Friday, November 03, 2006

You Are The Oldest One

South Asian children can tackle a host of challenges that kids from other races probably don't have to go though. Our parents have the unreserved right to physically punish us, especially guys. And girls don't get off easily either. They come attached with a host of rules (most importantly curfew) that we guys fortunately don't have to go through.

Even after all these hurdles, there are some special bonus challenges reserved for the oldest child. After all, he (or she) is the "oldest one".

You Are Supposed To Be An Example.

Growing up my sister and I used to get into a lot of mischief. Unfortunately since I was the older one by just a minuscule distance I used to get most of the blame. Her defense could be limited to 'well bhaiyya was doing it' and that's it - off the hook. Meanwhile, I, on the other hand ...

"How can you do this? You are older, you are supposed to be setting an example! Tsk Tsk!"

Well, no one told me when I was five that playing football in the living room was a strict no-no. How am I supposed to know? Just because I am older, though, I am supposed to have a Book of Knowledge imprinted in me.

You are representing the family.

That's it. Bottom line. First child. Goes off to university. You are representing The Family. And if you go to a small town where there's not enough Bengalis, you are representing The Entire Bangladeshi Community. Never mind if you have not lived in Bangladesh ever. And if you ever go to a small community where there's not too many Muslims, now you are representing the entire Ummah!

Unwanted Attendee At Parties.

If you are the first child your parents are still young as you grow up, so they go out frequently and attend dawats, or parties, more often. Often very boring parties. Since the concept of calling a random person to babysit appears to be a foreign concept amongst desis, such parties always consist of a room of bored pre-teens sulking. And you would be lucky if the other house had a kid. At least then there was someone to talk to.

And now, there are some benefits of being the Oldest One.

First-Hand Toys

Prior to my birth my mom went to her mother's place. After I was born and word was sent to my father, he arrived with a SUITCASE of toys. Your parents practically dote on you. I soon learnt that whenever I wanted a new toy (which was every other week) all I had to do was mention it to my parents along with an example of a recently completed household chore that I tried to do and the toy would be in my room the next day. Legos, Matchbox cars, soldiers, The Zoo Set, I had them all.

The second child - "oh here, have your brother's toys".

Siblings Worship You

Now that I think of it, I was an extremely mischievous child. I always thought up of all neat practical jokes I could play and innovative ways to get into trouble. And my sister became an ally, a guinea pig for all the tricks and plays I thought of. For some reason my siblings took every word of what I said as Gospel truth (unfortunately no more).

For instance in one Indian movie I saw how Anil Kapoor, playing a con, hypnotized this woman by waving his fingers to hand him over her life savings. So importing this idea, I told my sister it was possible to hypnotize mom into letting us have pizza for supper. I would of course, let my sister have the honour of doing the hypnotizing.

Needless to say, results were a bit different and none of us had pizza, or any dinner for that matter, that night.

Your Father Is Called By Your Name (By your mom)

Possibly reversing the trend of many cultures, your father now gets identified by your name. "Oh father of so-and-so". No matter how many siblings you have later, he is still your father.

Books of note: The Pecking Order: Which Siblings Succeed and Why by Dalton Conley

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15 comments:

Safiyyah said...

I must say, you are very weird. But funny nonetheless. :) I'm a first child too, but my parents never mentioned the whole 'setting an example bit'. I like to think that's because I was just a very charming little girl who would do no wrong.

'liya said...

I'm the first child too so I can relate to all :)

I got hit way too many times. Yet 2 children later, my brother hardly gets slapped at all. Terribly unfair but who am I to complain because I got the most toys, clothes, and I have the most photos in the album :D

mezba said...

Safiyyah: Um, thanks? :-) Oh no I was an expert at creating trouble (not getting into trouble - creating it - it's an art you see..lol).

Liya: I think parents practice everything on us first borns, including hitting :-{ Thankfully mine weren't the smacking type (for most).

Em said...

Made me smile... eerie how much truth you have in there!

Neena said...

Been there done that. I guess all families are like that, I learned it via American sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond". They even used this line You are older, you should set an example!

Something I’m just asking out of curiosity.

We see lot of Canadian shoppers in Buffalo, NY and all of them are impressed by low cost items available in US markets. My question is People who do not live near the border survive as my sister is planning to move to Alberta. So is it possible to maintain a decent family on a teacher’s income.

Suroor said...

Spot on! Spot on! Spot on!

I was severely beaten as a child although now, when my own daughter is naughty, I realise I was an angel. Of course, my father would never let me hit her and I know better myself not to do that.

I was an example, leader of the community, ummah, family, and ALL women of the family. I was supossed to be the best. Yet, the younger sisters each did what they wanted to do eventually - all that I never did.

And I didn't get that many toys either nor treated like a demi-goddess :-(

saqi namah said...

Interesting. You should also do one about being the youngest one in the family. :)

sonia said...

hear hear. there are - i might add - being the youngest in my family - severe pressures in being the youngest. especially in an ageist culture - 'respect your elders' and all that business. the lowest in the feeding chain basically. oh yes there are things you get away with - but my elder sisters turn around and forever accuse me of 'getting away with it' 'doing what i want' so on top you have to deal with the resentment of the 'we did it by the book' siblings.

sigh - i guess everyone has a raw deal!

Anonymous said...

Am a first born too,had a sister just 13 months apart.She was let to choose things first,coz she was the youngest,if someone wanted to send you to do a chore or someplace,I had to do it,well,coz I was the oldest and my sister was *small*.I guess,I kinda rebelled when I grew older,but upto this date,she still gets to choose things,and is still considered *small*,unable to do things,,yah,bla bla,btw,am the oldest of 4 and trying to raise 2 young children and trying so hard to pass the *older* sibling thing to my first born child.It was really depressing,if I may add when you have all these pressures to do super well,super good,super super things!!hehehe

Maliha said...

Salamaat,
I am the middle child.

wouldda been the only girl, until my little sis came to snatch me spot.

i am the just the middle child now.

Anonymous said...

This is really funny and really really true, except the beating part - I think my grandparents would have disowned my parents if that ever happened.

However, setting an example bit - oh yeah!

saqi namah said...

To Sonia: I think its also mkaes a difference if you are a boy or a girl.

Mimi said...

i cant believe you found me at samosa's blog mezba,,no fair...hehh..i think i will start commenting on your blogs too..so that you dont feel left out..hahaha...

-mimi

Anonymous said...

Oh man! What the ehck are you talking about?!?! I agree with everything except the part where you're talking about us having to represent teh entire Ummah!?!?

Why would an immigrant family live in a town with no other immigrants?!?!? Especially Bengalis? Bengalis wouldn't dare especially since we can't live without dawats!

Everything else I agree with though. I'm an eldest child too. I think that's the first bit of personal info I gave.

Aisha said...

Except for the last one, that my dad was not called by my name type of thing I can TOTALLY RELATE. Particularly the going to every party with them!!!!! My little brother is 20 and he NEVER GOES. He just hangs out at home or with his friends. For me to even THINK it, at his age, I'd be dead. two seconds flat :)