But as a sister I have been trying to avoid thinking of Rakhi.
You see, Rakhi for me has always been about Ashu Bhai. Even before I learnt what Rakhi was, even before my own real brother was born, I remember being dressed up to tie him and his elder brother Hasit Bhai their Rakhis. But cousin was not a relationship I ever knew the meaning of. They were my brothers.
Hasit Bhai passed away when I was still very young and with time the memories of him have faded to sepia save for a few. Such as the one of him teasing me mercilessly, calling me ‘Butter’ which was his name for me and my chasing him all over the house to exact retribution, of our Sunday afternoon jaunts to the Pastry shops of the Taj or the Oberoi, when we would buy a whole lot of delicious pastries and come home to share them with family. I also remember that he was willing to do anything I wanted, including going against my father to get my hair cut. It was a trait his younger brother Ashu Bhai shared, this desire to make me happy – I just had to ask.
Unlike Hasit Bhai, I knew Ashu Bhai in the adult phase of my life. As I grew, he was everything a big brother could be, eater of all culinary disasters and an endless source of kharchi (spending money). He stood by me through my getting married, having babies. He cheered me on through all my achievements big and small as I grew in my career and not long ago gave me the ultimate compliment he could have as the businessman he was, offering to invest in any business I wanted to start – I just had to ask. I never did but I liked knowing I could.
But most of all he loved my children, spoiled them, showing me shades of the grandfather my father would have made if he had been around and made them HOPELESSLY addicted to chocolate!
And today, I cannot help thinking back to last year, the first time in my whole life that I did not tie him his Rakhi. It was not for a lack of trying but it just did not happen because life came in the way. I still remember the last time I saw him whole, he gave me his characteristic smile as I left moms one morning. I had always made it a point to go down to meet him whenever I went to mom’s and hug him when I met him, but again that time I let life get in the way and left without doing either. Something I will always regret because I have learned that death leaves no space for second chances with telling someone you love them because soon after that he was struck down by a stroke.
And I feel the void of him not being there anymore. I feel it so very, very acutely today.
But he taught me something and I hope that it is something we taught my children together by example. That love is unconditional, it is not based on perfectly cooked food, it is not based on meeting every day and is not dependant on telling each other your feelings. It transcends all of that to just encompass us in a relationship.
I think we did, because Aman’s cookies turned out a little less then perfect, the chocolate chips were more than a little burnt, but Natasha ate them with great appreciation - reminding me of another time when a sister baked a more than burnt cake hard as a rock and a brother that ate it with relish and even asked for more...