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A perspective on siblings today

These days, familial bonds are being stretched thinner than ever and sibling rivalry is on the rise, opines Deepa Gahlot.

sex and relationships Updated: Aug 22, 2013 13:08 IST
Deepa Gahlot

After last year’s sensational Pramod Mahajan case, the papers are again headlined with a man shooting his brother, and walking outwith a smile on his face.

Life is obviously not like the movies, in which a guy will go to the end of the world to bring an estranged brother back to the family fold (Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham). In real life, brothers are, more often than not, battling over property, if not actually killing each other.

We’ve been raised with this idealised picture of sibling relationships - sisters tie rakhis on their brothers’ wrists on Raksha Bandhan and movies sing paeans to it.

Fighting over toys
But how many brothers actually live up to this model of the protecting angel? All around us, we see sisters deprived of family property or a place in the family home.

Being an only child, I was always asked if I missed having a sibling. Before I was old enough to give this a serious thought, I’d seen lot of sibling hatred around me. As kids, siblings fought over little things like toys, treats or parental affection. When they grew up, they fought over bigger things like money and property.

Then, as now, parents tended to be more partial to their sons, and that caused life-long resentment among the daughters.
Much to my surprise, even educated parents willed their homes to their sons, with the excuse that their daughters would be in their husbands’ homes. So a majority of women have nowhere to go, in case their marriage runs into trouble,
because brothers and their wives won’t take them in.

Around the globe
It’s also seen so often in our society, that one child ends up taking all the responsibility of his aged parents and hates the siblings for burdening him. So if they are not fighting over inheritance, daggers are drawn over unfair division of filial duties.

Now, of course, siblings are flung all over the globe, and distance probably makes the heart grow fonder, especially since there’s a place to stay when visiting their city.

Equal status
Not to generalise, but I have seen a great deal of affection and mutual support between sisters (look at the way Jessica
Lal’s sister, Sabina, fought for justice), more so if they are of equal social status. I’ve also seen this affection sometimes between a brother and sister, especially if she’s not demanding family wealth, but very rarely between brothers.

They may keep up appearances till the parents are alive. But how much fraternal love remains is proved by the number of batwaras (divisions of property) that take place with unholy haste after the death of the parent who controlled the household. So is one better off without a sibling? That’s another debate altogether.

What celebrity siblings say...
Everyone was going on and on about how great Julia was in Erin Brockowich, but what did she actually do? Only wear push-up bras, it wasn’t great acting.
- Eric Roberts, on his sister's Oscar-winning role

I hope Ashlee’s reality-TV series on MTV is a hit.. only not too big a hit.
- Jessica Simpson

I’m making my way on my own, and I’m doing it in a different way than Britney. I’m going to keep my standards higher and a little purer.
- Ashlee Spears

My brother is a textbook example of sour grapes.
- Jodie Foster