Rituals - The Forever Bond
by Namrata Gulati
“It snowed last year too, I made a snowman, my brother knocked it down, I knocked my brother down, and then
we had tea.” – Dylan Thomas
My school-going cousins, Ajjitesh (9) and Alisha (14) are siblings who fight over the smallest of things ranging from a rubber to a particular dining chair. Just as every brother and sister do. Shares their mother, “When we were on our way to Germany, they started arguing for the window seat in the plane.” Often, Ajjitesh (or Ajju as he is fondly called by Alisha) teases his sister by calling her weird names, which never fails to get a raise out of her. Once I asked Alisha, “What do you think about Ajju?” She replied, “Ajju! He is really irritating.” “How do you feel about him?” I asked, and to my surprise, she was quick to reply, “I love him a lot and cannot do without him.” I know she was honest because her brother was not around. This is what makes the brother-sister bond so unique and genuine. They may fight, argue and say nasty things to each other, but nothing in the world can separate them. They may not express their love to each other in words but their gestures say it all.
Alisha and Ajjitesh tie the Rakhi knot This is borne out in the relationship between yet another pair of my cousins, Saagar and Radhika. Reminisces Radhika, “As a kid, I always thought bhaiyya did not care for me but I was really surprised when he went to Nepal on a school trip, and brought back a teddy bear for me. I was the only one he brought something for. That is when I realised that I was extremely special to him.”
The festival of Raksha Bandhan “Our brothers and sisters are there with us from the dawn of our personal stories to the inevitable dusk.” – Susan Scarf Merrell
The festival of Raksha Bandhan is celebrated in the month of August on the day of the full moon. This is the day when brother and sister forget their differences and come together to celebrate their love, and the bond of amity and unison. The sister ties a rakhi on her brother’s wrist and prays for his well-being, while the brother gives her gifts as a token of affection.Says my dad, “Every time I look at the rakhi on my wrist, I am reminded of how much my sister loves me and wants me to be protected. That in turn reminds me of the duties and responsibilities I myself have towards her. Even at our age, we argue and differ on various issues, but our love endures. Thankfully, our culture has given an opportunity to not only make us brothers realise the love our sisters have for us, but also to remember to put them before ourselves.”
According to the Mahabharata, Yudhishthira asked Lord Krishna how he could safeguard himself against evil. Lord Krishna advised him to observe the Raksha ceremony and narrated the story of Indra to him. The demon king Daitya Raja challenged Indra to a fight. Indra sought the advice of Brihaspati, the guru of the gods. The guru told him to take on the demon on the auspicious moment of Shravana Poornima. On that day, Shachee Devi tied a rakhi around her husband Indra’s wrist. Indra then advanced against the Daitya and defeated him. It is strongly believed that the main reason behind Indra’s victory was the rakhi around his wrist.
That is how Raksha Bandhan came into being according to Hindu mythology, and has transcended into the modern age acquiring new and modified customs within itself. The oldest reference to rakhi goes back to 300 BC. The great conqueror King Alexander was shaken by the fury of the Indian King Puru. Upset by this, Alexander’s wife, who was aware of the festival of rakhi, approached King Puru who accepted her as his sister. King Puru refrained from fighting Alexander in the war.Similarly, Emperor Humayun rushed with his troops immediately when Rani Karnawati, the widowed queen of the king of Chittor sent a rakhi to him in a plea to protect Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat from invasion.
Stories like these have established that the love a brother and sister share transcends all barriers of religion and nationality.
A truly beautiful bond
“To the outside world, we all grow old but not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family grief and joys. We live outside the touch of time.” – Clara Ortega
It was the first time that my cousin Saagar was not there on Raksha Bandhan. Radhika tearfully confided in me, “I wish bhaiyya were here. When he is with me, I don’t even want to see his face but now it really hurts that he is not around.” It was hard to imagine this emotionally strong girl buckling under the absence of Saagar, of all people. On the eve of the occasion, I spoke to Saagar on the phone. I could sense from his voice that he was missing both Radhika and me immensely. Two days later, Radhika took a flight to Bangalore to spend just three hours with him. She recollects, “I remember the time when bhaiyya had to catch a flight to Jaipur early in the morning. We both were sad that we would not be able to spend time together for long. We could hardly fall asleep. It was late at night and we hugged and cried hard.” Suddenly, Saagar entered. An emotional Radhika left the room trying to hide her tears. “Thank God!” exclaimed Saagar, “I’ll have the entire room to myself when she goes.” I asked him what was the best thing Radhika had ever done for him? Pat came the reply, “By being born she has made me really contented.”
Rahul Mehta, 27, an assistant manager in a sharebroker firm, reveals, “Monica and I still fight like crazy. But I could never think that I would cry the most on her wedding night.” He continues, “I remember I used to tear the greeting cards she would get from her friends because of my anger against her. When I went to Philippines, she sent me one and scribbled her feelings on them. I have preserved that card and can never even think of tearing any card ever again.”
I asked my mother what Rakhi meant to her and she was candid, “Although Rakhi is important it does not mean that you pray for the well-being of your brother only on that day. For me, it is just another day when I pray for my brother. Even if I do not do that, he is very much aware that I am always there for him.” My aunt (my father’s sister) recalls, “I can never forget the day when I was packing my bags as I was about to get married. He started howling, because he knew that he would not be able to see me every day.” “Any message you would like to give your brother?” I asked her. “Yes,” she answered, “Even though I have never said it to him, I want to let him know that he is still my best friend. Actually, he is more than that. A best friend may still leave your side when things go wrong.”
I am truly blessed to have an elder sister. However, often I imagine how it would have been to have a brother as well; someone who would love me for who I am and stand by me through thick and thin; somebody with whom I could share my darkest secrets, without fear of being judged. The following words came to my mind:“I think people who have a brother or sister do not realise how lucky they are. Sure, they fight a lot, but they know that there is always somebody there, somebody that is family.” – Trey Parker & Matt Stone
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