The peculiar 'paavan parv' of Rakshabandhan is upon us. I use the word peculiar because it is one the few Indian festivals which seems to have no strong 'storyline'. Unlike a Diwali or Holi or Janamashtami, where the myth or legend behind the celebration is widely known.
Google search of course reveals there are several possible origins. But honestly, while the Hindu pantheon of Gods has several heavyweight couples (Ram-Sita, Shiv-Parvati), there is no such brother-sister example.
Whatever the origin, there was something sweet about this sister-tying- thread-to-brother concept due to which it has not only survived but thrived. Even as other, more 'religious' festivals fall by the wayside.
Raksha, my foot!
When I was really young I thought it was very cool that we sisters got to tie the rakhi and get 'maal' from our brothers.
The situation was qute ridiculous, of course. A hundred rupee note would be slipped into the chubby fingers of my little brother as we both smiled into the camera whipped out on such ceremonial occassions.
As time went by I was bemused and then somewhat angered by this concept of brothers 'protecting' sisters. I mean at that time my brother - five years younger to me - was the one more in need of protection than me!
But you know what, rakhi is too sweet a festival to get worked up about for feminist reasons. So we sisters now gloss over the protection bit and treat it like an extortion ritual.
Speaking of which the commercial possibilities of the festival are being exploited to the fullest. I especially like the creativity behind the 'kid rakhis' - Pokemon rakhis, Tweety rakhis, even Harry Potter rakhis!
And of course, there's the new and promising business of 'send a rakhi through our website'. More and more bhais and behens are living in different cities - even continents. And more and more sisters like me wake up 3 days before the festival and realise "post karna bhool gaye". Business can only grow, I tell you!
Another happy trend is Cadbury's launching its special mooh meetha karne ke liye 'gift boxes'. This spares junta from exchanging boxes of ghee laden mithais which lie uneaten in the fridge and are eventually given away to the bai!
Rakhi can however be extremely trying - for those who have no siblings of the opposite sex. And they are inevitably tempted into creating 'rakhi brothers' and 'rakhi sisters'.
This is thoroughly and completely avoidable. Simply because there are too many examples of girls tying rakhis to the boy next door door for 15 years before realising "Arrey! I'm in love with this guy".
And needless and endless complications follow. No one plots for this to happen but nature has its mysterious ways. You can't ensure you will feel brotherly or sisterly except to a real, blood-related brother or sister.
So what do you do? I say we also promote same-sex rakshabandhan. Sisters tie to sisters, brothers to brothers. Only kids to their (same sex) best friends.
I know this sounds strange, and slightly kinky. But it's way less kinky than eventually marrying your rakhi brother or sister!
Another important function rakhi serves in India: it's a polite way to refuse unwanted attention from a guy.
You don't even have to actually tie the rakhi, just casually mention what day it is and dangle one in front of the guy in question :)
In a manner of speaking - and strictly tongue in cheek - you could call this manouevre: 'Raakshas bandhan'.
Going by that pheku school pledge, "all Indians are my brothers and sisters". Guess I'll be needing to buy more rakhis.... approximately... half a billion?