Friday, August 19, 2005

The Ya-Ya Sister-Brotherhood

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!

Avoid this
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!

Bhaiyya mere...
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?


  1. u sure have a way with words. for the record, i love my sis, she's really fun. and for the lil time we spend together, we have a lot of fun and have a gr8 time. But i rarely give her any money, or any money of use during raksha bandhan

    why, u may wana knw,cos i dont really believe in rakhi. its one day, she's family to me, more than my parents most times. So a string and some money dont change much.

    its not abt raksha or the lack of it, its just a celebration of a family tie, so let it be that and enjoy it.

  2. Rakhi isnt essentially brother-to-sister. Its considered a good luck charm even if a Mom/granny ties it to her son/grandson and that's for his protection. And no, I'm not going a la Harry Potter here, there's this thing in Mahabharata where (I'm forgetting a li'l bit) Krishna goes in Mouse-form to cut the rakhi on a chap's wrist otherwise Arjuna's arrows were gonna go DUD. Atleast thats what my Granny told me..

    Loved the thing on Rakshas Bandhan, apart from getting away from the monster, one can tie him up for summoning.

    Speaking of Rakhi Brothers and Sisters, there was this Queen who sent a rakhi to Shivaji(??) coz a Mughal chap was attacking her borders and he came to rescue. Its there in the light and sound show at Pune. See, the Rakhi-brother system is very old.

    I've got no real sisters, 2 distant cousins whom I've met less then 10 times in my life, and 2 Rakhi-sisters, one of whom vanished after school. :)

    Speaking of rakhi, I saw a pickup line in one of the forwards : I'd have wished you today, but cant help it,... Incest is taboo in India Sheeeh... the grossness ppl come up with in name of jokes.

    HELP NEEDED: Suggest Something
    Now that you have effictivly thrashed the easy way out of picking up Cadbury chocolates at last moments notice, what do we do ?? :) :)

  3. Very good article.I have been a great fan of yours.Read almost all your articles in rediff.Great to find you in blogger's world !

  4. Rashmi,

    Its not fair to write: "Raksha, my foot!". You might think like that as you were 5 years elder to ur bro..but for others where guys r elder to their sis (like me..10 yrs), Raksha is definitely one of the prominent feelings.

    And this concept of "rakhi sister" is all useless. Why unnecessarily decrease ur options ..?? The real feel is only in the blood relation.

    And yeas, now it remind how we used to laugh abt that pledge in school seems they prepare our minds to get a foreigner girl..& finally lots of desis end in US ..hoping to find a "gori".

    P.S: I used to read your articles on rediff....but never knew you had a blog too...that too the spicy one ;-)

  5. HI Rashmi...This is the first time when i m kinda nt agreeing to wt u have written...
    u cant generalise evrything...
    I dont have a real bro and my cousins stay far off so a kid , for me rakhsha bandhan was a nitemare since i used to feel left out....
    Then i came across this guy youngr to me by 3 yrs who gave me the perfect Brotherly vibes and acted mor like a Big Bro...we r rakhi siblings since 10 yrs now....
    We have our own set of fights serious tat doesnt mean we say..tat this is teh end of our relationship....
    There are so many Blood wise siblings who fall apart.....So many of them who feel the siblingship jus because they r born in the same deep connection....
    Comparitively...Me and my bro are more of real sibs...since each of us have spent many lonely rakhsha bandhans ....
    we value our relation..
    Both of us know one thing....We r there for each other.........
    Hence I conclude that it teh thought, your feelings that matter and nt just the coincidence that u r born in the same family....

  6. dil pe mat le yaar...;-)

    yahi to blogging ki duniya ki khaas baat hai.....idiosyncracy !!!

  7. You like the commercial aspect of it?

  8. Great Article!
    Very insightful!

  9. Great artice.

    I don't have an own sister but many sweet cousins.

    And they extort me really well. Like this time they informed me that they have brought rakhis for me and I will have to go to their city to get it tied. I can't reach there today due to classes, so they have promised that they will celebrate it for me tomorrow. Coz no deadline is more important than the brother himself.

    Anyway, do you have an own brother?

  10. rashmi, another much-loved day goes bust! great post... I often wonder, why do indians make such a fuss about 'concept days' - "why do we need a mother's day - don't we love our parents thru the year' and so on. why do we need a brother's day then?!


