Watching Anil Ambani rage against his elder brother Mukesh earlier this week reminded me why I worry about having children.
Before the split: The Ambanis in 2005. PTI
From a parent’s POV, you spend your life bringing up what you hope will be two perfectly normal children—you nurse them through illnesses, ferry them to soccer matches, cheer them through school debates, even relearn calculus. As they’re growing up, you ensure their safety and pray fervently they won’t be molested by a relative, beheaded by a neighbour (this happened in Lucknow recently) drown while at a class picnic or get run over by a speeding drunk.
You try to set an example, give your children adequate love and the tools to enjoy life responsibly. And then you hope that it will all work out. Hope is all you can do because you never really know how the story of your child’s life will unfurl. Sometimes, despite all your attempts to prepare your children for the real world, when they finally do come face-to-face with it, they may not be able to deal with it.
Aside from the premature loss of a child, what’s the toughest thing about being a parent, I asked a colleague who is a great one. “Watching your child make a mistake and knowing you can’t do anything about it,” she replied promptly. But then my colleague has only one child.
If you have more than one offspring, there’s always that added fear that your children might end up hating each other. And as parents, you will never understand what triggered this hatred.
Most of us are no strangers to sibling rivalry and sibling jealousy. I know I’ve witnessed several examples in my extended family. And how many of us can honestly say that we never felt our parents favoured one child over the other? My parents, who are reading this, were extremely fair, I hasten to add.
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Sibling rivalry is usually triggered by a series of small misunderstandings/ growing up beliefs that somehow, before you know it, become a messy, slippery, difficult-to-scale Kanchenjunga of grievances. The bitter, pent-up squabbling of siblings has got to rate among the worst sorrows of being a parent.
There are no rules or forecasts in sibling rivalry. It could hit any of your children. It doesn’t matter if you are the father of Indian enterprise, you won’t be able to come up with an idea that will make your children kiss and make up (splitting the company, we have seen, doesn’t always work out).
Over the years we have encountered many tales from prominent Indian business families that indicate that sibling rivalry is often about money. Of course, it’s not always so. In the first episode of Sach Ka Saamna, contestant Smita Mathai said she resented wearing her sister’s hand-me-downs, that she was jealous of her brother because he got more attention from her parents and that she believed her parents loved her brother’s children more than hers. Who knows what goes on in the minds of little children.
Even in the case of the Ambanis, it’s clearly about more than money. Someday we might know why the brothers really ended up hating each other so much that they appear, at least to onlookers like myself, ready to destroy each other until no trace remains of the other side. But even if and when we do find out, like most cases of sibling jealousy, it won’t make any sense.
PS: Happy Raksha Bandhan.
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