By Sinjini Sengupta:
Last time it was dry flowers and sea shells, and this time it is leftover pieces if ribbons, pita shells and round beads. The collections have been going steady over the past few days at our own little corner of the world. That time is here.
The rakhi making project at my daughter’s school makes me more envious than nostalgic, though I must, at the same breath, say that the sentiments around rakhi does make me very nostalgic and also that is not so much about missing my sibling and cousin brothers. Well you see, you have ‘Bhai Dooj’ for all that mush.
If you ask me, rakhi was more of a weapon for us, an instrument, back in school. Rakhi meant skipping school if you’re a boy and really intimidated that that girl would use this day’s opportunity to shed you off. And if you’re a girl, rakhi meant your yearly chance to reclaim that ‘spotlessness’ of your ‘character’ by shaking off the alleged pairing up your friends have been up to. Either way, rakhi was a day to remember of all days, during those long few years of a lifetime called adolescence.
But this is not about that rakhi. This is not about that rakhi that they say brought it into its being in our regular Bengali customs – the flashback on how Tagore had gone out to the roads to tie Rakhi to the Muslim counterparts of the society. It is also not about myths and stories around that evergreen couple that dated on the banks of the Yamuna. This is about… what to do with this rakhi?
“Okay, so what to do with this rakhi?” I ask her, intently watching her oozing out dollops of Fevicol from the tube on to the piece of paper that intends to serve as some kind of a base but falls flat at it, leading the drops of the white adhesive to find their puddle pool on the mosaic floor. She is too busy to meet the means to bother worrying about its ends.
And so I ask again, “Darling, what to do with this rakhi?”
“I’ll tie it, maybe,” she replies tentatively.
“Tie it on whom?”
“I need to find a brother.”
As I prepare to use the opportune moment to floodgate my dose of daily wisdom, she pre-empts my chance by putting forward a rather timely request.
“I told you, Mum, make me a brother. Look now.”
Now, we don’t even want to go there, do we? But then, she’s incorrigible.
“Do you think you can try to make one before this rakhi day, if you try hard?”
“No, dear!” I assure her, and myself.
“Then I have to find some boy,” she heaves a dramatically deep sigh and goes back to task.
“That is what I want to ask, dear. Why do you think you need a boy for rakhi?”
“Because, come on, mum! Rakhis are tied on boys!” she dismisses me. But I’m incorrigible too!
“Well, that’s a rule!”
Eureka! If now is not a chance to make a difference, when will be? I grabbed it!
“Listen, this rakhi, let us try breaking a few rules, shall we?”
Now, talking to a five-year-old about breaking rules is your sure shot way to grab their attention. It almost never fails!
“Break rules, like?” she holds up her gaze at me curiously, and with it, her hands too. I watch the stream of white liquid flow down her arms, gather at her elbow, and form drops at the end of her sleeves. Of the new T-shirt, that costs… forget it! Priorities, I remind myself, as I pull off my eyes from the distraction of the transforming sleeves, and then I continue anyway:
“Look, this time, let’s do things differently, different in three ways. Shall we?”
“How?” she asks me, suspicious and skeptical.
“First, we’ll tie rakhi on girls this time, shall we?”
“And why?” she’s clearly not convinced!
“You know what rakhi stands for, right? It stands for a vow to protect each other. And this time, we’ll promise that to a girlfriend, so that they won’t need to wait for a boy to come and save them.”
“Like Snow White?”
“Actually, unlike Snow White!”
“Second, we’ll not look for returns.”
“Well, returns mean… how do I say it? Say, you tie one rakhi to someone and she does not tie a rakhi back on you. What will you be?”
“Sad!” she states without a flinch, much as a matter of fact.
“And why so?”
“Because, if she doesn’t protect me, I will not want to protect her too.”
“Right. Now, the second rule we’ll break is this. We’ll tie rakhi without bothering about who that other person ties a rakhi on. Because, no matter what one does, you must always want to protect them. All right?”
“Okay, and number three?”
“Let me see how many rakhis are you making?”
“Five!” She proudly displays the thin ends of wet ribbons that should eventually look like rakhi bands if the stars put in all their forces together do their jobs well. But never mind!
“Well, can you please make a few extra ones?”
“Sure, but why?”
“Very well! So, here’s the third rule. From this year, we’ll go out in the road and tie rakhi to unknown people.”
“So that, well, we protect each other. Those people on the road, and us!”
“But I won’t know them the next time we meet.”
“Right, that’s the point. So what we’ll do is, to keep the Rakhi promise, we’ll instead protect everyone we meet on the road. And slowly, they’ll also start feeling the same way and then they’ll also stand up for us. We’ll all protect each other on the road.”
She gleefully goes back to task, excited to have been given some extra responsibilities.
Well, you see, these are quite a few extra responsibilities, even if she’s too small to know exactly what they mean. But, you know what? We can take these little extra responsibilities up this time, perhaps, to protect our sisters, to protect unconditionally, and to protect even if you do not know them. Especially in such times, when we all need that extra bit of protection, that extra new promise, that extra little care.
Can we not, if we try?
Let’s twist the knots this Rakhi!
This article was first published on the author’s personal blog.