Monday, August 27, 2007

Updating Raksha Bandhan

Raksha Bandhan is almost here. The day that celebrates the love between a brother and sister. I am inundated with offers of sending online rakhis to my brother in Mumbai. Silver rakhis. Rakis with pearls. Rakhi with free Tilak, Roli and Chawal. Rakhis with pooja thalis. Rakhis with with a box of shuddh-desi-ghee-soan-papdi. Rakhi with cards. Rakhi with flowers. Rakhi sets. Rakhi bracelets. Auspicious Rakhis (aren't they all supposed to be?) All from about $1.20-$30. And of course the online, free Rakhi e-cards. No tying required. This is what says about Raksha Bandhan

The chaste bond of love between a brother and a sister is one of the deepest and noblest of human emotions. 'Raksha Bandhan' or 'Rakhi' is a special occasion to celebrate this emotional bonding by tying a holy thread around the wrist. This thread, which pulsates with sisterly love and sublime sentiments, is rightly called the 'Rakhi'. It means 'a bond of protection', and Raksha Bandhan signifies that the strong must protect the weak from all that's evil. [emphasis mine]

Really? I am sure the custom/ritual made a lot of sense 500 years ago, but why are we still celebrating it? It is just so last-millennia. "But what is the harm?" I am asked when I bring it up. "It's just a festival. We are not backward and uneducated. We will send our girls to colleges just like our boys. They should stand on their own two feet." Isn't that sending mixed messages? Or am I the only one who is missing something here?

Don't brothers take care of brothers, and sisters take care of sisters, and sisters take care of brothers? This custom probably made sense at a time when women had no where to turn to if their husbands and fathers died. But definitely not so today. I am sure there are plenty of sisters out there who would lend (or even just give) money to their brothers and sisters for their education, or a down payment on their new house/car/business or knock some sense into their heads should they get into trouble or help them land a job of their dreams. I am sure there are plenty of sisters who would take in their brother's/sister's children should an emergency arise. Why are we not celebrating this? There are sisters who are looking out for their brothers and sisters alike and there are brothers who are looking out for their brothers. What is so special with the brother-sister bond that cannot be had with a sister-sister bond or a brother-brother bond? This is obviously hypocritical especially among the forward thinking set.

And let us not forget the other end of the spectrum: the brothers who kill their sisters for honor. I am sure growing up, these sisters lovingly tied Rakhis to their brothers arms. Did the brothers do good on their promise? Hell, no. Rakhi has become a mere rhetoric as most rituals tend to be over time.

Like old habits, old rituals die hard. I remember a college friend who would dutifully make a trip to our home every year on Raksha Bandhan to tie a Rakhi to my kid brother. She only had a sister and obviously that would not do. Not surprisingly, she and my kid brother are not in touch at all, she is my friend not his, but she talks to her sister almost daily, offering and receiving support and advice, despite the fact that there is half a globe between them.

So, let's celebrate an updated version of Raksha Bandhan this year by tying Rakhis to brothers and sisters alike. Celebrate the bond of sibling-ship that is equal. So let brothers tie a Rakhi to brothers and sisters to sisters and brothers to sisters and sisters to brothers. Let them make a promise that they will look out for each other. And then, let us, the good parents that we are, get on with our jobs of parenting and make sure the darned kids make good on that promise.


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DotMom said...

It's a small agency based in VA. I don't feel comfortable giving out the number on a public forum. Do email me at todotmom at gmail dot com and I will be happy to share.

Tharini said...

That was a very interesting take on it. I've never stopped to think abt Rakhi much because we don't follow the custom...but its such a generous thought to extend this to celebrating both sets of siblings in our lives. I have one of each...bro and sis....and this means all the more to me as a result. Liked our thought process v. much.

Viren said...

As usual Raksha Bandahn is coming soon. This festival is also known as Rakhi. In modern time this festival celebrate in own way. Sister who lives far away from her brother and saying other word who can not reach their brother on this sacred festival, send online rakhi to india to their brother and send return rakhi gifts to india to their loved one.