Samar stood on the balcony of his one-bedroom rented house and sipped on the aromatic Masala tea he just made himself as he gazed down at the two children playing Hopscotch. The two boys brought a soft smile to his lips as they played and fought and then made up then and there. How simple is childhood, how short-lived are the fights, how quick we are to patch up again, shake hands, hug and get back to playing together. He was engrossed in the two kids that he even forgot to dunk his biscuits in his tea. The boy’s mother came in the balcony from the opposite building and called them up ‘Daddy was home’. They both yelled and ran up inside the multi-floor building.
Samar looked at his empty teacup and the leftover biscuits. He thought about Sagar and his own childhood. Sagar was his younger brother, but Samar was more a father to him than their Dad. Samar was seven yrs elder to Sagar, and Sagar respected him and loved him like a son respects a father. Samar used to do all his little brother’s work as both their parents were working government employees. From waking him up for school to bathing him, getting him dressed and taking him to school, he did it all. Samar used to bring him home, give him lunch, make him sleep, help him do his homework and then play with him. And in between when Samar got some time for himself, he did his daily chores, but he never had enough time to make friends, Sagar was his everything, his brother, his friend. On the other hand, Sagar was quick and easy to be friends with and had a barrage of friends.
As Sagar touched 13, he became rebellious, like most kids his age do. The hormones kicked in, and he was confused just like any other kid. Trying to figure out his real self amongst all the chaos. Samar was in his college 3rd year, and his studies were taking a toll on him, he wasn’t able to spend much time with Sagar, but he was able to notice the subtle changes in his little brother’s behaviour. Sagar started to stay indoors or outdoors but never with family. Mostly he locked himself up in his room and played his guitar. He stopped sharing anything with Samar and became somewhat of a recluse. He started to have severe mood swings and was beginning to hang out with the wrong kind of groups. Samar noticed this and tried to talk to him, but he would escape the confrontation using sarcasm as his weapon.
One Sunday when everyone was home and were sitting in the hall having family time when Samar asked his mother “Maa, where is Sagar ?”
His mother just shrugged her shoulders and sighed with a fond smile “It was always you who knew more about Sagar and his whereabouts. I and your Dad are home only on Sundays, and we hardly see him home nowadays, except at breakfast and at dinner.”
Samar nodded and his Dad looked at him with raised eyebrows. “Are you two having any problems Samar?” he asked smoking his pipe.
Samar looked at his palms with a deep breath and said: “I don’t know Dad, but he’s been acting very oddly of late.”
His Dad leaned forward as his mother got up and went in the kitchen to prepare the evening tea for everybody. “Look, Samar, every boy his age behaves a bit radically, don’t you worry. Just because you were pretty balanced in your teenage years, and I am thankful for that, it does not means that Sagar will be balanced too. He will come around, don’t you worry.” His dad said patting his knee reassuringly.
Samar nodded and chit-chatted with his Dad about his future studies and career. Their Dad had big dreams for them, he knew Sagar will follow his heart but Samar was the one who would do exactly as he was told. Just then they both saw Sagar come in, a cricket bat in his hand, blood dripping down his face from his forehead and soaking his white shirt.
“What happened to you, Sagar???” Samar and his father asked in unison as they both stood up and Samar ran to Sagar and frisked him to see where all he was hurt.
To his horror, Sagar pushed him back and screeched at the top of his lungs “DO NOT TOUCH ME!!!”
Samar couldn’t believe his ears but he stepped back looking at Sagar whose face was an image of fury and pain.
“What has happened Samar, why are you all bloodied? Why are you speaking to your brother in that tone?”, their Dad asked him in a booming and clear voice as he stepped between them.
“HE IS NOT MY BROTHER…..”, he yelled with hot tears flowing from his eyes and added as he broke down on his knees “AND YOU ALL ARE LIARS!!!” Samar screamed as he dissolved into tears.
Sagar couldn’t understand what was happening; he looked form his Dad to Sagar and then back at his Dad. His father’s face went pale like chalk powder, and he looked with vacant eyes at Sagar.
Samar held Sagar by his shoulders “Sagar, my dearest, brother calm down. Tell us what has happened. We are here for you. Why are you in so much anger?”
Sagar looked at Samar as though seeing him for the very first time. Samar felt intimidated. And then Sagar spewed the truth that would rot their family ties like the venom of a poisonous snake.
“Ohhh!!!! So you too don’t know like me. You too have been kept in the dark.” he said looking at his father who seemed to have lost the power of speech. “Then let me tell you what has happened. You….” he paused and drew a deep breath as though gathering enough courage “You are not my brother, you are not Dad’s son. You are from Mom’s first marriage, and you and I have been lied to all our lives. This home, this happy family is all a lie, a myth. WE ARE STEP BROTHERS!!!“ he yelled. “YESSS!!! You are my stepbrother; I came to know this truth from my friends Dad, who knew your birth father. I have just opened my friend’s skull when I first heard it. And he gave it back to me” Sagar said heaving as he pointed towards his own forehead and went on “I don’t wanna live in this home now. I don’t wanna live with you anymore. I am leaving.” He declared and ran to his bedroom shutting the door.
Samar felt like he had been run over by a boulder and been smashed hard enough to turn to nothing but dust. He looked at his Dad’s fallen face and knew at once that this was indeed true. He stormed to his bedroom. On the way, he saw his mother standing at the kitchen doors as she cried with her saree’s corner pressed to her mouth. He paused and gazed into her mother’s eyes. Her eyes spoke volumes, but Samar wasn’t ready to hear more right now. Everything that had been already said was too much to swallow, too much to digest and comprehend.
A million questions ran amok through his mind as he lay on his bed looking up at the ceiling. How is that possible? Why was this kept a secret from him all these yrs? Who was his biological father? Where was he? Why his mother remarried? What shall he do now? What will become of his future now? Can he still call the man he knew to be his father as ‘Dad’? He felt like he didn’t deserve to be lying in this bed, living under this roof anymore. The home that was his own hours ago seemed like favour thrust upon his head now. He didn’t come out to eat. Every morsel of food he ate seemed like a souvenir of his Dad’s courtesy and kindness. No, not his Dad anymore. He corrected himself.
He packed his stuff in two bags, taking only his clothes, books and few bare essentials with him. Then he wrote down to write a letter.
I am very sorry for all the hurt you had to go through because of me. I never knew this truth. Thank You, brother, for making me aware of the things to which I was oblivious all these years. You can not live with me in this home anymore. That is fair. But you are leaving this home for my sake? That is very unfair. You belong here; I am the odd one out. I am going from your lives never to come back again. Take care of yourself and please take care of Mom and Dad. Be Good.
He folded the letter and switched off the lights to his room. Closing the door behind him, he slid the folded note under Sagar’s bedroom door and left the place he knew as his home for since forever.
That was 10 years ago, the hurt had healed but not the pain of separation. He missed Mom, he missed Dad, but most of all he missed his little brother and his only friend, Sagar.