“You are the eldest of three guys?!?! Unbelievable!!!”
That is the exclamation I get when I tell people that I am not a single child. “But you are not serious, or... responsible,” they continue. Well tough luck eldest ones -- the world seems to have a rather boring and dull view of us folks.
Reality, though, is that I have grown up as a single child. Confusing, I know, but stay with me. My brother was born a year after I crawled out. And his was a rather complicated delivery. So due to certain circumstances that I don’t really understand, I found myself staying with my Aunt and Grandma. Now, my Aunt was a widow and had no kids. And my Grandma was just old but had oodles of energy with nothing really to do.
So, amidst a room full of books, draws full of National Geographic magazines (dating from 1948), and the 14th cable connection in my locality, I grew up. Grandma was thankfully well-educated and even better read. I learnt poetry when I was all of 3. I never grew up to appreciate poetry is another case. But books really took up a lot of my time. Even the fun I had as a kid was to just play games helped with your imagination. My social skills obviously suffered. Having a 47 year old Anthony Chettan as my best friend didn’t help much either. But well, he taught me a lot of things; like how to repair a punctured tyre and everything to know about then about shock absorbers.
And plants. Oh, the plants! I still haven’t seen a more diverse garden than what my Grandma had then. It wasn’t one of those beautifully landscaped and pruned-to-perfection gardens. It was butt ugly, dirty and crawled with slimy worms and snakes. ‘Got space? Plant something,’ seemed to be my Grandma’s motto. It didn’t really rub on me, the horticulture; except for watering the plants. The delight when the sun is at just the right angle where a spray will form a rainbow. You tell me what else is more pleasantly surprising in life.
After five years or so, my parents came back from where they worked (Cherambadi, in the Nilgiri Hills; magical place that is, really). And we were back to a fully-functional, joined at the hips family. Not quite. I never got back to family. I was better off as a loner. And Achan had some differences with Grandma. He soon decided to shift into another house. He offered me the option of choosing who I want to stay with. And this is where realization dawned that I am never going to be good at maintaining relationships.
It was another 5 years or so that I stayed with Grandma and Aunt. The rift between my Dad and Grandma eased afterwards. But I was always scared of having to share my freedom with anyone. By freedom you have to know that I am talking about my Sega Genesis or cable channels or PlayStation; I was a sucker for material joys. Still am.
Once my social phobia was clearly defined, the closest connections I had to real life started wearing off. In a span of 3 years I was practically orphaned. First to go was my Grandma; which was a shock, really. She was, I think, 84 but in great physical shape. And it was a rather sudden exit; not those weary, tired and long-strained departures. “I am happy she (or he) died like this without suffering,” people say about deaths all the time. And I don’t believe it half the time. But with Grandma it was like removing the headphone jack of her life. Looking back, I was more ill on the day she died than she herself. Well, God’s a genius, isn’t he?
But the death of Aunt took away all that “Hey! I’m here, and now I’m gone!” feeling. She had cancer. I still heard people say on her funeral, ‘Oh, thank God she didn’t suffer much.’ They are lying, of course. She suffered -- for months. Which is why I hate cancer. Right from the start when you have a prognosis and not a diagnosis and the inevitable doom of it all. But, well, you’ve heard it all elsewhere. Many great human beings are doing their bit in this war against cancer.
So at the tender age of 22, I was reunited, wholly and in a legally binding way, with my parents. And it’s difficult; to have lived almost all your life as a loner and suddenly thrust into a fully-functional family. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, I never made the cut.
Which is why I’m still a kid. I don’t know what to do in life. I have high ideals and even higher ambitions (risks, as I like to call it). I tend to shy away from any binding relationship, because I am not ready for it. Things are going to get tougher, because as much as I’d like not to, I am growing older. But then again, maybe existence is reason enough.