Vijaya High Chronicles – Brothers and Sisters “At Large”

29 Jun

Guest post by Prof. Bellave Shivaram

Almost everyone has a brother or a sister.  Some brothers and sisters may even overlap in school if the age difference is not too large.  My brother and I overlapped at VHS for two years.  I can also recall two twins in the same section who were in the year senior class and also a cousin brother pair.  There might have been others, a brother and sister pair or a sister and sister pair but I was not aware of any of those. In our case, I knew who most of my brother’s friends were and he certainly knew my friends – but it was a mutually exclusive arrangement.  He did not hang around with us and I knew his friends as mere acquaintances.  But I like to touch upon a different sort of relationship not mentioned above – I am talking about the invisible brothers (and sisters) we all have.  Let me explain.

An invisible brother (or sister) is someone that you “hear” about all the time – but never get to see or very rarely do.  Being the oldest of all siblings, I was comfortable with my place/role and never really longed for an older sibling.  If I ever needed one, there were cousins from the extended family.   But the dynamics here is more or less set since close families are involved.  The invisible kind on the other hand is more interesting – it is mysterious, open, leaves a lot for the imagination and therefore has more possibilities.
I had many invisible brothers.  First I had this friend, the youngest in his family.  He had two elder brothers both in engineering colleges and one of them nearing graduation.  I heard constantly from him all that they did in the engineering schools.  He was totally enthralled by what his brothers were doing.  He took me to his house one day and showed me all the textbooks they were using – they were very fat – much fatter than any I had seen.  Wow! I was totally impressed.  He told me that he had picked up some suggestions from one of his brothers and he was trying to learn calculus on his own.  Calculus is a must he said – what we learn in high school, algebra, geometry etc. was not that useful in real life later!  That definitely made me feel little – I had to catch up, how can I be left behind?  I had no solution to this dilemma.  There was another classmate – he too had an elder brother and he also talked about the fat textbooks in college.  There must have been some competition between these two friends of mine.  One day he even brought his brother’s math textbook in his bag to show me and impress me!   That was not the best textbook he said.  Russian books are the best for math.  That stuck in my mind.  Later on in PU when I did start calculus I went in search of Russian books.  They were easy to find and were everywhere – political events (Indo Pak war etc) had initiated a strong Indo-Soviet friendship and I suspect a by- product of this was the flooding of Russian books into the Indian markets.  I indeed found a very good calculus book – by Pishkunov – it had the most difficult problems.   In the case of both these friends, their elder brothers, with whom I had no relationship helped me form expectations and construct images of what the future could be.
Sisters at large are great too – never mind the age difference.  They invoked other types of imaginary thoughts.  But I better not get on that track right now – it has to wait for a later date.

NOTE: Prof. Shivaram was my senior at Vijaya High School.


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