Last Thursday was the Raakhi festival, which is a celebration of the sister-brother bond. This Hindu festival is also called Raksha Bandhan (the bond of protection) or Raakhi Poornima (the full moon day of Raakhi). Raakhi is a thread similar to a friendship band that a sister ties on her brother’s wrist on this day. The brother gives a gift to his sister and it’s one of those annual rituals that I kept up with since my childhood and that’s not necessarily because of the gifts!
Sisters are supposed to pray for their brothers on this day and the brothers are supposed to protect their sisters. I don’t know what the brother is supposed to protect the sister from, but that’s the independent woman in me talking. The protection part is something I have steadfastly protested, all the while enjoying the special feeling of togetherness and belonging when I send Raakhi to the two special men in my life. The interesting part was that during our childhood days, they would go around the neighborhood on that day and gather up a few more Raakhis on their hand as trophies and come back home and ask my mom for ‘gift ideas’ for these neighborhood ‘sisters’! “This is Anita. This one is from Sindhu…..” On and on. “Gosh! Do you guys know that they are really not your sisters? I am your only sister”. “I know. But she says I am soooo protective (and soooo this and soooo that). I am like a brother to her.” “Goodness! You guys are such babies. You will realize that they are not your sisters when you grow up. See – I don’t tie a Raakhi to other guys. You are the only brothers I have.” Needless to say, that line of reasoning never cut it.
In college, Raakhi took on an additional, entirely different flavor. As most of us came from conservative families and dating wasn’t really accepted socially, couples would declare themselves Raakhi brothers and sisters and a large number of them would end up being married after a few years!!
Raksha Bandhan has a lot of history and traditional significance, but Raakhi for me has really become a day of celebrating the only siblings I have. Unlike parents, children or friends, they are the best connection to your past, and there is a strong chance they’ll remain best friends for the rest of your life.