the brother i never had
Often, at the silly age of 11, I would lie awake under the bedsheets and listen to the sounds around my house. I relished this secret nocturnal exercise, with my eyes closed and a smile playing on carefully pursed lips. On that particular night in the year 2000, however, I wish I had simply succumbed to sleep.
I caught snatches of my parents’ conversation. “…you’ve forgotten two years before Ranji? When our boy was born dead?” Amma asked Appa in Tamil. Instantly, my eyes flew open. I became still, breathing as quietly as I could in the light of this disturbing revelation. ‘Perhaps I had heard wrong?’ I hoped. But the pained silence that followed and later, mention of the word ‘miscarriage’ (which I looked up in the Oxford dictionary the next morning) confirmed otherwise; I had almost had an elder brother.
Fearing that she would tell on me, I did not confide in my elder sister about that night’s discovery. Instead, my mind drowned in a deluge of questions. How could he have died? Who would he have resembled? I wondered what they might have named him. Was he a ghost now? And the inevitable- would my parents have had me at all after Akka and a son?
Years later, when my mother decided to let us know, it was hard to feign shock. Amma probably attributed my calm intake of the news to the wisdom of adulthood. But the fact is, I had healed. For Akka, the knowledge was fresh and difficult. She and I had, on countless occasions, wished aloud for a brother. We knew now that he had always been there. Somewhere between us.
I like to believe my brother died so that I may be born.