He was the second child, unobtrusive in every way. For the short time while he had been the last child, he was important. But then came along another to take his place and so gone were the days of hanging onto his mother’s skirts. He also had to relinquish his seat on his father’s shoulders. He slipped quietly into oblivion, remembered only when he did something exceptional or terribly bad.
Sometimes he felt like he could disappear and no one would notice. The elder one had once been his playmate but then she grew up and made giggling friends to take his place. The baby wasn’t old enough to be much of a playmate but at least he was better company than their sister.
One day, an old relative came to visit. Like others before him, the man paid more attention to the others than to the second child. Unlike the other relatives that came and went, the man stayed on a bit longer. The second child liked him very much despite the fact that he didn’t pay him the attention he craved. The man would go out all day and come back with sweets for each child. And he told stories! Every evening after every meal, the second child and his siblings would gather round the man and listen as he weaved his tales. And while the baby always fell asleep before the story ended and the first child usually soon turned her attention to the TV, the second child always listened with rapt attention to the very end.
Time passed and the relative went away but the second child never forgot him . He started making up his own stories. As the baby grew older, he fell in love with his elder brother’s tales and hung on to his every word. His parents started to take notice when he won inter-school writing competitions. They sang his praises to all and sundry when he brought home a generator as 2nd prize from one of the competitions.Their interest heightened as he won state competitions. He became the golden child as his first book sold a million copies.
He was awarded the Orange Prize yesterday.
His mother now insists on being called ‘Mama Nobel Laureate’. His father insists he took after his side of the family. His sister has two children and invokes his name to correct them. The baby has a beard now and has taken up writing classes along with the burdens of medical school.
That is when the second child realizes too late, that the spotlight is not very different from obscurity. It is just as demanding to be a hero as it is to dream of being one.