On Raksha bandhan

Prateek Buch
20-08-2019

Brothers, sisters, let us celebrate the bonds that tie us together.

If I could wave a wand and ensure one of the (many!) Hindu festivals was more widely celebrated, it probably wouldn’t be Diwali — the celebration of good over evil, light over dark, marked with sweets, lamps and fireworks. Neither would it be Janmashthami, the birth of Lord Krishna, nor Navaratri— nine nights of quasi-hedonistic music and dance giving thanks to maternal power. These festivals are already pretty well-known, and have parallels in many Western traditions.

No, it would be rakhsha bandhan, a homely, humble ritual marking the unique bond between brothers and sisters. It’s today, and will be celebrated by millions across the world — I’d like you to join in, here’s why.

“Girl tying Rakhi on a boy!!” by Joe Athialy is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

As per tradition, sisters tie a bracelet on their brothers’ wrist, offering protection in return for a gift. Nowadays the tying of bracelets — rakhi — is often reciprocated from brother to sister, and the gift is a small amount of cash. I’m happy to stand corrected, but I don’t know of any other cultural moment that marks the love between siblings in this way.

Why am I thinking about this small gesture? Perhaps it’s because my son gets to adorn the wrist of a new cousin sister this year, or perhaps it’s because I look around at turmoil and division throughout the world and wonder if a little of the spirit of raksha bandhan might heal us somewhat…

Growing up without a sister, and thousands of miles away from cousins, I rarely got the chance to tie a rakhi in person. But whenever I did, or simply by giving (when I remembered!) and receiving letters and a bracelet in the post, I was reminded of a value that I think we can all do well to recall: that members of the opposite sex are our brothers and sisters to be respected, not things of desire to be objectified or worse, abused. We were taught to tie rakhi on our female friends too, making them our sisters and protectors rather than sexual trophies to be won.

Would there be less hatred, less sexual abuse, less division if we all recalled this brother-sister bond more often? Hard to say —much of India is notorious for the lowly status of women and sectarian tension, after all. But I appreciated growing up seeing female friends and colleagues as sisters, and even male associates as brothers rather than rivals.

I can’t help but think — the bonds of humanity that tie us together are stronger than the tides of tension that move us apart. Or at least they ought to be.

So why not reach across the desk to a colleague, and call them your brother or sister for the day. Knock on your neighbour’s door and see how they are. Call that friend you’ve been meaning to chat to for ages, check in on them. We are, after all, a brother or sister to someone…

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / Features