Dating : Learning To Live Without You

h2>Dating : Learning To Live Without You

I was probably four years old when you gave me my first book — Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. You gave a whole novel to a girl just learning to spell. I accepted it with confusion and turned the pages, not understanding anything. When I told you that I did not know most of the words, you taught me to use the dictionary. Because that was you — determined, steadfast, and moreover, always believed in me more than anybody did.

You surrounded me with a surreal world. The walls of our first shared bedroom were filled with cut-outs from Balarama and Balarama Digest. We wallowed in a childhood with a countless collection of Pokémon cards, wooden sticks converted to magic wands, which we pointed at each other and shouted ‘Avada Kedavra,’ chess boards, and our pink tricycle. All these memories fill me up with melancholic and misty happiness. They were stolen bits from someone else’s life. But those memories were happy ones because they had you.

Growing up together, we never had a typical sibling relationship. We never felt the need to constantly stay in touch or keep talking. You had made it a point to make sure that I will be independent, and yet, when I needed you, you were always there. Whenever I needed help, you gave me puzzles and pieces of information so that I will fill in my own jigsaw and walk my own path. We had our own dynamic relationship, and I loved the way it was there; subtle, invisible, and empowering. We fought our sibling wars, but I always hoped that you’d never go away, not even back to your hostel.

When you were nine, you became passionate about origami and papercraft and spent hours making beautiful crafts with your tender hands. When you came to know that I wanted to celebrate my birthday like my friends from school, complete with cake and candles, you spent the weeks before my seventh birthday decorating our living room with your hand-made buntings and ensured that I wore a new dress and cut my first cake. I realized years later that that was the only birthday the four of us ever celebrated together, given that the family split up soon for the sake of our education and our parents’ careers. Having hit my twenties now, and with birthdays becoming more and more depressing and disastrous with each passing year, I can only look back at that night with an ache in my heart and the realization that I will never have a more beautiful birthday or a more memorable night in my life.

Ten years later, on our last holiday together in Dubai, we were on a cruise when a lady onboard offered to put mehndi on my hands. I looked wistfully at our parents, who rolled their eyes and asked if it was necessary to pay for this in dollars when I could just do it for myself free back home. I made a puppy face and turned to you, and of course, it worked. You waited patiently till I was done and smiled cheekily at the camera. And then every memory gushes back to me; how you held my hair while I threw up my breakfast in front of the Pyramids of Giza; how you took fifty rupees out of your savings so that I could give it our grandmother to save myself from her scolding over losing money; how you stood up for me every time; how every single time you were there for me, whether I asked or not.

Four months later, my life was sliced neatly into two halves: one before you and one after you. Most of my immediate memory is either vague or blank, but I do remember how everything went spiraling down to a void from that point. I remember how when life changed, I was in my hostel room unaware, reading my Materials Science notes with ‘Something Just Like This’ blasting into my ears. I remember how when I got to know the next day, I sat there expressionless wondering if I was just in my bed, yet to wake up from a bad dream. I remember the three sleepless days and nights I spent, waiting scared and alone, for Mom and Dad to bring you home. I remember losing my sanity when you finally came, wrapped in a white kafan. I remember the nights I spent stifling my sobs with my pillow so that my tears won’t hurt Mom more. I remember playing ‘Everglow’ on loop. I remember realizing a few months later that I had sunk into depression. I remember gathering myself and knocking at the college counselor’s door asking for help. I remember picking up my pieces, trying to put my life together again, falling down, and getting up, again and again, and again. I’m still getting up and I know that I am not going to stop getting up because after all, you made me tough.

One year later, when I had finally gained the courage to visit you, in between the sobs I could not stop, I noticed how you slept beneath a mango tree with the fallen mangoes covering you. I was equally happy and sad at that moment. Happy, that you were covered by something you loved. Sad, that we could no longer fight over the fruits that had fallen over your grave.

This is not me letting you go, but me letting you know that you had taught me to stand on my legs before leaving, and stand, I will. This is me learning to cherish our memories together and be happy for all we did together. This is me, honoring you in the best way possible, for being the best brother in the world, and the brightest star in my night sky.

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Dating : One of the greatest gifts a person can give is non-judgment.