My brother and I are the purple devil and the skinny goat. Although the genesis of these alter egos is dubious, they perfectly reflect the illogic and nuttiness of our relationship.
Sandeep started on a life of crime at a tender age of five by bestowing a man's name on me, as in Jalaluddin Rumi the famed Persian poet. Let me repeat that: he gave me a man's name. On my eighth birthday I changed the spelling to "Rumy" to distance myself from this tragedy. I still cringe when I see it written with an 'i'. With this singular act, he set me up for hours of therapy.
As you can see, I had to charge my pigtails every night to protect myself from him.
An early memory of him is from a photo taken by our Dad on top of a cliff in Beirut. In the pic, five-year old me is massaging my butt because of a walloping I got from him after I dropped my mother's purse off the edge and he was sent to fetch it. In return for his punishments, I hung from his hair, hoping to pull out every strand. To me that was the only solution to the unfair advantage he had for being five years older. I desperately wanted him to be a bald boy.
When I was in 4th grade, he drew me as a skinny goat with pigtails. He left this image on everything I owned - my school bag, my pencil box, my notebooks, and my limbs while I slept. I just couldn't get away from that darned goat. As I wrote this post, I asked him to draw it for me again and he sent me this digital rendition.
When we became a little older he went from my tormentor to my protector. He gave me rides on his electric blue moped (a small motorcycle) and took me everywhere - to the movies, to restaurants, and to hang out with his friends. He instilled such confidence in me that I once attempted to drive a rickshaw - like the one below - parked outside our home. Within seconds, I drove the unwieldy thing right into traffic. I remember a very intense slap on my back before he yanked me back to the house, rickshaw and all.
His room had a large wooden desk that was littered with electronic junk - wires, integrated circuit boards, soldering iron, and whatnot. He was constantly building and taking things apart. For years, the speakers in our home were his handiwork. Later, he would send me a long list of things to buy from Radio Shack before every trip to India. I'd pore over packets of wires, transistors, and tools with long part numbers in microscopic font. I got him enough supplies to start his own Radio Shack store. When the chain closed, I cried for him.
In school and college, he was an accomplished sitar player and sometimes played on All India Radio. When I was very young and we drove by the radio station, I would look up at the tall transmitting tower, amazed at how he climbed it before airtime. I secretly imagined him sitting on the pointy end.
He visited Tarun and me in Iowa City and then took a Greyhound bus across the country. He knows more about the US than anybody else I know. He is a closet New Yorker and knows the city's grid-like streets like the back of his hand. Whenever I am in the city, I am compelled to send him photos so he can escape to me for a bit.
And boy can he eat steak. On his last visit to the US, he had a lifetime of steak and beer at every restaurant near us. He is the only person in the entire world I know who is a strict non-vegetarian: if it don't move, he don't eat. Afterwards, he smiles liberally.
We call each other "Bunks". Neither of us can recall how that started. All we remember is we went from Bunkai to Bunki to Bunks. In adulthood, our work keeps us on the road frequently. Strangely, we've found ourselves simultaneously stranded on tarmacs, pacing in airport concourses, or twiddling our thumbs in between landing and docking. When I have a bad travel day, I check with him to see if he's stuck and he does the same because misery loves company.
Somewhere along the way he became this purple devil. A purple Tasmanian devil. He can do a hundred things simultaneously. He is a badass doctor, software guru, plumber, and electrician. He wakes up at the crack of dawn and turns off like a light halfway through the evening. There's nothing he cannot do and nothing he will do without coaxing, cajoling, begging, and driving everybody insane.
He is an enormous wealth of utterly useless knowledge and intricate family connections. He can take a random person and find a relationship with her through an aunt's, father-in-law's cousin thrice removed. For this reason he is "Bunkipedia". And now I can trip him up with my half-baked knowledge of the medical world because he doesn't know whether the info is coming from clueless me or my clued-in sons. Payback is very, very sweet.
The best thing he has ever done for me was during Christmas of my 5th grade. He made Santa come to our house in Patna after I lamented how he and the elves missed us every year. The next morning when I woke up, I found a little net bag stuffed with colorful glass balls, candy, and gifts hanging from my bed. He told me he heard a reindeer on the roof at night. This is why I am unable to abandon him.
We say we are jinxed. What happens to one, happens to the other a day later. We lose our phones in a sequence, or fry our laptops, or throw our backs out, or fall ill from bad food. Of course we know these are coincidences, but it is awesome to blame or jinx him when things go awry.
We joke that we will pass from this earth in a sequence as well, but first I look forward to him losing his hair naturally. A bald boy will be my last revenge. Except this skinny goat has no plans to go anywhere, so the purple devil is safe for the foreseeable future, and then some.