Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Raksha Bandan

My first brush with Raksha Bandan was in school, when I was 10 years old. My Marwadi classmate came to school with a brightly colored red and golden band, lavishly decorated with pearl strings tied to his wrist. Even at that age, with no idea whatsoever of fashion, it still felt weird to see a boy wearing something like this. None of my friends seemed to know what it was. I had to wait until lunch to abate my curiosity and asked the Marwadi girl in another section about it and her words were "Its Raksha Bandan, his sister tied it (Rakhi) to his wrist and he will give her a gift". I was left wondering why we didn't have something like that where I could get my presents from my brothers (I included my cousins too :D) in exchange for Rakhis.

It wasn't until I was 12 that I learnt the true meaning, weirdly from an old South Indian movie, Bharatha Vilas. Shivaji suspects his neighbour's son of carrying on with his daughter when they both solemnly swear that nothing is going on. The truth is revealed only when his neighbour's son joins the army and writes to Shivaji's daughter with a Rakhi, explaining Raksha Bandan and wishing that she was there to tie it to his wrist. I can still recall the letter and it was beautifully written describing how girls were tying Rakhis to army soldiers and praying for their welfare and needless to say, with Shivaji reading it, with all the right pauses to highlight the emotions, its not something that I would forget soon.

At 15, Raksha Bandan was seen in quite a different light in school. Most guys would try (in vain) to avoid the girls they have a crush on, in fear of being accosted by them with a Rakhi and girls (mean devils that they are :D) determined to get those guys off their backs will do all they can to tie the pink band (adding insult to injury) to their wrists !

I never really believed in making anyone a 'brother' by tying a Rakhi...somehow it seemed meaningless to try and kindle brotherly feelings by force and those who really were close like brothers needed no wrist-band affirmations ! Well, if everyone thought the same way, it would indeed be boring...and so to satisfy one such 'brother' (who actually proudly showed off his Rakhis) I borrowed one from a friend and proceeded to his class room. On the way, I saw a guy, a senior, who I was acquainted with, approaching me from the other end of the corridor. As he came closer, I saw a look of horror on his face and noticed that he was staring at the Rakhi and very soon, he sprinted straight for the stairs. After the completely bewildering moment, I proceeded to tie it to my 'brother'. The guy noticed it from the next floor and gave me a sheepish grin. I am sure he had plans on letting me know that he liked me but I am equally sure that this was not one of them !

The concept of using Raksha Bandan as a get-out-of-unwanted-crushes card was pushed to a different level in Nerukku Ner when Vijay makes Kousalya confess that she likes him by her refusal to tie a Rakhi to him. Oh..well..this isn't the first time that people and movies make a mockery of a nice tradition.

I used to wonder if there was a South Indian equivalent when I remembered kakka pidi-kanu pidi, where sisters pray for their brothers' well being and in-turn get gifts from them.

After the 'Rakhi' wave receded, the next one was the 'friendship bands' and those stories would have to wait until another time....

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