Saturday, December 27, 2008


Since my brother is visiting us along with his family for our annual bout of sibling revelry, here's a reminiscence about the daily bouts of sibling rivalry that occured when we were young and together.

Anything and everything edible given to us had to be shared equally. I was the more pugnacious of the two, and would set out complicated rules and regulations dictating the terms and conditions of the partition of every single morsel that came our way.

If there were two separate but similar things, like say, two toffees, then, obviously there were no problems. Each one eat one - was the rule.

If it was one piece of something which had to be divided equally, like say, a piece of cake, then the rulebook (authored by me) said - one of us would divide the cake (or cutlet, or...) and the other would choose his portion first. The rule was scrupulously fair in its nitpicking - the person cutting the piece would be very careful to cut it equally, because otherwise the other would get to choose the bigger piece.

The even more complicated rule for things that came in uneven sizes and in larger numbers (a bunch of grapes, or a bowl full of berries, maybe) was : the first person would take only one, the second would take two, and then the first would take another. Then this cycle would be repeated again and again till the entire loot was evenly distributed. WHY this particularly complex process, you may wonder. This was because the first person would usually end up getting the biggest piece (chosen first) and the fourth-largest piece, and the other one would get the second and third-largest piece. Now 1+4 equals 2+3, and although we never had weighing scales, we never had any complaints about unfairness either.

Ah, the deviousness of dharma (justice/righteousness)! Later on, when I read/saw the Mahabharata, I was amazed at the complicated routes taken by the righteous to achieve the victory of virtue. And, of course, I felt completely vindicated in my rule-setting, although everybody else felt otherwise, including my brother.



Ganesh said...

Dear Suchitra,

I should a great process to divide the spoils between you and your brother. Luckily me and my sister did not find the need to go through such complications. Of course there were minor fights but nothing so major that we ended up on either side of the Wagah border.

Kavi said...

Ofcourse !

here is one.

Cut the cake into two. But the person who cuts the cake has to necessarily have the smaller of the pieces.

Now..guess what that does...there cant be better distributive justice in the world !!

Well written. brought a hoard of memories to me

The Comic Project said...

"one of us would divide the cake (or cutlet, or...) and the other would choose his portion first" AWESOME. NEver really had to go through all this as I was the only child :-) But I grew up with 2 wonderful cousins (girls both) and I don't recall any major issues :-)

seanag said...

This all sounds very familiar from childhood, although the slight wrinkle in mine is that there were three of us. Thirds is a lot more difficult to manage, I think. I also had two very close childhood friends, where this kind of stuff probably played out as well, except that there wasn't the more clearly laid out oldest to youngest predictable hierarchy.

What strikes me now, though, is how deep the idea of 'fairness' really seems to run in us all. Although you are poking fun of your childhood self a little, I actually think the idea of just distribution is often more at the root of these childhood solutions than selfishness, or I guess it's probably really a mixture of both.

Lazyani said...

I being a single child have never faced this. However, I see my wife and sister-in-law enjoy such rivalry till date;)

But the levels of clinical distribution that you did undertake as a kid is astounding!!!

ugich konitari said...

Actually, we were three of us; two brothers and me. We never really had to fight for and divide things, but it never stopped my brothers from pulling the wool over my eyes, whenever they got a chance to do so. I certainly did a lot of lonely battles then :-) .....

Yaya said...

Lol! We definitely had the cutting and choosing rule.
We also fussed over portions of Thums Up split equally in two identical glasses. Who needs a Wii when you have sibling rivalry to entertain you!

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Thanks, everybody, for sharing your sibling nibbles and quibbles.

my space said...

Lol!!we were not so civilized you see...we just jumped ,attacked and whoever won ,got it..might is right..
and i see the same happening with my kids..they fight tooth and nail for maggi...they insist on splitting each noodle into 2 equal sometimes they measure the lentgth..and when i loose it completely they just settle with whatever ;-)