Many families look forward to Rakshabandhan – meeting other family members, eating delicacies, exchanging gifts – multiple customs laid out in that one day. I grew up with my elder sister and my parents – always ahead of their time – encouraged us to tie Rakhi to each other. They asserted that we are each other’s support later in life and being there for each other is the essence of Rakshabandhan. As for many other things, I thank my parents for instilling in me the ‘right’ values and not just the values dictated by the society.
A lot of us feel a calling to preserve Indian traditions, one of which is Rakshabandhan. I am all in favor of continuing and sustaining the festival. If you were to ask me my opinion, I would say without hesitation that Rakshabandhan to me is a day to celebrate sisters and brothers – period.
So for all the parents with little girls and boys, all the men and women thinking of having children, and just everyone else – I want to urge you to modify the story of Rakshabandhan and teach your kids a modified version.
By stating that the sister ties a Rakhi to her brother in exchange for protection, we imply that the sister needs protection. The festival stands on the ground that girls need protection. A statement that made a lot of sense in the day and age when Rakshabandhan came to be. Men went to war and women prayed for their protection. Today, men and women both go out to fulfill their dreams and fight against the struggles.
All the little girls who dress up eagerly for their gifts on Rakshabandhan are taught somewhere that they will be protected by their brothers. At an age of 8, protection is the last thing on their mind, especially with the delicious boxes of Celebrations chocolates in front – however, a story repeated every year to the girls somewhere becomes the reality. Do you want to preserve the traditions? Preserve them. Just improvise the narrative. Tell your sons and daughters that it is a day to celebrate the love, friendship and respect they have for each other.
A tenet of the promises made that day is protection – from both – for both. Such a narrative will not only teach your sons to not look at their sisters as needing protection or help but also instill in your daughters a sense of responsibility towards their brothers. Wouldn’t you want your daughter to come to your son’s aid if needed at some point in time? Wouldn’t you also want to grow daughters who are truly capable and able to provide support and protection to her family (including you and her siblings)
We are raising girls and boys to be equal in this age so let us raise them right! Help your sons see as equal, not weak, not needing protection, needing respect. Help your daughters see their new evolved role as equal, responsible to support their brother as needed, not weak, not needing protection.
Change starts at home and all it will take is changing the narrative.