Still half asleep, I was trying to fend off my younger cousin Ribhav - I'm staying with my family in India for the summer - and he has taken to the inexplicable habit of waking me up at 6am every morning, shouting and threatening to pour a glass of water on my face, before actually pouring a glass of water on my face. Usually, this is borne out of a desire to exasperate his cousin in any way he can think of.
That morning, however, he had another reason - it was the Indian festival of Rakhi, where sisters tie a symbolic thread around their brothers' wrists to express their love. Ribhav - who I refer to as my brother as, in Indian culture, cousins share close bonds more akin to those of brothers and sisters - wanted me to do it as quickly as possible. How moving, I thought. As it turned out, he couldn't care less about our beautiful relationship; what he cared about was that he could only touch the sweets and presents after the bond had been sealed. Whatever happened to the gurgling little boy of yesteryear, who practically worshipped his big sister?
It won't be long before he enters his teenage years, as his older brother, Chiraag, has just done. It's hard to fathom that young adolescents can seem so obnoxious from an objective point of view, but at the time, we are completely unawares. I certainly don't remember classifying myself as irritating when I was a 13- year-old.
I'm not particularly taken by the idea of my cute little brothers morphing into foul-mouthed teenagers. There was a time when I was looked up to and revered because I was older. I was the one who could stay up late. I had the shiny gadgets. They were the ones with the hand-me-downs who'd go scurrying at my command.
Now, their appeal as all-purpose slaves is diminishing at an alarming rate. Classical music lessons have been ditched in favour of the electronic keyboard which, unfortunately, stores pre-recorded drum beats that make the house shudder on its foundations.
Chiraag came running in the other day screaming: "I've got The Miz!"
Ribhav looked awe-struck and screamed back: "The Miz? Like, seriously?"
The mysterious Miz, it turned out, was a character on their Slam Attack cards, which they collect and trade with their friends.
Last year, their trading cards had featured Pokémon, stripy yellow mice and turtles with flowers growing out of their backs. The Slam Attack ones depict macho wrestlers and inappropriately dressed women. The big sister in me isn't sure she approves.
My brothers' language used to be delightfully and hilariously influenced by the books they liked to read - the Richmal Crompton, Enid Blyton sort. Disapproval was expressed by an exclamation of "Crumbs!" or "Great Scott, how frightful!" It was like stepping into Mary Poppins's world. Now, their vocabulary has dwindled down to "No", "Fine, whatever" and incomprehensible mumbles, ominously knelling the advent of teenhood.
Still, it won't hurt to have two extra allies in our ceaseless battle against the rest of the world. Or two extra partners in crime, depending on which end of the telescope you peer through.
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