When I was born, my father and my grandfather sent out sweets to every household in the village. For my father, I was his first born, for my grandfather, I was the first born of his first born. I was treated like a prince all through my childhood. My Paati never cared for any other kid but me. I was the apple of her eye, the twinkle of her life. Legend has it that when there was a scare of a thief in the house, Paati picked me up and her box of valuables and went over to the next house, unmindful of what happened elsewhere or to anyone else. I loved the attention. I would always get what I wanted to eat, I could decide to bunk school one day, and would be permitted to do so, just because I was who I was.
As the years went by, I got younger brothers and sisters, cousins, all younger to me. I loved them all. It came to me naturally. I suddenly had a bunch of playmates, who if I wanted, I could bully as well. But somehow, I was always the protective umbrella, shielding them from all harm. My youngest sister is 20 years younger to me. For me, she is and will always be the little doll I saw her like when she was born. Big-eyed and plump. I bought her her first pattu paavadai. I remember a Diwali, when I was to go back to my village from Chennai, and she was waiting anxiously for me to get her her Diwali clothes. My mother kept cajoling her to get something else ready for Diwali, but she had refused. She would wear only what I would bring for her. I got delayed in meetings and I reached my village at 12 at night. I went straight to the tailor and made him stitch the dress all through the night and landed up at home with the dress, all to see that beaming face of my doll.
Even more years passed. My cousin sister realized that she cannot have children, and she came running to me. I went with them to the adoption agency and walked with her through the entire situation. Years later, she loses her husband in a car crash in USA, and she calls me up and asks me poignantly what she should do and how she can raise her kid alone. And I have to take the bold step of telling her to be brave and face life as it comes. I have to be the bolster that supports her through her life. My sister breaks her hand and needs to undergo a surgery. She calls me up saying she is scared. I fly in the next day and sit through the gruelling 6 hr surgery. My cousin brother's wife realizes that her husband is cheating on her, and she calls no one but me, and asks me what to do! And yet again, I need to take a wise decision and help her through her crisis. I have my moments, when I wonder how I should find the strength to absorb everyone's pain and yet be strong enough to support them. I wonder why, the first born is always expected to have the broadest shoulders. I wonder why, everyone looks up to me when they are in pain.
And then I realize, its all because of a promise I had made when I was born. A promise that I was made to make, since I was the first born. A promise that needs me to be superhuman. I am the bolster, the support for my whole family. I am..... the Big Brother.