Pre-teen crush is so asexual that you don’t mind getting a rakhi tied by her. After hitting teens, you realise — yeh kya galti kar di maine. The next level of friend zone is bro zone. And that used to happen quite often in the past. Friend zone of the ’90s meant the ultimate trigger to a long-lasting relationship. Clearly, it wasn’t the friend zone of today. Mohnish Bahl in Maine Pyaar Kiya said, “Ek ladka aur ek ladki kabhi dost nahi ho sakte.” On the contrary, Shah Rukh Khan in Kuch Kuch Hota Haisaid, “Pyaar dosti hai.” As I said, this friend zone is the new red light. Earlier, it was at least yellow, if not green. Friends still have a chance, but if you become a rakhi brother, you are out on a duck.
I know some people, both men and women, disclosing that they have had crushes on their cousins as kids. Especially, the distant ones. Marriages between cousins have been quite common among Muslims and Parsis. However, writing about incest during Raksha Bandhan would be blasphemous. Among Hindus and Christians, the relationship between a brother and sister is considered highly sacrosanct.
Hot and humid August of the Indo-Gangetic plains is a nightmare. My mother, brother and I used to pack our bags, sort our gifts and take the early morning Haryana Roadways deluxe bus from Chandigarh to Delhi. All my mamas (mom’s brothers) stay in Delhi. They are three brothers and three sisters. And all have sons and daughters. So, Raksha Bandhan used to be one huge family get-together. Despite the absence of a real sister, we managed to have our arms full of gaudy, colourful rakhis. It’s different, not having a sister, I guess. My brother and I made our home resemble a fish market with a lot of physical fights, cuss words, exchange of porn magazines with friends, etc. In the presence of a very docile mother, our house always brimmed with testosterone. My mom had a lot of patience, but my father had none with his two mad boys. He was definitely the stricter one. He was a disciplinarian, who never thought twice before giving us a tight slap across our faces. My chacha used profanities openly in front of my brother and me. Things would’ve been different if we had a sister. There would’ve been more calm and order. My chacha would’ve thought twice before saying bh******d. My father would’ve been easier with the regular dose of thappads doled out to us. i.
To make matters worse, I was in an all-boys school. There was no interaction with the opposite sex of the same age. My cousin sisters were either younger or older. When I started dating my wife Tahira, she thought I was a bit of a jerk.
Then I asked my friends (all were from an all-boys school who didn’t have sisters) about their respective girlfriends, and they said they faced similar problems. So, we generalised the womenfolk. Little did we know that the problem was a lack of sisters and the all-boys school, and not the women in our lives. The problem was with us. In such a scenario, where we couldn’t gauge women, we preferred the company of our guy friends instead. We were less sensitive and very uncouth. My brother, on the other hand, was more balanced in his relationships since he was in a co-ed school. This was us, growing up and getting used to the idiosyncrasies of the opposite sex.
After marriage, our parents went through the real test. They were never used to having a daughter in their lives. They had this idea of giving a lot of space to their kids. By kids, I mean sons. Where there were lesser interactions (‘Khaana fridge mein pada hai, jab bhook lage kha lena’, kind of relationships), suddenly there was a young girl at home. Like any other girl, she wanted love, affection and attention. Daughters get that in abundance from their fathers. Ask me. I’m a doting one. I have changed tremendously, from the uncouth, all-boys pass out to an affectionate young father of a cute daughter. This transition in me was gradual, and my parents also took their time to adapt to the new change of having a daughter-in-law in their house. The teething problems are always there.
Sons are generally obsessed with their work and sports. They’re terrible multitaskers. Daughters, on the other hand, bind the world together. There’s a reason why we are always close to the maternal side of the family, by default. I miss going to my nana’s house in Delhi for Raksha Bandhan. Now, the sisterly love is received through couriers and speed post. Rakhis have become less gaudy and simpler. Just the exact opposite of our lives.