As a child, I remember the excitement with which we would walk down to the corner store near our home and eagerly sift and sort among the myriad rakhis on display, choosing the best ones to gift to our dear brothers.
It’s August already and that can mean only one thing: the festival season opens here in India. This year, August 29th, is one such colourful event called Raksha Bandhan.
Growing up in a joint family with cousins galore, we were no strangers to the concept of this wonderful festival. As a child, I remember the excitement with which we would walk down to the corner store near our home and eagerly sift and sort among the myriad rakhis on display, choosing the best ones to gift to our dear brothers. I remember picking out the standard colours, earthy in tone and simple in design, while my sister would choose the flamboyant ones with rays emanating from the edges, akin to the sun. The smiles that would light up our brothers’ faces when they saw these tokens of love were quite priceless. That was quickly followed by the ‘gifts’ they were expected to bestow on us sisters, for the festival.
Although we were just a pair of sisters, we had a close-knit bond with our cousins. They treated us like their own, standing up for us in those playground scuffles, rushing to defend us from that stray dog in the local park and even taking our side in arguments where we were clearly wrong.
That’s the beauty of those relationships, though, don’t you agree?
Raksha Bandhan, as the name signifies, refers to a bond of protection that connects a brother to his sister. In today’s context and the prevalent trend of nuclear families, the occasion takes on a special glow, since it would involve the family members getting together on the day, to meet and greet one another. Sweets are exchanged and so are rakhis and gifts. For some great non-traditional gift ideas, read this article.
My daughter is an only child, but I’ve taught her the idea of Rakhi and explained how it strengthens the bond between siblings, citing my own example of being close to my cousins.
Did you know that in some belief systems the idea of rakhi-tying is not restricted to the sibling relationship? Oh no! It can apply to the protection between a wife and a husband, a daughter and her mother and even a teacher and his disciple. In each case, the idea is that the stronger one assures the gentler one of protection.
You may scoff at this seemingly naive belief and ask, ‘How is a thread on the wrist going to protect me from the dangers of the world?’
If we are to teach our children that there is goodness in society, it can start with the simplest of truths. That truth can be as straightforward as the volunteer who donates his time to help the needy or as basic as a child trusting in the protection afforded by a colourful band on the arm. The role of a protector can be played by those closest to us. It can also be assumed by the ones we feel kinship with, in our day to day interactions.
Today, if I manage to teach my daughter that this festival is significant, not for the ritual of tying a rakhi, but for the underlying import – that of protection and love from one whom she holds in regard – then I would consider that the lesson has been learnt well.