(excerpts from Strenght of the Woman; Chapter 4)
The ashamed bitterness that hung in a hidden cloud over Labara’s immediate family for many years had finally dispersed with the birth of a baby boy. It was a long wait that is erroneously recounted as lasting just slightly under half a decade; the number of years between Labara’s immediate younger sister and their parents’ last child. That is a total of four long years, with four miscarriages for their mother.
Sometimes the four earlier tensed up years between Laraba and her immediate younger sister are included or further back still, the swift two years between Laraba and her immediate older sister is added. But in reality the long wait started from that impatiently hurried single lonely year separating Labara’s immediate older sister and the family’s first born. It was from this onset that the despairing clouds started to gather, when their parents’ desire for a son didn’t happen at the very next time of asking, since it didn’t select so do so the first time out.
As inconceivably stupid as it sounds in this more advanced century of Biology, it is still widely entertained that their mother was at fault. As such she had been made to live the silent shame of being termed responsible for that elusive male child’s refusal to grace them with his entrance. It agonizingly took so long that she made sure she doctored the final home stretch to suit her own circumstances.
Laraba claims she wasn’t eavesdropping but it wasn’t ever a tenable fact. However her version clearly reveals that she heard her mother twice talking to their ever fashionable and eternally unmarried aunt, about having the right sex on the very next child she would bring into the world. True enough, after each time she heard them talk about it, there was always an immediate miscarriage afterwards.
Aside from the two instances of note, it was rather odd that of all the four times Labara’s mother had miscarriages, before a boy finally came along to the relief of everyone, her mother’s ageless, unmarried, fashionable younger sister was always around just before it happens. It was too much a coincidence for even a kid. Though a lot of slack wouldn’t ordinarily be allowed Labara’s father in the sphere of general intelligence, but even he couldn’t be that naïve in these days when a fetus’ sex is clearly not its secret alone until it emerges with it.
Laraba is that sort of girl with more intelligence than conscience and her father is the complete reverse. He is that meticulous sort, whose timidity is deemed as stupid because he always uses proper, kind words. To him, it probably was inconsequential that his wife and her sister chose to misrepresent miscarriages to him, and quite rightly naming the circumstances while insinuating they named the procedure. It seemed his mind locked him out of common sense, but he is in fact only happy to let them deceive him, even as he wasn’t compelled to let them know this. He would have been quite prepared to let them go through with it anyway.
The family had latched onto the idea of having its own mini man before it actually did. The fervor of this heighten expectation was not the type to redeem if not realized. The family had been disappointed for so long and it not only rebelled mentally but with sickening good cheer, it admits this quite openly too. Labara’s mother rebelled secretly and did away with as many girls as she kept, making way for the boy she got desperately readied for, by the world she lives in.
As if by the perversion of natural justice, aptly termed as poetic, the alert and readied older sisters of the baby boy soon slumped into the reality of having their lives being lord over by a helpless new father they must cater for jealously. The family openly shifted all its focus to the new born king and this triggered off the demise of a once held indelible dream, which still dazzled them, up till the point when the sisters realized they had become second classed in their very own family. As expected it made them more receptive of the honest truth of their existence as mere women. The reality of the situation dawned on them farther as the boy aged. Hitherto every single one of the family’s four girls was a daily recipient of such wondrous, untarnished affection from both their parents. Then the illumination of the true character of things was ushered in, in the darkness of the ageless sexist periods of old, the red flag went up at the same time as the checkered flag.
The anticipated arrival of a baby brother came with the true realities they actually were born into. It dawn on them that his belated entry into their sweet world was actually a blessing because it made them recognize clearly their minority status. Inasmuch as the four girls’ parents tried hard to show some equality, it was always clear that their world now revolts around the baby boy.
The sisters just had to hold on, heave and spin their lives around for the boy child. This metaphor is appropriate in this context, because the girls’ demeaned world literally became the boy’s merry-go-round, without a shadow of doubt. The sisters’ basic needs took the back stage of servitude, while they indeed continued to be handled with laced laxity. But that wasn’t really their main worry, as they showered their own honest love for their sole male sibling while concealing the overwhelming debris of their envy for his gloried presence, that brought their own heady days to a labourious close. The boy presented other worries of crucial note.
Labara’s parents found themselves prioritizing every detail in a scale that heightened the value of their sole male child ahead of his four older sisters. They prioritized easily enough because they created these priorities. It was somewhat a belated redemptive measure they couldn’t resist in the tense atmosphere the late arrival of the boy had put them in, one that was pervaded by rumours and the like.
