In the universe of pain, we hurt family the most. Our privilege of having seen their souls makes it easy for us to tear into them, ruthlessly, often without remorse. We seek solace in our family, know it be our sanctuary, but have no compunction in taking it for granted: we do not think twice before burning our homes down.
We become sensitive to every inflection of voice, every turn of phrase - and then sit back and wonder why would we be so continuously hyper about them who have no reason to hurt us?
And there lies the irony of family ties: "we will take you for granted but not have you treat me the same way."
Who amongst us is not haunted by the questions of who is mother's favorite, of why the phone call first went to younger brother, of why he gets away for all his crimes. In the familial manure, grow our first intimations of jealousy, privilege, discrimination, hurt. And the shadows stay inside. And lengthen outside us in those inflection points when we lose our heads and our worlds seem to be collapsing around us.
But in between are the good times. When you can be yourself. And be given space for being yourself. To learn to be touchy -feel with your mum, to understand the quiddities of your dad, and to discover - often with shocking results - that they are also human, and it's not strengths but frailties which make the man.
Far, far away from home, you miss your mother's admonishments, close to her you hear only the stentorian tone. You grow, look back and realize that love for siblings can never be equal: it's not a mother taking sides, but one human being being more comfortable with another - and struggling with the choice.
Our capacity to give pain is only matched with our ability to carry it. But when there is a cloudburst, dams burst and there is a deluge. There is a purge, there is remission, there is contrition, there is realization. There are also hurts.
And the facade of a 'happy family' melts away and the hypocrisies are there for all to see. And for people who would have sworn that they would have died for each other, the stark reality stands in front of them - they could very well have killed each other.
Love only has victims. Family only has survivors.