Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My brother Iilya

I never mention my brother by name, but today I will. He is Iilya - the Iilya Kuryakin of Man From U.N.C.L.E. The blonde one, the questionable one... the one who was once a Soviet. The one of whom it is said "No one knows what Illya Kuryakin does when he goes home at night." 

Yep, that is my brother. Or was - when he was 15.

We were in the States on leave. We actually were living in India. While on leave, my brother (Iilya) and I got to see American TV. WOW! I was taken away by CHIPS; my brother Iilya saw himself on the Man from U.N.C.L.E.  And, when it was time to return to India, my brother WAS Iilya.

My brother Iilya actually looked more live Napolean Solo - a lean, dark hair american. But his personality was portrayed as Iilya. A bit mysterious... ambiguous... a master of disguises. But TV Iilya was said to have a degree from the Sorbonne and PhD in quantum mechanics from Cambridge. My brother Iilya was in the 10th grade, a straight D- student.

When it came the week to return to India from leave, my father got word that his 'company' needed more gammaglobulin serum brought. There was a shortage of 'GG' in India, and the 'company' families were unable to get their semi-annual shots. Now, GG is not a pleasant shot to get. We were innoculated every 6 months, like clockwork. The 'company' doctor would inform Father at work that it was our family's day. We'd all troop over to the Dr. Kishore's office... one by one we'd be called into his examining room. Dr. Kishore would remind us that this shot went into our posterior, it would hurt for a bit, but we'd be fine in 15 minutes. He would not need to remind us that the serum is like Karo syrup, that the syringe holds a quart of serum, and that the needle would scrape the room's ceiling when he'd walk in. Those minor details we remembered each and every time.

So, back to to Iilya. My father gets the call - bring some GG serum back with you. It will have to be refrigerated the whole trip. It will have to be smuggled through India's customs. It will have to NEVER appear as luggage or anything associated with us. It would have to invisible, but it HAS to arrive. Don't bother showing up if you don't have the serum.

That supper, Father looked around the dinner table and decided Iilya was his guy. Was Iilya up to the task of smuggling in GG serum - the equivalent in gold in the India's government's eyes?

Not only was our Iilya up to the task, he made it into the best adventure of our vacation!
First, Iilya borrowed Grampa's fedora for the trip.
And then he unpacked his winter tweet sport coat.
And a tie.
And a white shirt.
And pressed slacks.
To go with his dress socks and loafers.

Our trip to India took 4 days of flying, layovers, delays.
Iilya played the part to perfection. He could turn his charm on to the stewardesses and insist his 'diabetes insulin' had to be refrigerated on the airplane. He explained how only once he nearly died because his insulin had not been 'frigerated for a whole day... He explained that he needed to check on it every hour during the flight to be sure it was properly controlled.
In airports, he hunted down little generated run coolers for the serum. Again he'd explain that he was just a poor teenager with diabetes who truly needed his insulin cooled... that this box of insulin had to last him for a year in a country without such medicines. In hotels, he would have the front desk clerks show him to their refrigerated pantries where he would be able to place his box. He always had them sign a paper verifying that the temps were controlled, that the box was secure and would not be touched by others. He was a pro. He was Iilya.

When we got to Hong Kong, our layover was to be 4 hours. It turned into 31 hours... sleeping in the concourse chairs and hugging our luggage tightly. A tsunami was invading south Asia Pacific. All we had was each other, our suitcases, Iilya's damn fedora and his treasure of GG serum.

Word came that we could not go much further westward. We could stay put, we could get to Bangkok, or we could return east, to Hawaii. By going to Bangkok, we'd have a better chance of getting on a long distance flight eastward. Father elected Bangkok. Mother elected Hawaii. Iilya wanted to go to the most dangerous of the selections, whatever that would be.

Father won. We went to Bangkok. We continued to sleep in airport chairs until a Qantas airlines had room for us to Delhi. Iilya had spent the past 48 hours pampering his serum... surely he was exhausted. Just one more leg of the trip... maybe.

We got to Delhi. The plane was raided as we deplaned. Raided by my father's colleagues. They collected the serum, shook Iilya's hand, and disappeared into the night.

In six months, we got our message to go to Dr. Kishore's for our GG shot. DAMN. Iilya had done an outstanding job for the company, and everyone was saved until the shortage ended.


The fedora lived on through Europe, Boston and Chicago. Someplace it was lost or thrown away.
The tweed jacket was outgrown in months, as were the shirt, slacks and shoes.

But Iilya still exists in my brother. What a guy!


Anonymous said...

Very funny story - thanks for sharing!

altadenahiker said...

"He would not need to remind us that the serum is like Karo syrup, that the syringe holds a quart of serum, and that the needle would scrape the room's ceiling when he'd walk in. Those minor details we remembered each and every time."

Quite a picture! Funny and painful at the same time.

I'll bet as the little sister you followed big brother everywhere.

BANJO52 said...

Good story, Brenda. And I remember the TV show well. It seemed brainy and exotic to me, more so than most shoot-em-ups, along with The Avengers.

ANd what an exotic youth you had, with and without a teen-spy brother.

Joanne Casey said...

Wow, sounds exciting. We only got to beat each other with sticks for fun.

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

This is such a great story, Brenda.. I was glued to the screen!

Granny J said...

What an excellent brother to own! And a great story, too.

Nishant said...

that the needle would scrape the room's ceiling when he'd walk in.

Work from home India