My brother, Rahul, was a real mischief maker. My parents had their hands full bringing him up. Our neighbour, Colonel Gupta, would call him an ‘injured soldier’ because he would always have bandages tied and band-aids pasted on him, which he would proudly display as badges of honour. He also had a tale to tell about each wound.
When he was 12 years old, he developed a low platelet count. So doctors advised him not to get hurt as the blood would not coagulate. He was admitted to the Army Hospital to get a blood transfusion, but my mother could not stay with him as per rules. When we would go visit him, he would be up and about doing chores for other patients such as filling bottles from the water cooler, calling the nurse for the elderly and playing with toddlers. My mother would reprimand him for not taking his ailment seriously.
He was surprisingly the topper in class. But he had a gang of friends who were below average in studies, and he would coach them before exams. My father disapproved of this and would often sermonise, “A man is known by the company he keeps.” But to no avail.
When he was down with chicken pox this one time, his friends would come asking about his health. They would not come inside but talk from a distance, from the other side of the boundary wall. And here I was, under the impression that their friendship was so thick that they had come calling unmindful of the fear of catching the dreaded disease.
He had a liking for dogs so much so that he was bitten by stray dogs a couple of times. My mother threw her hands up in despair and decided to keep a pet dog, something he had been demanding for long. My brother fell in love with the pug. He christened it Comet. They would snuggle together in the quilt in the bed during winter. When he would return home from school, the puppy would greet him by jumping all over him and waving its tail incessantly. Rahul would fill its bowl with milk and crush the chapatti so that the puppy could chew on it easily.
My brother was very fond of bursting crackers on Diwali. His celebrations would begin much in advance. He didn’t understand the consequences until he saw its ill effects on his pup. It would hide beneath the bed and refuse to come out. When it would be coaxed out, it would shake and tremble. My father explained to Rahul that dogs have an acutely sharp sense of hearing and they cannot tolerate the loud bang of firecrackers.
This piece of advice sobered Rahul. Thereafter, he refrained from bursting crackers. Where parents’ advice had failed, the pup had done wonders.