Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ruby Singh

Some human relations defy definition. There is no neat way to stick them a label. Their character is largely formed of unspoken words couching powerful emotions. Neither blood nor law nor social norms are equipped to paraphrase these bonds. But they exist.

Of all the people in my life, he has had it rougher than most. It had gotten to a point where a ‘jinx’ had begun to find mention. If indeed there was such a phenomenon, it would have begun early all right, as early as the 20th August 1965, the day of Janamashtami and in that yeartowards the fag end of the Indo-Pak skirmishes of April to Sep 65. There was rain beating down with the occasional lightening. I have a sharp memory of the hospital room, a wooden cot facing the cheerful fireplace. I can recall not just the leaping fire and the cotton wrapped baby head but also the emotional texture of that day. I was only two years and nine months old but I can summon that sense of urgency and anxiety even as I write. 

Proud Dad and Mom
At the end of a forty eight hour long, excruciating wait on the labour table, followed by an abortive attempt at forceps delivery, he had finally arrived, a lacerated scalp for introduction. Col Chokshi and Maj Goyal, God bless them, had snatched Mom back from the edge. I have heard accounts of how Dad was driving back from work as the ambulance rolled out on way to the outsourced Operation Theatre. The Lambretta was hurriedly parked and abandoned by the roadside as he hopped onto the medical van.

Our childhood was regular. A few specifics do stand out. I have no memory of him ever receiving preferential treatment for having been born a male. If anything, us two, older sisters bore down on him. He was fair, he was chubby, he liked drinking Mangola and he did well at school. The teachers had only one complaint, “He does not speak in class.”

This attribute of his remained a constant. He grew up to be a man of few words. It was tantalizing to see the clouds gather on his face, melt away, a sunlit ray flash over only to darken again and if offered a penny for the thoughts, he would shake his head and get on with the moment. There was his friendship with UC and Padha, that time when he began going to the Ghorpadi pool, pre-NDA. We went horse riding a few times together. It was on my Hero Majestic moped that we rode to the station for him to board the train on way to his SSB interview.

With Niyamat, his second daughter
The leaves have since turned. We are approaching mid-life but to me, he will remain the eternal baby brother. Fairly or not, I am still quick to see his point of view. An adult man of choices that he is, I hear the wail of that Mangola drinking pudgy when he hits the occasional low. The nightmare of his near fatal road accident is always near the surface, ready to erupt at the slightest nudge. 

We have hopped and skipped life's pages but I have not lost my uncanny sense for his emotional highs and lows. It feels light and liberating to hear a charged up voice on the phone. Equally, a strained note is enough to bring the climate crashing down.

Of late, my protective sisterly concern has acquired shades of awe and admiration for a man who does not complain, does not accuse, does not bemoan but simply moves on. This one runs!

That’s my brother, Ruby Singh !

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