I’m really annoyed with my little brother. It turns out that when he was twelve he could have pulled our family out of the working middle class and into the platinum-dusted stratosphere of worldwide fame and fortune—and he blew it, just because there was no YouTube in 1986.
1986 was when my parents shipped him back to India, in the fond hope that he would stop swearing like a sailor, as one did as a fourth-grader at the international school in Jakarta, and grow some socio-cultural roots. (The success of this idea can be measured against the fact that he bolted the minute he could and has lived in the United States for the last ten years. But that’s neither here nor there.)
Anyway, in 1986 he was enrolled at a nice middle-class school in Delhi. When the teacher was vetting students for their preferred hobbies, my brother picked singing, and after other similarly-interested little boys and girls had sung the national anthem and gentle Hindi ballads, he auditioned with a pre-pubertal rendition of Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing. “I want my MTVeeee…money for nothing/and your chicks for free”, he squeaked, unable to understand why people were clutching their bosoms and dropping to the floor in a dead faint. Family lore has it that he was swiftly reassigned to pottery.
The point is that, back then, he had that regular twelve-year-old boy’s squeaky voice. And he could have gotten himself some guitar lessons and a strange, forward-sweeping helmet of a haircut and rapper friends and some platinum records and one billion screaming ten-year-old female fans and more money than he knew what to do with even after giving the rest of us lots; but he didn’t. He just continued to be my kid brother, studied philosophy, got married, had two and eight-ninths children, and left us all struggling to pay our bills like everyone else. Some people have no consideration.
All this bitterness has come welling up since a few days ago, when I was driving somewhere with the radio on and listening to a very silly song called Baby. I listened to the breathy little-girl voice singing just about on key, and thought yes, my brother could have been this phenomenon known as Justin Bieber. I would at least have had a gold radio.
What do you mean, you’ve never heard of Justin Bieber? Oh, perhaps you’re over fifteen. He’s a child from Canada—discovered when he was thirteen, and now sixteen—whose voice hasn’t broken and who sings squeaky songs of love to throngs of pre-pubertal girls who hold up forests of digital cameras to record his every move while swaying and shrieking. He’s now the most searched-for celebrity on Google, has to have a bodyguard to keep his lovelorn fans at bay, and has to be coached, by men whose voices have broken, on how to deal with outrageous fame attained before your own pair have dropped.
Bieber’s mother raised him by herself in Ontario. She put up a YouTube video of him singing in a local competition, followed up with more videos that swept various tiny, wired children off their feet, and pretty soon there the two of them were, drowning in cash up to his really very weird forward-sweeping haircut. A google search for the little whipper-snapper yields 110 million results, So what if a bunch of people hate him and his music and want him to disappear into the black hole known as North Korea? At least his family will never have to work again.
So If I’m sitting here having to earn my keep, it’s all my brother’s fault. I hope he’s sorry.