  11. People call their cousins, sisters and brothers. I find it annoying really. When I ask them why they do it, they say,'He is like a brother,no?'. And everyone is an uncle or aunty. It's crazy. And yes, I have seen girls fend off unwanted guys who are in love with them with rakhis. as if it is some lakshman rekha.

  12. wow.. there sure are all blacks and whites in comments this time.. u did trigger emotions in people.. well india mein this is one thing that we cant just come over.. emotions.. and this is exactly where we loose our rationality..
    but well.. freedom of expression is the only excercise we practise these days..

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. rashmi, your articles are good 'food for thought'.. nicely written btw.

  15. Hello Rashmi,
    check this out... collected the Superheroes you mentioned :)


  16. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  17. Yesterday morning, the same thoughts were trudging across my mind. About the complications of establishing a 'Raksha Bandhan' between those who neither share consanguinity nor an indirect relation which makes them bhai behen. I came down here traversing across the blogs I regularly read and was glad to know that I'm not a weirdo thinker :p. All is fine if one honestly shares a sibling-sibling relationship but if by happenstance one happens to develop affections that transgress these boundaries, what ensues will surely be a relation entangled in confusion and disorder. The same gender Raksha might appear preposterous but if Raksha's all about Raksha we really shouldn't think twice. Unless it has some divine or sacrosanct history behind it, I don't find it blasphemous to go a step further and erase the sibling-sibling concept as well.

    Anyway thanks for the regular mental ambrosia and the last pledge-related comment was fun to read.

  18. Though I posted earlier already..but still there is something i d like to share :

    Doodhwaala bhi bhaiyaa (a.k.a doodhwaale bhaiya), Sabziwaala bhi bhaiyaa (a.k.a sabziwaale bhaiya), paanwaala bhi bhaiyaa (a.k.a paanwaale bhaiya), kiraanewaala bhi bhaiyaa (a.k.a kiraanewaale bhaiya).....everyone is a bhaiyaa.....whats this ??

    Whats the prpblem with desi females ?? har kisi ko bhai banaane ki kya jaroorat hai..?? is every female that quess in distress and every guy that mughal king ....(as per the story) ??
    Bhaiyya word ki to wat lagaa di hai...literally..!!!

    Thats y, I particularly dont like when any girl (except my sis) calls me BHAIYYA. I cant figure out who am I....panwalaa, sabziwaalla, doodhwalaa, kiranewala, ya fir any just random guy...??

  19. I dont believe in any other day like father day mother day etc. But I have the best brother in the world and so Raksha bandhan is a very special day for me. Though I know that he is a very imortant part of my life throughout the year this one special day definitely helps in communicating the message in a special way. With all the commercial aspects which have started being associated with every function-Raksha bandhan will remain special I guess.

  20. Will put up a part of my blog as a comment.

    Here is a conversation (g for girl and m for me):
    g: Will you pay me if I tie you a Raakhi
    m: Are you mad or something? I would rather buy a rakhi and tie it myself if I really wanted it.
    g: But this will be an authentic Rakhi from me
    m: Which guy would want an authentic Rakhi?
    g: Doesn't it mean you are really close to a girl or something?
    m: Who would want a girl as a sister? Haven't you seen the stupid song in style?

    Then it hits her and she goes oooh! and sings "banja mera bhaiya re"

  21. damn good blog, check out mine, comments always welcome!

  22. will tell u what rakhi is,
    i was lying sick in the morn in my bed with viral and gave my sis a buzz on her cell, she rushed and gave me medication

    cant think of a better instance

  23. Shobha De in one of her columns in Sunday Times yesterday also spoke of same sex rakhi but in a very different paradigm!

  24. You have a brother ?
    No - Lucky you
    Yes - I pity him

  25. Hi Rashmi,

    I am an avid reader of your blog. I read it everyday in the morning before starting with my work.

    And there have been no posts from you for the past 3-4 days!!!!!!!!!

    Please post asap. You readers are waiting!!:-)


  26. Going by your theory of same sex Rakhis too, half a billion rakhis would be way too less :)

  27. pseudoroark: haven't I clearly mentioned in the post that I HAVE a brother?? hope u aren't going to be attempting CAT ... their reading comprehension requires far more concentration than my blog.

  28. Yes, I agree with you, here in India people do celebrate this Rakhi Festival with all fun along-with all family members. Yes, even stars also celebrate this festival in their own way. And people who are not in India, they send rakhi to india to their brothers and send rakhi gifts to india to their loved ones.

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