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I had turned the entire house upside down in a futile attempt to find a glue bottle to seal the envelope which harbored rakhis for my brother. I was already late in posting them and had almost lost my mind carrying out the frantic search. My elder daughter who is a little over seven years came running with a glue tube from her school bag and I finally closed the envelope and kept it on the dining table so that my hubby could post it the next morning on his way to office.
Let me refer to my elder one as “A” and younger one as “M”. Although “A” is completely aware of what raksha bandhan is as she has been watching me post rakhis every year and has also been a part of rakhi celebration in her school, still she has this incessant habit of questioning almost whatever she sees and whatever I do. So, here she was again ushering a whole bunch of questions at me.
“A”- Mommy, what are you doing?
Me- I am sending rakhis to my brother.
“A”- Why are you doing that?
Me- So that he can tie them on his wrists.
“A”- Why will mamoo( is what she calls him) tie them on his wrists?
Me- He is my brother and he promises to be with me in every situation. Rakhi is just a way of showing that he will always take care of me.
“A”- Oh! Ok mumma, but when he visited us last time you were taking care of him so he should also send you a rakhi.
Me- Yes, I also take care of him but he doesn’t send me a rakhi because since our childhood I have been tying rakhi to him.
“A”- Oh, so you mean that basically both of you take care of each other but it is only you who sends him a rakhi. Doesn’t sound fair ma!
Me- Yes you are right. From next time, I will ask him to send me a rakhi too.
“A”- Mumma, have you bought rakhis for my cousin brothers too.
Me- Yes, I have.
“A”- Mumma, I want two extra rakhis.
Me- Why do you want two extra ones?
“A”- One that I will tie to “M” and the other “M” will tie to me.
Me – Okay beta. How did this idea come to you?
“A” – Look mumma, we both sisters play with each other and share our things. I take care of “M” sometimes when you go to the grocery store. “M” always asks about me when she wakes up. So, all this means that we care about each other so we can tie rakhis to each other. Last year “M” was too small, she didn’t talk or understand what I said but now that she is a little grown up and she understands what I say and I know that she loves me and I love her so we’ll tie rakhis. Simple as that mumma.
This conversation left me thinking about my childhood when we tied rakhis to our brothers while some of my friends who did not have brothers used to be so gloomy on this day. Festivals were synonymous with joy, celebration and gifts to us but the very same festivals were also the cause of sadness for some others. Just like most roles have been stereotyped since ages, even our festivals have been deeply rooted in gender stereotyping. Females are not supposed to perform most of the rituals as the society doesn’t consider them to fit the bill. Gone are the days when only the brothers vowed to take care of their sisters. Even sisters have been looking out for each other but they have never been acknowledged the way men have been. If a day is designated to celebrate sibling love then why not free it from the clutches of gender. If we are following an age old tradition wherein a sister ties a band to a brother and he promises to always take care of her, then it is high time we modify this tradition. I have two daughters and they will be with each other through thick and thin. They truly deserve to celebrate this festival with as equal fervor as others and if rakhi is synonymous with a promise of care and protection then they will always tie rakhis to each other.