Editor’s note: The author’s name was omitted to protect their identity.
“As Indian women, we must learn to love him in spite of him. He’s my son babu, I love him because I know no one else has,” my mother sighed in exasperation.
My brother stood doe eyed at the feet of my father, innocent in his mission to conquer parental affection. His presence was drowned out by my father’s shadow. They sat together at the kitchen table, my brother’s feet dangling from his chair, my father’s planted. My mother readied both hands for the men of the family. Armed, she stood, chai for my father, milk for my brother. My brother watched adoringly as my father reached for his cup. I watched curiously as my mother flinched at his reach.
When my mother describes my brother’s birth, she describes him as someone who was born crying, immediately in contention with leaving home and entering the world. I am sorry our father taught you to be afraid of your own tears.
As my brother grew, his presence was now noticeable to my mother, and equally encroaching to my father. Our dad defended his dominance well. My father’s bruised knuckles continued to reach for his cup. My brother, now with an intuitive understanding, sensed my mother’s fear.
Now, my brother faces the same choice, with anger fierce enough to clasp a cup, and gentleness tender enough to serve chai.
In my father’s absence, he takes his place at the table. He has grown into my father’s shadow. He has made his choice. Now, I face a choice, too. Often, I wonder, if I do not love me, who else will? I hope my brother can forgive me. I am still learning how to love you in spite of you.