Raksha-Bandhan : Formality or Festival

20 Aug


For those who don’t know what’s it about, Wikipedia describes it as –

Raksha Bandhan, (the bond of protection) or Rakhi is an important Hindu festival primarily observed in IndiaMauritius and Nepal along with all other countries with the presence of Hindus , which celebrates the relationship between brothers (shaurya), cousins and sisters. It is also called Rakhi Purnima. The day is synonymous with Janai Purnima , when Brahmins and Chhettri community change their holy thread annually. in most of India.[1][2] It is also celebrated in some parts of Pakistan.[3] The festival is observed by Hindus and Jains.

Depending on when you celebrate its either on 20th August’13 or 21st August’13. The dates keep changing every year as its based on the Hindu calendar.

Somehow past decade or so this festival is loosing relevance for me as far the spectrum of people who play a part in it.

Make no mistake, I love festivals, not only what we celebrate at home, but also what other cultures have as it brings a festive cheer in the air and that at times we get a way to official bunk work(read Holiday)! Also the other or rather the primary reason why I enjoy festivals is due to food! Delicacies are abound and being a festival we can indulge sinfully in all those mithai and savories. Naming all here will describe me as gluttony so do a Google and you will know!

For me being a Marwari it also engulfs Bua(Father’s sister), Mosi(Mother’s Sister) and of-course many cousins randomly chosen.

For me memories of Rakhi is when we were in New Delhi(1989-1998). My mother used to visit one cousin(Mama for me) of her in the morning, in our tradition, sisters ties Rakhi to the brother/cousin and also to his wife(if married). She used to get a snack homemade which my Mama loved and on the way we used to pick pastries from “Cake Shop of Taj” located in G.K-1 market. Almost every year this was how it is. We used to leave around 11 AM and after having a wonderful lunch at my Mama’s house we used to be back by around 3 PM. After a siesta, we started the preparing for the fantastic family mela which was to happen in the evening and continued well past dinner.

We are a big family. My father has 5 sisters(Bua) and 2 brothers(including him) and my mother has the opposite – 5 brothers(Mama) and 2 sisters(including her). As its destined, none of my own Mama were in Delhi so we used to send them Rakhi by courier, more on this later. But I had 3 Bua(2 own and 1 cousin) in Delhi. Since my sister used to tie rakhi to their sons and daughter-in-laws also, it was quite a lot of fun and frolic on that day. In totality a minimum of 20-25 family members gathered every year on Rakhi in our house. Also I had a few cousins and cousin Bua’s in other cities also, so I have fond remembrance of getting cartons full of Rakhi and gifts!

As in tradition, a sister puts “Tika” on brother’s forehead, ties the rakhi, feeds some sweets(usually brought from her house showing her love, if she has a bahu, she is delegated the duty of keeping this ready!), gifts something and in return the brother hands over a envelope containing his hard-earned money.

For me Rakhi was all about getting gifts! 🙂

I used to get gifts from my sister, my various cousin sisters, my various buas and from my mosi. Since I was not ready for employment my father used to prepare the envelope on my  behalf! So yes I loved Rakhi!

For my various Mama, my mom used to(and still does), prepare small boxes fill with Rakhis and Chocolates and courier it to various places where they are settled in.

I had many cousin brothers and hence days before Rakhi, we used to get gifts for all of them and gift-wrap it! It was a lovely sight on the day of Rakhi. Tray filled with colorful rakhis, colorful gifts, colorful delicacies!

But over time as I grew up, moved cities, Rakhi became less fun and frolic . In 1998 we moved to Chennai and in 2003 my sister got married.  Then I moved out to few places for work and the day of Rakhi became just another day. I still got( and continue to get even today) my Rakhi’s from my sister and cousins regardless of which city I was in. Then in 2005 my sister moved to Lagos(Africa) and due to various reasons its not possible for her to send Rakhi from there, even today. So at a time when my sister used to tie Rakhi on 10-12 cousins, now its barely 1-2 which we send on her behalf.

Then beyond a time, cousin’s grew up, we ventured into our own lives, hardly spoke to each other, so getting a Rakhi from them and making that customary calls once a year was totally insignificant and had no meaning for me. Even the calls which I make are reducing with each year. I hate formalities of ANY kind. If I cannot do something from my heart, I had rather not do it only. The package of gifts which used to accompany Rakhi became smaller and smaller and now its just a few chocolates as shagun (auspicious moment).

So as you can see, personally I never got the actual meaning of Rakhi and hence I never got the real association for it.

For me Rakhi is just between my own sister. Period. We shared our childhood and growing up together and she is only one which has stood besides me and will continue to do so in my good and bad times. There is genuine love and fondness between us which no cousin/bua/mosi can ever match. Tell me if I haven’t been in touch with my cousin sisters 364 days a year, if I have to call just one day, what will we talk about. Nothing, because we don’t have anything to talk, nothing to update as we are not in touch! Some gaps are difficult to fill.

If some of the cousins happen to be in the same city then I would still love to get it tied in person, but other than that sending courier doesn’t mean anything for me. Sorry if any of my cousin/bua/mosi are reading this. Its not personal, just being candid. It’s tradition and I respect it but just as a formality and because I have to!

I mean whats the use if there is no personal emotions attached. Also its more meaningful if some one is there to tie it. This year it will be just me with my parents. So Rakhi is no fun doing it all by ourselves. Prior to this for many years I was away working in different city  for Rakhi and besides ordering a Pizza on the day of Rakhi it had no significance for me!

My point is do something which you will want to do, not just because you have to do!

I am still waiting for that day, when my all my Mama’s are in my city and mom ties to them in-person and looking forward to some day when my own sister ties Rakhi to me in-person! 🙂

On that note, wishing everyone a wonderful Rakhi, thanks to all my Bua/Mosi/Cousin who continue to send Rakhi and Chocolates!



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