Growing up, Ishan and Nihal were probably my closest friends. We were all born within a few months of each other, and their bi-annual trips back to India meant that we almost always had a few weeks each year of uninhibited, raucous cousinly bonding. From setting up overpriced lemonade stands, to raffling off my dear mother's entire gift cupboard to our pleasantly surprised neighbors, to making secret, dramatic sprints to Baskin Robbins and knowingly eating packets of Lays before dinner- there are few childhood memories that they don't feature prominently in.
School holidays were punctuated by visits to wherever Ishan and Nihal happened to be living at the time- a few sultry summers in Gurgaon, one wonderful spring in Seoul, a short glitzy trip to Singapore, and a particularly unforgettable holiday in Khali Estate, Binsar. Looking back, I'm amazed at how much of our childhoods we shared, despite never living less than a plane journey away from each other (Thank you, Javeri-Kadri-Krishan parents! Y'all are the bestest!).
Over the past few years though, as each one of us has hit puberty, hopped onto the highschool-college-career fast track- our lives have each splintered in different directions. Suddenly that short flight between Singapore and Bombay was obstructed by SAT prep, high school drama, extra-curricular commitments, and on my end- a tightly wound web of teenage angst, rebelliousness and self-centeredness. Hurray for puberty!
So when Nihal messaged me a few months ago to let me know that he was coming to visit me for fall break- I was excited, nervous, and flat out surprised but mostly just giddy at the chance to relive our childhoods, even if just for the weekend.
One of my strongest childhood memories is the row of mattresses that would be laid out on the floor in my grandmother's bedroom whilst Ishan and Nihal were visiting, to accommodate the influx of little imps and aunts that descended each year. A few hours before Nihal was due to arrive, I couldn't help but admire my tiny college dorm room, now covered in a similar row of mattresses, and the very same colorful Indian blankets that we grew up sleeping under, and think about how far we'd both come from those summers in Ocean View, and yet, how much we still held on to.
To be fair, our relationship has evolved dramatically since the good old days. Instead of playing hours of hide and seek, taking turns bullying my little brother, and generally being kids- I found that Nihal and I, both passionate, loud and rather talkative individuals- had much to argue about. From politics, to social norms, to childhood memories, to family politics, to future careers- much of the weekend was a back and forth of ideas and opinions. Because he is family, and he has to love me unconditionally, I had no reservations about raising my voice, making snappy comments, and sulking when I got too hungry. Luckily, our young politician in the making was incredibly skilled at dodging my barbs, and continuing to ask me the 3290439 questions that had got me ruffled up in the first place anyway.
In the past year, I have put up so many walls, and grown so many prickly defenses, that saying that Nihal, with his unwavering conviction, took down many of my walls and defensive prickles, in less than 48 hours at that, is no small feat. I can't think of many other people who would take as much interest as he did in understanding my dreams and future plans, in questioning them and trying his brotherly best to advise me where he could. We may have shouted and bickered for hours as we hurtled down the California freeways, but isn't that what family's for?
I loved having you stay with me big brother, and I especially loved being able to see how we've grown and changed and how we're going to shape our relationship from here forth. Thanks for giving me an excuse to explore L.A. and thanks for coming by.
Here are some photographs from our weekend ( also starring my dear Rounak Maiti, who had his very first concert in Hollywood (!!!) that same weekend, and seduced us all with his voice and all-round chillness. This kid is going to take the world by storm, I'm tellin' ya. I love you Maitz. )