It was always me who was better than him. The one who started first..the one coached him. To realize that your disciple is better than you. Oh, the pain.
It took me months to finally realize that the way I conjured up a world in my words, he could do it much better than me. The way he played with the emotions of our understanding, he could do it much better. And it took me time to realize, that bowing down gracefully to the truth is the best way I could deal with it.
I remember him, plopping himself infront of me with a slate;
"Didi, Teach me na! I want to learn!" his childish voice echoed in the crystal of my memory.
I remember giving him a superior glance, teasing him that I was much better, that he was too small.
I remember guiding his hands into my world. World of writing.
I remember pinching him at his slightest mistakes, only to feel guilty later on and then bribe him with chocolates.
"Why isn't put pronounced like cut?" I remember him asking me as we walked through the paddy fields of my village.
"Why don't you wear skirt like a girl?" I remember snapping at him.
All he could do, was stick his tongue out at me.
Because at that time , he never had the power of words.
I remember feeling lost as he gained, and I had frozen in the literary world that I had created. I never expanded myself. As I slowly lost out to the world, I remember him catching me by the tip of my hand and shouting at me, "You're one who taught me! You remember? DON'T FALL!"
"Now, I will welcome Faizaan Haseem on to the podium. A Booker Prize winner, Mr. Haseem will read out a few words from his latest book The Price of a Chalk"
I was one of those sitting in the audience clapping hard. I was curious. Madly curious. This was probably the first novel that he hadn't read out to me.
"Wait didi, I'll read it out in the launch anyway. You can be there." He had argued exasperatedly when I'd asked him about it.
It had hurt, trust me.It had hurt bad.
But then, he was my only brother. And I loved him more than anything in the world.
I smiled at his tall humble frame that came on to the stage. He shook hands with the President of India and meekly bowing to audience, cleared his throat.
Instantly, the applause died.
There was silence. Respectable silence.
And he looked at me, straight in the eyes.
I felt proud. Proud to be his sister.
"Price of Chalk", He began in his clear, direct voice, "Is a novel that I've always wanted to write. It's close to my heart. Something that not my pen, but my soul has written. With all my humility, I would ask my readers, to read it with love, and all those values that a middle class mind can visualise."
The audience looked at him, waiting, expectantly. He was the magician. He was holding them at the tip of his tongue. I was waiting too. For today, he was my magician too.
"But before I say anything else, I would like to ask my sister, Zainaab to come up on the stage please."
As every one's eyes searched the audience, I froze. This was, well, unexpected!
"Zainaab?" He called out, looking at me.
And as realization dawned on everyone about my location, I received a few nudges from my neighbors. I got up, tentatively, walking one step at a time. My heart beating out from my chest. I wondered if everyone else could hear it too.
That's when the audience suddenly realized the need for another round of applause.
I reached the step of the stage from where his hands found mine and he gently guided me to the spotlight.
"Ladies and gentlemen, Zainaab, will be reading the book out to you. Because the book will sound good, when it comes from the lips of the character that it is based on."
Realizing the meaning of his words, stunned, I turned around to look at him. His face was impassive as he said softly "Read it" .
I gulped and took the book in my hand, it's sleek book cover glinted under the lights. I closed my eyes and opened the book to it's acknowledgements. For a moment, my eyes scanned the page.
And then, I finally found my voice;
And there the book started, beginning from his curiosity about words, his quite way of presenting my taunts. His polished words describing my rough actions. And as the audience closed their eyes to my magician's words, I stole a look at him as he gazed at me, waiting. Waiting for approval, for acceptance.
And I blinked that tear of joy that was waiting to fall.