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What reply do you give your children when they realize that the rakhi is being bought only for the brother? Isn’t this counter to raising gender equal kids?
Riya: Mumma why are we buying a rakhi?
Me: That’s because you will be tying rakhi to Dada…
Riya: Why will I tie rakhi?
Me: Because with that you will wish all the good things for Dada, with all your love, and Dada will promise to take care of you all his life. Support you, protect and help you in every possible way. And most importantly, he will love you always.
Riya: (Completely hassled) Then why Dada is not tying rakhi to me? Why will he not wish good things for my life? I also help him, support him, protect him when you scold. Mumma, the other day I gave all my crayons to him. He hit me, I didn’t tell you because you will scold him. Then he also needs to tie rakhi to me…right? Tell no mumma…
Me: (Completely dumbfound) Yeah baby of course. We will get a beautiful one for you too. And, Dada will tie you a rakhi…happy?
Riya: Dada…. mumma said you will tie me rakhi too!
My daughter’s words hit me like a thunder bolt. I was ashamed, I couldn’t look into her eyes. I bought a rakhi for her and marched out of the shop in utter dismay. I failed as a mother, was my first thought. From the time my daughter was born, I always tried to raise both my kids without gender bias. That was a conscious decision that I and my husband took. But, how could I miss this? How could I not gauge this? How could I not see this coming? I hung my head in shame, and for the rest of the night, I kept thinking how true my daughter is, and how horribly I went wrong. Damn !
All my life, I can say loud and clear that I have cared more for my brother than he did for me. For that matter, which sister doesn’t? Which sister doesn’t sacrifice her own needs and desires for her brother? Which sister doesn’t put herself in a lurch to protect her brother? Which sister does not support her brother emotionally, mentally, and psychological, no matter what the situation is? Which sister has not screamed from the roof top that ‘my brother is the best…’! But, then why are festivals like ‘Rakhi’ and ‘Bhai Duj’ a brother’s prerogative? Why there is no festival where a sister is blessed for a long life, a beautiful life and thanked and acknowledged for everything she does silently for her brother? Why is the word Raksha so male? Why is it that only a woman needs protection and a man doesn’t? Why this gender bias? Ponder…Ponder…ponder…..!!
I, like many of you, want to raise my daughter with an open mind. Empower her and make her a confident, self-respecting and self-reliant being, completely devoid of the societal clichés. But isn’t this disappointing, and detrimental, at the same time? Aren’t these kinds of rituals paving way for a more glaring gender bias? Aren’t in a way, we are telling our girls, that you will always be the victim and you need a man to stand for you, support you or protect you all your life?
Then the worst….you need to thank and acknowledge all through your life with either a band or a tika…! If it’s about love, if it’s bonding, then it must be mutual. Isn’t it the way it should be? I know, I might be stamping a lot on your feet, and raking up a debate on an age old ritual, but give it a thought. I am ready to be trolled, ready to be corrected if it does good to my kids, your kids and brings a positive and conducive change. Bring it on….
I have nothing against Raksha Bandhan. But, if I go by my daughter’s words and sentiments, I am cajoled to question this ritual, and bring a change that makes this matter much more acceptable. But, whatever it may be, for the sake of her betterment from now on…I will ensure that my son too ties rakhi to his sister. Let there be equality and respect in every step I take…as a mother and first as a woman! Let the change begin at home…right here…right now!
Published here earlier.