Yesterday, on the 28th of August, Saturday, was the festival of Raksha Bandhan. For people who aren’t acquainted with it, Raksha Bandhan literally translates into ‘bond of protection’. On this day, every sister ties her brother a rakhi – an overhyped and overpriced decorated piece of thread – and the brother, in turn, vows to protect his sister.
Yes, doesn’t it ooze of sexism? Raksha Bandhan is perhaps the most patriarchal of all celebrations we have, where in the brother is supposed to provide and protect his sister(s) because he is the man of the family. It cements gender roles like no other festival, with the male being the protector and the female being the nurturer. It assumes that women can’t fend for themselves, that they’re too weak to be independent and men are supposed to look after the weak ones, regardless of what they aspire to do. Needless to say, I have a huge problem with the entire concept of these gender roles.
Precisely the reason I refuse to even call it Raksha Bandhan. I call it rakhi, and not once have I felt the need to tie someone a threat to ask for protection. But hell, I still love my cousins. And one of them came over to my house, since it was a weekend and we missed each other. Naturally, we decided to tie a rakhi. So it all happened while eating pasta and watching Modern Family. Skipping the religious and ritualistic aspects (which mild horrified my mother) I tied him a rakhi and then, I gave him another one. Amazingly, he had been thinking about the same thing as I.
My brother tied me a rakhi as well.
Now that was frowned upon perhaps, but it didn’t quite matter to me. We were cousins, first and foremost, and we loved each other. And I knew we’d protect each other, irrespective of the sex, simply because it’s what human beings do. You protect and care for the people you love. Maybe that’s societal norms too, and maybe I’ve internalised this thing about families being the support system, but I truly love them and I can’t tolerate anyone hurting them. And although I’d help and protect any human, I do have a soft spot for my family and friends, I must admit.
And that is how a sexist festival turned into an occasion of hugs and smiles for me. And I wish more people did this. Understand what the occasion means, and then make small tweaks and twists so it suits you. There are so many things about this society that we are often unable to change in entirety, but doing little things to make small changes can go a big way in the end.