A mom attempts to break stereotypes about the Rakshabandhan festival and pave a new way of thinking for the next generation
“When is it my turn to get a rakhi from Big V Mom?" she asked me on a random afternoon, just as we were getting ready to dive into the lunch. I paused for a moment, unsure of what I should say to my thoughtful 4-year-old, who comes up with the most amazing questions every now and again before retreating to her “quiet observer form". Just a couple of weeks back she came running from her room in the midst of a complex blocks construction to ask me, “Mom, why cant we see God if he is really there? I think its made up" I can only tell you for a person who herself is not completely convinced about the traditional definition of a divine force, it took me a long time to explain to her that it depends on what we choose to believe.
So I wasn't really surprised when she asked me this question because the discussion of rakshabandhan had started with the family and cousins sending in the gifts and goodies already for the impending festival. And even before she asked me I was struggling to the answer this one in my own head. You see, every year when we are on the brink of celebrating this one festival I feel a tug in my heart and my stomach gets into just the tiniest bit of a twist, because I know, that there's something amiss. I hadn't quite been able to place a finger on what that missing piece was so far, (also because of the lack of inclination to delve deep into thought while running through the endless list of chores through the day) but when confronted with a straight as an arrow, garbed in innocence question, you cant help but ponder, isn't it?
And that's why I decided to pen down my thoughts, on why my daughter would not tie a rakhi for her brother this year. And here 3 reasons to begin with:
1. Because she doesn't need anyone to protect or guard her: In a world where we see a new post being shared online everyday about how we need to fight for a woman's right to equality, the notion that girls need protecting is a massive step back. Instead we need to raise our daughters to believe that they can protect themselves in any situation and equip them with enough skills, both mental and physical to look after themselves. If we as parents are going to raise our daughters on the belief that she needs protecting or looking after, how are we ever going to inculcate a sense of independence that is not superficial? Needing protection is not the reason she needs her brother in her life. The role instead should be that of a staunch supporter, no matter what course my daughter takes in life tomorrow.
2. Because it is a sister's prerogative to pray for the brothers well being on this day: Wishing an individual or a member of the family well is not gender dependent. A family or close friends must love and care for each other irrespective of their gender or age. So, yes she will always want her brother's well being – but not because she is supposed to wish for it as a sister, but because he is her family, just like her parents are today, and just like her partner and possibly her children will be tomorrow. And wishing for all their well being is something that would come naturally to her. As it should for my son too. And not just on any one day, but every day of every year.
3. Because I don't want my son to feel entitled: The biggest of changes come about when we make a shift in our own perspective. So why should we continue to endow this sense of entitlement to the sons in our family because our traditions and cultures tell us so. Why should men have to bear the burden of carrying the weight for their women? There is this one advertisement that has been on air recently that aptly underscores this need for change in perspective – the one which encourages people to change the dialogue from from “Boys don't cry" to “Boys don't make anyone cry" for our growing sons. Such a simple but impactful thought. You are not entitled or above anyone, instead you need to feel proud to rub shoulders with your sister – your equal. That's the inner change one needs to bring out and it starts with the sons of their own family, so that they may have happy daughters wherever they are tomorrow.
So, yes we will celebrate Rakhshabandhan this year, albeit a little differently. Big V and Little V will both tie a rakhi for each other not because my daughter needs to be protected, or because she needs to pray for her brother's well being as a part of her duty or because my son is more important in the scheme of things for our family. But because it is the one day they get to celebrate for themselves, much like spouses celebrate an anniversary together. They are partners for life too, and perhaps the most long standing ones (spouses come in much later and parents tend to pass away within the lifetime of their children). So in my answer to Little V's question, I told her she gets a Rakhi from Big V too on the same day starting this year – and they both can promise to love and cherish each other forever on this special day, all they need is to learn to respect and love each other as equals starting today!
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