I am Janhavi Gadgil, Malhar’s elder sister. He has been the Sun of my universe ever since I was seven years old and every goal and aim of mine has revolved around him and his future since then. Voluntarily, mind you!! My parents tell me every day, “We want you to live your life to the fullest, and not be tied down by responsibility.” But I say to them- “Aai and Baba, a house without him is not a home!!” It will remain just a place with four walls and a roof. When I was young, I may not have really understood what Down’s syndrome meant. I just knew that my little brother was different from other babies. Being a believer in science, I never really thought of something being influenced by Gods, but as Malhar grew up into a cute, little innocent bundle of joy, I learnt to cherish every little milestone of his, and realized that he really was a blessing from the Gods.
Having Malhar in my daily life is my normal. In fact, when he isn’t in the house, or I am away from a few days, everything thing I do, seems like its missing a piece. He is like every other little brother would be, playing pranks and pulling pigtails to irritate me. He never misses an opportunity to trouble me, whether we are playing football or carrom, whether both of us study together or while watching something on TV. We fight like any other sibling pair does and we get along like anything. During lockdown, we spent some really good time together, when I helped him make his stationary products. Watching him learn new things has always been a favourite time of mine. Even then, he does not hesitate one bit to trouble me, and though I get mad at him, it is only momentary as his devilish laughter makes me burst into giggles soon after!
The day of his Munja/ thread ceremony is one of the best memories with him, knowing fully well that he was the center of all attention, at his best behavior, playing to the cameras, impressing the guests like never before, chanting Gayatri Mantra and other prayers and winning all over at once!
This year was the first time since his open-heart surgery as a baby that I have lived away from him for a really long time. He is a strong little fighter. In the month of May 2021, my brother caught a mild fever, and we got ourselves tested. That night Malhar tested positive and a pit of dread settled in my stomach. I watched my brother, go from his usual bubbly personality who loved to dance, play, sing, tease and trouble me, to a shell of a boy, so tired and exhausted. He and my mother then got admitted soon, and the house was quiet for the next 6 days. I drowned myself in my university assignments and essays, and counted days for him to come home. If it would have been possible, I would have kept him on video call all day, every day.
And then finally 6 days later, they came home. On 27th May their quarantine ended and he could finally play again. He was so happy to play with his drum set, his cars, watch TV in the hall with everyone. All I could think of when I saw him was, “He is so strong, my baby brother”. It has been almost 4 months now since the whole Covid fiasco hit our family, and he is back to his bubbly mischievous self. The whole ordeal just confirmed my thoughts of so many years. Home is where he is, my happiness lies with him and that without him I would be nothing. Raksha Bandhan has always been a festival where the brother promises to protect his sister. But I promise you Malhar, I will protect you for the rest of our life together!