Happy Rakhi.

So well, Rakhi is happy. And happy Rakhi as well everyone. It's been ages since I've been with my brother on the festival. Most times I've forgotten to send him a rakhi, most times he has been upset; and yet this year, I miss him the most.

Over the years, the ethos of rakhsha bandhan (literally, the tie that protects) has been changing. And that Rakhi's not the only one. From a festival that celebrates the brother-sister relationship, it's morphed into something bizarre.

Rakhi is celebrated by a sister tying a holy thread around her brother's(s) wrist and the latter vowing to 'protect' her. If the sister is older, it is she who 'protects' the brother. Personally, I think it's one of the few Indian festivals that actually treats women as empowered beings. In what other festival/celebration/ritual in India do you have the man looking for protection from the woman? (For the origins of the festival, click here)

When we were children, the festival meant a really gaudy, the biggest possible, the most showy rakhi -- I don't mean Sawant -- for him and my favourite cassette for me. To avoid any fights on who got the better gift, Ma would buy us both a Cadbury Dairy Milk; it was a great equaliser. As I grew older -- I'm five years older to him -- I wanted cash instead of the 'gifts'. Ma wouldn't have any of it since that would have meant giving my bro cash as well, he was too young for it.

In school -- around 11-12 years-old-- boys used to dread this festival. No one wanted his crush to tie a rakhi on his wrist and over a single woven thread, change his status from possible suitor to adopted brother. While I've witnessed boys running away when a rather pretty girl approached them with a rakhi; I unfortunately, seemed to be everyone's favourite choice for an adopted 'sister'. Perhaps it was because I was good at academics, perhaps the wanting-to-be-adopted brothers thought I'd do their homework. Hah.

Yet, I didn't have as many 'rakhi brothers' in school as the other girls did. The reason was my dad. Pa firmly believed and firmly forbade me from adopting any new brothers because, "I know how these boys think; they try to get closer by 'becoming' brothers. You don't need anymore brothers." As I grew older I realised Pa was bloody right.

became a convenient way of getting closer to the girl you liked. So boys and the object(s) of their desire would 'become' brother-sister, tied by a flimsy thread; she would expect a 'gift' from him and he would have wet dreams at night. Despite Pa's dire warnings, nothing much changed for me though. Boys still wanted to be my 'brother' -- now at 17 -- though this time it wasn't for academics alone. My chest size had changed.

I moved out of home at 19 and since then, Bhai and me have been together on rakhi only once or twice. I'm not too sure. While my cousin sister remembered to post him a rakhi, I forgot. Always. I stopped believing in rakhi...along with a lot of things. It all came down to either "It's all mythology" or "Hah, I know what s/he is thinking."

I've just sent a rakhi e-card to Bhai. Perhaps distance makes the heart grow fonder towards 'Indian culture' and ties that bind. It was a shocking experience. While I was expecting rakhi designs... I was definitely not expecting 'smileys' wearing rakhis...and even a chimpanzee on one card. As I said, rakhi has changed. (Please see this picture--->!)

I sent a rakhi to my brother as I wanted him to know I remembered. (Also because he emailed me two days back saying "Mom says rakhi is on 5th, don't forget). More than that, after a huge amount of struggle, my little brother is finally, slowly, on the path to a happier life. I just wanted him to know I love him and miss him; no matter how much the festival itself has been bastardised and commercialised. Or maybe they are both the same thing. Much like Rakhi Sawant's televised 'engagement' and forthcoming marriage.

PS: For the few fortunates who might not know, the chick in the pic (hah!) is a Bollywood dancer called Rakhi Sawant. Some in the media call her a "sex symbol"; they never specify for whom. Rakhi's been on an Indian reality TV show where she "selects" her husband from a number of aspirants. Apparently there was no cash involved and Rakhi was/is the prize. She got "engaged" on the show a couple of days back and apparently will get married on TV. In Australia, you have Farmer Wants A Wife, where 5-6 Aussie farmers are the catch -- and a million-dollar, all-expenses paid wedding -- and girls compete for their attention, and perhaps their hand. Without being judgemental about either Rakhi or the girls on Farmer, I just wonder... Are we all that lonely and desperate that we're willing to go on air with our courtship(s)?


Kartikey said...

Great fun reading.
I have been a victim of pretty girl tying Rakhi in school until the heavens intervened and in front of everyone, the Rakhi fell from my hand. She offered to tie it back but God's decision was made known to everyone. Even atheists pray to God to escape the Rakhi wrath in school.
As a rule, I would announce beforehand that according to a special Hindu custom, I could not accept Rakhis from any girl.

Raza said...

my friends regularly played this game in which your friend made the girl you like his sister and you get to fool around as much as you like(vice-versa)

Passionate Goof said...

Rakhi in school, that was something. Madness I think. WHO even remembers their brothers/sisters now? But fun while it lasted I guess.

About the show, its all gimmick, publicity, if people care that lil about their lives, what can one possibly say.

Niya Karma said...

I have known Rakhi only as a beautiful Hindu ceremony for families (but maybe that has something to do with the fact I didn't grew up in India). I don't have "real" brothers myself, so me and my sisters tie Rakhi's for all our cousins (bhai's) who don't have sisters. I love Rakhi, it shows one of the most important things in Hindu culture: (appreciating your) family.

It's a shame that people in India don't see it like the Hindus out of India do.

JB said...

@ Niya: Tks for writing in. Where did you get the idea that people in India don't take rakhi as a family festival? They do. But some also misuse it and not necessarily on a national scale!

@ Kartikey: tks mate. Such divine interventions are rare. ;)

@ Ahmad: yeah, guess we all have seen a bit of fraud rakhi.

@ Goofy: I call for a show of hands from those who remember their bhai/behans.

Crap Made said...

i very well remember one rakhi occasion in our school("our" becoz we both went to the same school if u remember)when u along wd another pretty girl, ur supposedly best friend were after me for adopting a brother..i hope the incident is afresh in ur memory, while writing this piece.

Passionate Goof said...

Surprisingly, would you believe it, i bumped into one of my 'rakhi brothers' from school in a mall just yesterday. Just imagine, in this foreign land, and just a few days after Rakhi. strange na!

Sankoobaba said...

""Ma would buy us both a Cadbury Dairy Milk; it was a great equaliser.""

same thing I had experienced...

keep blogging..

and yeah "fame" pays.. so they all are desperate for fame..

Vipul Grover said...

luvd this post.. a nice cocktail of the two rakhis..
Stdying in all-boys missionary school, nvr hd tht rakhi pblm in school:)
as 4 rakhi, a sex symbol, evn i wndr for whom???
Following u:)

JB said...

@ Vipul : thankyou Vipul. :) And how was the experience of studying in an all boys' school?:

Vipul Grover said...

pretty gayish indeed ;)

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