Two Steps Behind: Being a Runner-Up in a World Full of Winners

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Two Steps Behind: Being a Runner-Up in a World Full of Winners

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

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here’s a scene in Shakun Batra’s delightful Kapoor & Sons where warring brothers Rahul and Arjun break the ice, days after their homecoming. Distanced irrevocably by time and secrets, the two brothers share a cup of chai, smoke, and talk instead of going for each other’s throats, listen instead of giving the other silent treatment. It is then that Arjun — whose life has been defined by a childhood spent existing in his perfect elder brother’s shadow — makes a poignant admission.

Arjun reveals how as a kid all that he wanted to find out was that one quality which Rahul possessed but he lacked – which made him inferior to his brother. Rahul was always a winner. At sports, at academics, at everything. Years laters, he went on to become a successful novelist and entrepreneur while Arjun became a bartender moonlighting as a struggling writer. Arjun was never the winner. “I’m the runner-up. Second best,” Arjun declares to Rahul and more importantly to himself.

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