Oddly though, as they blundered along ignoring the innocent suffering of their daughters, their close and careful approach reduced their once quite glorious family into a nervy apparition. They wasted much time on trifles in the self-inspired troubled setting they didn’t have any real control over, as their longings yet grew into the same diseased craze eating deep into them. The family was slowly ravaged and it became a reflection of its once single oneness, bounded in mind and body. It took to functioning as if it was being eaten by a very harmful addiction, copied but not contacted from the world all around it. The parents rudely lost track of what the majority within it really is and the part this majority actually play in the life of the more recent revered existence of the minority amongst them. The parents thus created a young prodigal chap, as their only son turned out to be, making him the subtle arch-enemy of his four sisters.
The parents especially lost track of the uniqueness Laraba represents and her absolute manner of refusing to be subdued by anyone. This is a hugely expensive oversight since it is always Labara’s desire to scrutinize every available detail and employ even the most painstaking method to achieve her quest to establish her absolute authority. She is dogged in this regards, even it if it belittles all others.
There is no grudging the natural fact that the boy initially fitted into the scheme of things like any other new baby would, needing a lot of care. But because he is also a boy, all the possibilities showed through to their fullest potentials with time, as he was weaned, started to walk and talk. His older sisters’ soon reluctantly succumbed to the reality of his present and future assured dominance, though they still wondered why it had to be so. They came to terms with it with time, as all the experienced narratives they heard assured them it will remain so all their lives.
Even as a wee baby, their brother had the status of the dominant stag and the future assured them only the prominence of bereaved female mourners in his funeral cortege, as he will then as surely oppress them in death as he does alive. His ability to crawl into mischief wasn’t much of a worry but his fast increasing ability to speak meant he was able to state his worries and demand privileges, and these were always going to be those he learnt from his parents. His needs were always going to be those that class everybody in his immediate family; other than his father, as his subordinate. His earliest comprehendible utterances had that subtle speech impediment of children, but as he spoke more clearly and properly, the nature of his spoilt personality showed through.
Labara’s baby brother started to openly show his arrogance, it became more evident in how he spoke. He badly copied his father’s masculine manner of speech, only his words were more of scampered phrases and not clear cut sentences, but still they could be understood well enough. To those outside the family, the hastily gabbled words sounded like drowsy murmurings most times. But his parents easily condoned his deliberate rumbling and his older sisters had to adjust to it. The girls couldn’t do anything like hustle him into making an effort to be more comprehendible and God forbid they hit him. The onus was always on them to make the effort to understand him, as he sounded like he was struggling to read out badly written nonsense, which made sense but never makes pleasant hearing.
The sisters repeatedly got a glimpse of the future ahead of them with the little bits of mean things their younger brother arbitrarily does. They debated about ways to curtail his present excesses but there was always that looming reality that hung unseeingly just over the horizon, a burst of reality that assured of the piercing insight of truth in the form of a rising tiny star son that acts like the rising sun.
Everything promised the girls a lifetime of being permanently subordinates to their only brother. The three other girls took it in their strides but Laraba wasn’t done with fighting for her prominence yet. The four sisters would spend their hard gotten time away from their daily chores, to have prolonged chats about the very consequential matter of handling their brother’s excesses. And as he grew older before their eyes, they discussed his future dominance over them. They couldn’t revolt out of respect for their parents, but that only enabled him still.
The sister couldn’t come to a clear cut agreement on how best to handle him discreetly. They tried to avoid doing the numerous unbecoming things they needed to do, choosing not to soil their hands and conscience as they trash out the grey areas they never seem to conclude on. The sisters knew they need to be firm in their resolve but some of the girls actually believed their sole male sibling is messianic, like their parents ardently do. Laraba certainly didn’t, she was instead enraged that her sisters weren’t on the same wave length as she is.
Each time Laraba tries to emphasize her grievance with this blatant regime of inequality they live out, the sisters end up with heated quarrels about a dispute they all actually do believe is stacked against them. Soon she got tired of trying to win over her sisters and assessed the precarious situation on her own. She has had her fill and aim to end their kid brother’s relished humanized God-ship status.
He pretentiously appears and acts a lot frailer than he looks or feels. He became increasingly snobbish, making his many demands known to every one of them in the rudest way possible for a child, a mere six year old. Even the parents were not spared the starkness of his disrespectful excesses. But obviously because the parents were quite tolerant of him in the presumptuous pretext that they only just love him and not worship him, they condoned him needlessly.
The two older sisters grew a lot less preoccupied with their parents’ obsessive affection towards their youngest sibling. But they still limited their expressed disparity, as they were secretly quite vocal about their displeasure. All the sisters equivalently loathe their brother’s ways but their main concerns were still unclear in a fuzzy way, like sight in a dark night. They all cast aspersions they couldn’t defend as they mainly chose to let the uneasy peace reign than tamper with it.
The annoying boy wouldn’t budge from his lofty perch when urged to do so. His refusals were always spiced with the most degrading insults. He repeatedly gets his way since parental rebuke is literally absent or is presented as some form of subtle pampering, scavenged from within the conscience of his parents, empty of the venom it needs but full of contrite promises that indirectly hurt his sisters.