The heart of a festival

The heart of a festival

Dear H and N,

Yesterday was Rakshabandhan – the day for sisters and brothers.

The popularly accepted version of the festival says that sisters should tie rakhis onto the wrists of their brothers and in return get a gift as well as a promise of lifelong protection. It’s a sweet tradition and when I was young I remember feeling envious of girls when they came to school the next day jangling their purses, telling us how much money they made. We never tied rakhis because we lacked that one key ingredient – the brother. We settled for mailing ours to our cousins and that was that.

Like most traditions have a way of becoming, this one too is a tad outdated. When both of you came along we brought in some changes.

One: That you will both tie rakhis to each other.


Two: That there will be no gifts.

You understand the first one well enough. That thread is a pledge by both of you to help and support each other, to draw strength from each other and to be there when the other one needs you, always.

Why is it only the brother who should be ‘protecting’ his sister? Click To Tweet

“Why is it only the brother who should be ‘protecting’ his sister? That’s unfair”, I hear you protesting, H. And you’re right.

N, you should be protesting too for the tradition implies you cannot even look after your own self let alone your brother. From the countless times you have come to his rescue, we all know how untrue that is.

Now for the second one – the one I find you resenting. You love gifts, I know and I’m sorry it disappoints you that there are none for you on Rakhi. I see the shine in your eyes when you see those rakshabandhan commercials. I love them too. I like the way they capture the festival – lit up homes, children running around in traditional clothes, dressed up adults and of course lavish gifts – elaborate gourmet chocolates and dazzling jewellery.

The sad part is that these ads lead you to believe that you must have all of that to make a festival complete. What they don’t tell you is that a celebration can be fun even without all those trappings, because they are just that – trappings, not the real thing. At the heart of every festival is something more than chocolates and jewellery. I’d much rather you focus on that core. I love a good celebration more than anyone else, you know that, well. But..

When the peripherals take over the core, it is time to take stock. Click To Tweet

When the peripherals take over the core, it is time to take stock. When you are older and are making your own money, go ahead and get gifts for each other, get them without waiting for Rakshabandhan, and while you’re at it get some for me too.

For now, let’s just focus on the warm hugs and banter of the day. The way we get together with your cousin for a fun morning. Let our memories be of how you, H, never get used to the tika and how you protest and shake off the rice that falls onto your glasses. And when it’s your turn how you can never remember the correct finger to use or the correct hand for that matter, and the way you make a big long one for N, simply to annoy her and she obliges every time. N, you remember how you have to hold H’s head up each time because he insists on looking down always?

Let’s store away in our memory the way you do “Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo” to decide which sweet you should pick for your brother after you tie his rakhi, the way you stuffed a whole big laddoo in his mouth so he couldn’t talk for a full minute. Oh and also the way he tried to aim and lob the laddoo at you when it was his turn.

Let’s remember all of that and the long chats after the ceremony, over hot cups of tea even as you, N, are bugging us all to pose for ‘one more picture’.

It’s this – the warmth, the laughter, the teasing, the love – that are the core of the festival. Let’s not lose all of that in the clothes and the gifts.



Linking up with Deepa and  Amrita for #MondayMommyMoments.

23 Replies to “The heart of a festival”

  1. Lovely post as always! Tweaking traditions is always necessary. Taking the old and making it your own! Lots of love to H and N!!

  2. This is such a heartfelt post Tulika. I liked the fact that both tie Rakhi to each other than just your daughter tying bit to your son. Thanks for linking up with #MMM

  3. Your H and N are so cute .We need to teach children exactly this.Making it gender neutral and devoid of material gifts will help them realize the essence of it.Loved the post Tulika.Thank you for writing with us for #MondayMommyMoments .

  4. The laddoo business between H and N was too cute. I liked it how you have twisted the festival in your home. Yes, why do we have to carry on the tradition of the brother protecting the sister when the sister, the girl is also being raised to become an independent adult. It should be about being there for each other and supporting each other.

    1. Oh they always do innovative things when they have to feed each other. You should see H trying to aim and shoot. As for that tradition, it’s completely outdated, just like many others.

  5. This was such a heartwarming post to read, Tulika. And you are right, the essence is what is important, the trappings are just that, trappings. I love the way you celebrate this festival.

    1. Thanks Shantala. It is easy for children to forget the essence of a festival. They believe what they see and all they see is us running around getting the clothes and food ready, packing and sorting gifts – Those will be their takeaways unless we step in.

  6. Rakshabandan is a new festivity we have got used to, In South India we do not have Rakhi and the first question I asked was – why should brother take care of the sister, shouldnt she be taught to defend herself, but then as you say festivies is for enjoying together and lets see them on that basis only

    1. That’s right Menaka. Besides, a lot of our festivals are influenced by the fact that we have been a patriarchal society for ages. The change will set in by and by.

  7. So true, Tulika.
    I like how you have changed the way Rakshabandhan is celebrated. I think it should be that way.I t’s the feeling that counts.

    I have no brother. Never missed having one. Bengalis celebrate bhai phota a few days after Diwali. This is similar to Rakshabandhan but we never felt the need to do anything. I know I can do anything to protect my sister. Even today when we are all grown ups, I still don’t let her go out alone or always keep a tab on where she is, how she is. And it’s the same with her when it comes to me.

  8. I loved this! You are so right that the festival is not about the gifts and all that hullabalo that they create around it!! Its about the relationship and making it a cherished one. You have put in so much warmth and feeling into this article – your kids are lucky to have such a grounded and down to earth mom who is teaching them about sifitng the grain from the chaff and selecting what to cherish!!! Kudos Tulika

  9. Aww! This is such a sweet and a heartwarming post, Tulika. Love the traditions you follow. In fact that is how Raksha Bandhan should be truly celebrated. Way to go!!

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