no gyms at that time back in the late 1980s. I don’t know how, but he persuaded my Dad to buy him a Bullworker – a contraption that promised to work on isometrics to increase muscle strength. Remember there was no Internet – nothing to really help you on the path to fitness. Yet, he used that Bullworker religiously. And he did turn into Salman Khan. I still remember those biceps. I will always will.
- He introduced me to ice cream
He would always be at Vadilal’s, Arun Ice Cream, or Joy Ice Cream – the ice cream shops of those times. And later, at Dollops. Is it any wonder that I love ice cream even now?
- He taught me to leap
My brother would dangle me over the roof of our second-story house. I would yell in fear. And he would then throw me into the deep end of the swimming pool when I didn’t know how to swim. On the first, I trusted him. In the second too, I trusted him. I have since learned to leap – to do the unconventional things in life. And to remember that sometimes when we leap, the net appears.
- He showed me that love comes in many colors
Too often, we think that love is only this way or that way. We forget that love has no way except the path of love itself. My brother could not be called lovable. Much like me. His intensity could push people away. Same like me. Love need not be the gentle hues of a soft sunset. Love can be the shattering blood-kissed colours of a rainbow that settles deep into the sky of your heart. My brother showed me to love life. He also taught me to love death. And because of that, I found meaning.
Don’t be me. If you love anyone, just anyone, and you haven’t told them that – please do.
Don’t forget the birthdays of people you love.
Don’t spend that extra hour in that office thinking it means something.
If you can correct the mistakes and regrets from your past, please do.
And don’t forget that sometimes life can’t offer second chances. This one moment is all you have. This brimming life – fill it with love. Let’s turn our hearts towards love. Let’s forget anger for a moment. Even to those who hurt us. Let’s lead our lives with kindness to ourselves.