These days there is a trend of going overboard with the concept of feminism. Most of the times, I agree, it is right. But often, some people get carried away and try to look at everything around them through this narrow lens of feminism. So I wasn’t surprised when my college-friend, with whom I was catching up after a long time, went on a rant. The object of her rant – the validity of Rakshabandhan in today’s times.
“This festival,” she continued ranting, “is archaic, suffocating for women. Why should women tie ‘Rakhi’ on boys hand? Why we need their protection? Are we any less? Doing this undermines women ability to take care of herself. And it reinforces the superiority of men over women. Their dependence on men for their safety. It is not right.”
I realized she was very touchy about this subject. So I didn’t interrupt her rant beyond a few ‘hmms,’ and ‘yesses.’ After some time, thankfully, the discussion veered off to other not-so-charged topics. Our lives in general. Professional developments and a few anecdotes about old times that left us nostalgic. We said our byes after that, and promising to catch up more often, before we hung up the phone.
As it was a Sunday, and I didn’t have a sister to visit for “Rakhi” I got busy with my chores. I went to the market for the grocery. Threw clothes in the washing machine for cleaning and and then hung them for drying in the balcony. After finishing all this I prepared a light lunch for myself, and settled into the bed to catch up on some reading. (Yes, shower can wait today, it is Sunday.)
But as soon as I picked up the book, my mind wandered off to the morning call I had with my friend. Was she really right? I thought. Is Rakshabandhan really undermining women in some way?
In India, the tradition of tying Rakhi started as a promise by a brother to protect her sister. In those days it made more sense, in practical terms. With women having no training in combat and self-defence, their safety was indeed in the hands of their brothers. War happened all the time. And it became a man’s role to fight off any danger that may befall not only his sister, but any women of his family, and kingdom.
Today’s times have changed. Wars don’t happen like that. And like the lighting of Diyas on Diwali, the tying of Rakhi on brother’s hands is reduced to a symbolic event. A ceremony that has more to do with the celebration of this ‘relationship,’ rather than imposing a man’s superiority on a woman.
I remembered my childhood days when I was in school. I don’t have a real sister, so I really looked forward to this day. A few girls would tie colourful Rakhi on my hand. And they came of many types. Some as simple as a red thread with a tiny pearl at the middle. Other with more elaborate decorations. Pearls, shells, images. But whatever may be the type, this simple ceremony would instantly forge a new level of relation among us.
Being children, I don’t think any of us thought much of this festival beyond this feeling of finding a new relationship among each other. It was innocent, and beautiful. The way it should be!
So do we really need to find a ‘feminist’ angle in this festival? Can’t we just leave it as a celebration of this beautiful relationship between siblings? Can’t we let boys and girls go to school and on this day, forge new relationship among themselves, without painting it with the colors of unnecessary feminism? Can’t we let ‘Rakhi’ be ‘Rakhi,’ that’s it?