Modern Times3 mins 123 3 mins 123
During my recent visit to a temple, the priest tied supposedly sacred threads on my wrist and appended adhesive on the knot. While I did not have the audacity to question him, one of my friends, a few days later, asked me about its significance and longevity? As I fumbled to answer, she pointed to the other thread tied on my wrist – and raised some questions. I was reminded of the occasion when the other thread was tied - Raksha Bandhan1
We had a get-together and many brothers/sisters were present. A sister, barely eighteen, told her brother – three years younger - than he had to take care of her as she tied Rakhi2 on his wrist. The teenaged brother replied quicker than Usain Bolt– “Why do you need me when you are independent and elder to me?”
Was he echoing the sentiments of a nation? I wondered. Or had he seen a pre-release version of the movie Pink and had stepped into the protagonist’s shoes?
The women have certainly become stronger and moved higher across various domains not only in India but globally - Theresa Mayer, Indra Nooyi, Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thanburg– just to name a few.
While the history carries pages on LaxmiBai, it is also replete with regretful instances of Sati3 and Jauhar4. Traditions have gradually evolved and practices have changed as society has granted entry to women in Shani Shingnapur temple, Sabrimala and now, Haji Ali. However, rather than a mass movement, the recent victories for equality and freedom have been the outcome of indomitable individual spirit and sacrifice of some brave women.
As I pondered, the sister said, “Bro, we celebrate Raksha Bandhan because the brothers have been Rakshak5 for sisters. Let us, therefore, abide by these traditions!”
The reply was spontaneous again, “There is a Police service in this country, which is Rakshak for everyone. Moreover, when we are told that boys and girls are all equal, then why Rakshak is required. Forget the threads and overcome the threats on your own”
We were dumbfounded. The sister looked into the eyes of her brother - who was voicing a larger concern though with a tiny understanding – and hugged him. The virtuous valor as implored by the young boy, indeed, persists in pockets; but collective consciousness is lacking in liberating the woman from shackles which have consistently failed and demeaned her as a gender. The pages of her freedom have often been truncated by margins made by hegemonic masculinity.
As that episode ran through my memory, I looked at my friend, who, in turn, was having a finer look at the threads tied on my wrist. As I watched her silently, I wondered whether it was important to put adhesives on the knots or on the devil and discordant mindsets that have not yet fallen in sync to transcend the barricades of cultural parochialism.
1. Raksha Bandhan – An Indian festival wherein sisters tie a band/thread around their brothers’ wrists, who vow to safeguard the sisters. Raksha refers to safety and Bandhan refers to the act of tying.
2. Rakhi – The wrist band mentioned above
3. Sati – The practice of wife sitting and burning herself alive on the pyre of her deceased husband
4. Jauhar – Self-immolation of women, including queens and female royals of Hindu kingdoms, when facing defeat at the hands of an enemy
5. Rakshak – Savior