I was a little sceptical when I laid eyes on it. She is good at the craft and I totally trust her creative prowess. Among others, she had designed one using iron nuts, instead of beads for my brother, an Ironman aspirant. She had also customised one for my Googler son, replicating the exact colours of the company’s logo. But this pink rose with two dainty leaves, although exquisite, seemed to be a tad inappropriate. I called my friend and told her that it is too feminine to be a Rakhi. She said she had deliberately made it ‘girlie’ because it was aimed at girls. “Sisters protect too”, she proclaimed, “ So why shouldn’t sisters get Rakhis?” I asked her if she meant Lumbis, a Rakhi variant that is tied on the Bhabhi’s ( brother’s wife) wrist. “ No, it is not the same” she reiterated, “Because the honour is bestowed on the power the bhabhi wields due to her matrimonial position, not in her individual capacity!”
After the call ended I thought of all those childhood instances when my sisters had protected me by safeguarding my interests. How they shielded wrong moves, swallowed secrets and even lied for me. I recalled how, to expiate my tardiness, my kid sister had painstakingly filled my biology diagrams with millions of dots, to make cytoplasm look like cytoplasm and my elder sister had worked late into the night to complete a geography project. When I was running fever during a crucial examination she sat outside the hall, in case I needed something. There are hundreds of incidents where they kept me and my aspirations safe , even if not in the customary ‘physical’ way. For that matter my sister had once punched a rather tough looking boy in school who had been troubling me. So they qualify in the traditional ‘ bhai’ way too. Now that we have grown up they might not resort to blows, but I know that they will still go out on a limb for me and I for them.
The fact is that in the modern world Raksha isn’t always about brute force. It is about lending support and providing guidance, being sympathetic and sensitive, nurturing dreams and aspirations and fighting for rights and what is right. Being smart, savvy and strong in the face of adversity is needed more than muscle mass. And as my friend suggested any caring sibling irrespective of gender would do the needful and hence deserves a Rakhi.
By making the festival gender neutral, even a brother can acknowledge his sister’s role by tying the sacred thread around her wrist. This is not only about gender equality and women empowerment. It is the need of the hour. In our son crazy nation we need to inculcate this idea that sisters have the strength to safeguard too. That is the only way we can truly propagate the notion “ Beta beti samaan “ .
So why am I harping about this now when Raksha Bandhan is over and thread tying is done for the season? Well, I am trying to plant the seed of an idea, hoping that it will take root. Perhaps by next Rakhi, it will flourish and roses will bloom ready to be tied on your sister’s wrist……….or you could source handcrafted ones from Neera’s Attic.