"But why can't I fill Ashu's name here?" I asked holding the pen. My parents exchanged a blank look between them.
Maybe none of them had thought that filling up the personal details in the school diary would turn out to be so much of a hassle.
"Because, he's not your real brother," my mom said calmly.
"B-b-but he is my brother..."
"Yes, he is. But he's your first cousin."
"So he's not my brother?"
"Yes, he is. But he's not your real brother."
"Real as in?"
"Real as in he's your aunt's son. He's my real sister's son. Which makes him your cousin," my mom concluded.
Of course back then, the 8-year-old me didn't understand much.
Real brother? Real sister? Aren't all of them supposed to be real?
"What about Parul?" I asked.
All the other columns in my school diary had been filled. And I was determined to not leave the "Any brothers/sisters" section empty.
"She's Ashu's real sister. So that makes her your cousin as well," my dad said looking up from his newspaper.
'An only child' is not just a biological reality. It's an unwanted entitlement. One that evokes sympathy and brickbats in equal measure.
"Oh you're an only child? Must've been really lonely growing up."
"Yeh iklaute bacche bahut bigde hue hote hain."
"Poor guy! So who did you confide your secrets in?"
"I've heard that single kids grow up to be very selfish. Is it true?"
Yes, I was an only child.
But I wasn't a lonely child.
All thanks to the awesome cousins I had.
Biologically speaking, 'cousin' means a child of one's uncle or aunt.
Realistically speaking, a cousin happens to be your best friend/confidante who also happens to stay with your extended family.
An age gap factor with one's sibling might be an issue when it comes to bonding, but thankfully for me, that was never an issue with any of my cousins.
The age gap between me and my eldest cousin is 8 years. And yet, he was responsible for creating some of my most favourite childhood memories.
While most of my friends were still trying to discuss drinking with their siblings, my cousin had already imparted his daaru ka gyaan to me.
I personally believe that it's easier to discuss your life's issues with your cousins than with your siblings.
Be it your relationship status, your first puff, your first drink or your first heartbreak; it's easier talking about it to a cousin simply because even though they're related to you, they aren't as overprotective or overbearing as your siblings.
The fear of getting judged or your parents knowing your secret is minimal when it comes to your cousins.
Even though they're bound to you by blood, even though they might've grown up with you, they still give you a friend's perspective.
They give you that space your sibling might deny you at times.
Which makes it easier to bond with them. I know it, because my cousins are my best friends. Between us, we can discuss that one issue siblings might find difficult to discuss, i.e. parents.
Yes, parental pressure is one thing which is easiest discussing with your cousins.
God couldn't be everywhere, that's why He created mothers. Similarly, best friends couldn't be everywhere, hence we have cousins.