This August full moon, it’s down to recycling my Raksha bandan post from two years ago.
Raksha Bandan – Bond of Protection
When I lived in Zambia my family celebrated Raksha Bandan, a North Indian festival that honours the love between sisters’ and brothers’. It falls on a full-moon in August every year.
My mum, aunts and I picked out beautiful rakhees weeks in advance. There is a range of choice, from simple threads to more extravagant ones with mirrors and gold fringes. A few years ago there was one that played a popular Bollywood song. This year the fashionable rakhees have green, red, and shiny diamond-like stones on them.
I always chose the simplest threads and tied one around each of my brother’s and “cousin-brother’s” wrists. This gesture was to symbolise my love for them. In return my brothers’ had the duty of protecting me. From what, I wasn’t always sure.
After I tied the rakhee, we hugged each other. I always whispered an awkward, “What are we doing guys? Do we need this string to symbolise our feelings?”
I was the pain-in-the-ass, no fun girl who wasn’t into rituals, or for that matter, kitsch Bollywood dance because as a classical Indian dancer, Bollywood dances were corrupt versions of the real thing.
So, back to the hugging, after that we fed each other Indian sweets that my mum and aunts had prepared over the last week or two. In return, the brothers’ proudly offered me envelopes stuffed with notes.
Next was my mum and aunts’ turn. They tied rakhees around their “cousin-brother’s” wrist. He was the only one in Lusaka. They sent the others theirs in the mail, without fail.
My dad received his two rakhees by post, usually in good time. Since his sisters lived elsewhere it was my job to tie them. I got two envelopes from him as well.
Once it was all done, we’d have a big meal, and spend the rest of the day together.
When I left Zambia at 16, I forgot all about Raksha Bandan. One July my mum called to remind me about it. She asked if I’d sent all the boys a rakhee. I replied that I hadn’t so she quickly bought some on my behalf.
On the full-moon day, she called me. My little brother had refused to wear the rakhee since it wasn’t an initiative of mine. I was taken-aback. I had no idea that this really meant anything to him, or to any of them.
I immediately apologised, and ever since, I’ve made a special effort. I don’t always send them a rakhee in the mail, but I call or at least email.
This year, my mum only “reminded” me about it yesterday. There is no way I can get them rakhees in time. Phone calls will be in order, and a promise of more planning and organising for the years to come.
In my mum’s typically thoughtful and unimposing manner, she mentioned, by the way, “I’ve sent you a rakhee that L can tie around R’s wrist, if you guys want to do that of course.” I can’t wait to see the mini-rakhee.
My brothers are dearer to me than I can express. I do in fact feel safe, supported and strong when they are around.
So why not have a special day that celebrates the bond between sisters and brothers.
(For a long time = A long time ago)
On our way to the supermarket. R and L are playing at lifting each other.
L: Let me carry you now.
L: Uhhhh, you’re too heavy for me.
R: You can’t because usually boys are stronger than girls, ’cause for a long time they used to do fishing.
What’s THAT about? Do you mean because men used to be hunters?
L: And the womans for a long time used to pick strawberries.
Me: Oh yeah, and women would gather fruits and nuts for everyone to eat.
R: But papa only used to goed to the supermarket.
All of us: Hahahahaha.
L: And mama also goed to the supermarket to buy food!
At the Singapore airport last Sunday. We had South-Indian food for lunch, and North-Indian for dinner. I also got four Rasgulla, a Bengali paneer (home-made cottage cheese) based dessert.
Me: Do you want to try this Leila? It’s called Rasgulla. I used to eat a lot of this when I was little. Really yummy.
Leila: Did you made the Hezbollah by yourself when you was little?
WHAT? No Nani (grandma) used to make it for us a lot. Here, you want to try the rasgulla?
Leila: Yes, I want one Hezbollah.
Me: Leila is the humidifier on? Can you check please.
Leila: Yes mum, the cumin-timer is on.
Me: It’s a hu-mi-di-fi-er.
Maher: Vous voulez aller a Starbuck avec moi, les gars? Comme ca on laisse maman faire son “practice”?
Leila: Starbox. C’est un “box” papa.
Me: Come on guys, it’s Starbucks.
Leila looking at me from the corner of her eyes: Ok papa, let’s go to Star BOX.
Rahul: Why Maher choosed you?
Me: Ah, very good question, but this one you have to ask papa!
Rahul: You and papa is in love?
Me: Yes we are. Papa and I love each other.
Rahul: You and papa loved each other before me and Leila came out of your belly?
Me: Yes, we did, honey.
Leila: Mama, where was Leila and Rahul before we was in your belly?”
Me: Hmmmm…your body wasn’t anywhere. And you were an idea that mama and papa had.