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At a family gathering of cousins for rakshabandhan, a brother tied the rakhi on the wrist of a younger sister who is in the army – demonstrating a new normal of empowerment.
It was almost after a decade, that I was celebrating rakshabandhan with my cousins at Pune. We all had grown up in these years. For the past so many years everyone was busy and was caught up with various studies or job profiles. Time just flew by. But this year, we were all at one place, thanks to Ritesh, my bua’s son.
Sometimes all good things get lined up. He is going to be placed overseas by his bank for the next two years. Meanwhile, he and his wife have bought a cosy three BHK apartment at Pune. He had organised his housewarming party on the occasion of rakshabhandhan. Just close relatives and friends. This gave all of us an opportunity to spend some time together and be with him before he leaves India.
Ours is a big clan, with lots of kakas, aatyas, mamas, cousins, second cousins and third cousins. However, the bond which we share among us is more like that of friends, rather than of typical brothers and sisters out of various family relations. The fun, food, and pulling legs of each other is a part and parcel of our gatherings. All of us can just sit idly for hours talking at length on nothing. The rounds of snacks, coffee, music and dance, gossip, games, and late night conversations make the time fly by sooner than we can realise.
We have seen each of us growing up in different cities, opting for different careers and jobs. The time which we brothers and sisters get to spend together is very little; however the memories and laughter created are immense. It was the occasion of rakshabandhan. Time to renew the vows of protection.
This rakshabandhan, we had a little role reversal. All of us sisters tied raakhi on the wrists of our various brothers. The tradition of aarti and sweets followed. As the whole ceremony winded up, one of my younger cousins, Sameer, declared that he was going to tie a raakhi to our sister, Priyanka.
Here, a little introduction of Priyanka is needed. Priyanka, our little sister, grew up to be a fine lady, clearing the CDS entrance and now serving the nation as Major Priyanka Bansod in the Indian Army. It has been almost seven years that she has been posted at an extreme climatic zone of Leh, as she started her career as an army officer. She might be one of the youngest of us, but the maturity she has gained during the rigorous training, makes her a very dependable person.
Sameer wished to tie raakhi on Priyanka’s wrist because the essence of rakshabandhan lies in the vow of protection. Without any inhibitions, he accepted that even though he is a male, a brother, but it is his sister, the strong lady who is more capable in protecting us. She contributes in protecting the nation, so that we can be safe in our living rooms.
I felt immensely proud to see that he had conquered his ‘male ego’ and set a really great example in front of the youngsters of our family. His whatsapp status has this shining picture of him tying the raakhi stating, “When your sister is an army officer…didi humari raksha karna.”
This is the kind of spirit which rakshbandhan should embody. More than four haundred years ago, Rani Karnavati sent a raakhi to Humayun seeking his protection from Bahadur Shah. Unfortunately, Humayun couldn’t reach on time and Karnavati had to perform Jauhar to save herself from landing in the hands of Bahadur Shah.
This has all changed with the passing of centuries. Today’s woman doesn’t exactly need “protection for her aabroo”. What she yearns for is respect, equal opportunity, and freedom to make her own choices and take decisions. To marry or not to marry, to have kids or not to have, to cook or to hire a cook, to be a home maker or pursue her career. A freedom from judgemental eyes, freedom from patriarchy, freedom from roving eyes at public places. These are the 21st century vows she expects from her male counterparts, brothers and acquaintances.
No doubt, a large portion of the female population in our country is still facing a medieval age mindset, lack of education and opportunities, and exploitation. Their basic need is safety. But we need a change in attitude, especially in men. Rituals and festivals imbibe great moral values in society, however, looking at the changing dynamics of society; traditions need to be modified while keeping the essence intact.
I have witnessed such a positive ray of change this rakshabandhan, in the sweet and lovable bond of my little cousins, who seemed to have grown up suddenly to a next level of maturity and empowerment.
Images source: Bhavna Gajbe
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