No strings attached

Happy Raksha Bandhan to those of you who celebrate it, from one who does not. Our family tried to introduce the custom once, when my sister was three, and there are some great photos of her crying and desperately holding on to the rakhi for dear life. There was no way she was going to give the sparkly object and mithai to her brother in return for a promise, merely oral, not even signed and notarized.

I imagine she also thought “I’ll fork over the tinsel you promise to protect me from you, you big bully! You got to stop bossing me around if you want the sweets. You’re not even big enough to protect me from anybody else, that’s mom and dad’s job.” And so the tradition never took hold.

When I got older, and my offer of protection was more credible, I realized that my sisters-at-large would be likely to take offense at my mafia-like offer of protection in return for tribute. After all, these were not simpering ladies, these were girls and women more than capable of kicking my kundi. If one of these women were ever to need protection, the best course would be to buy them a firearm and some range time and get out of their way.

The holiday also came across as both sexist and unfair. Why can’t I be weak and helpless and trade a trinket in return for protection? It seems like men are getting the worst deal since Indians sold Manhattan for a bunch of beads.

So why does the holiday continue? My best guess is that it provides a neat social excuse for girls to politely defect male attention without anybody having to lose face. Now a woman no longer needs to say “I like you, but I don’t like you like you”, she can smile and let India’s version of Hallmark do the talking. After all, we don’t feel sorry for the guy walking around looking like an escapee from a Kabbalah party with 30 rakhis on his arm because he has so many women to protect, we feel sorry for him because he’s just been castrated as surely as if these women had used the scissors which snip-snip-snipped the thread.

So until rakhis start to fly equally in both directions, I leave you with this parting thought:



103 thoughts on “No strings attached

  1. Have you ever seen a man giving rakhis to a woman?

    Kind of like saying, why is it that men are expected to propose (even in the enlightened world)? It’s how it’s been…

  2. Think about a 15 yr old girl tying a rakhi on her 4 yr old brother, and being told by her grandfather that this means her 4 year old brother will “protect her” now simply by virtue of being the male. Only the insane can think that way… please… for most people it’s just an excuse to be happy and have fun, some pocket money for the sister… reading too much into this is futile. Jeez…

    Well, then I must be insane because that is exactly how I have thought. And when I was 4, I couldn’t articulate as well and so it was all these tantrums. Things like rakhi and all were all part of a larger understanding. Boys would go to school–the good expensive one, girls would go to the local one. There are many many examples of all this in Indian culture. You all know what they are so I won’t elaborate.

  3. @96, yer funny.

    To ze best of my knowledge, Rakhi is from a time when weaponry was not as equal-opportunity in terms of gender as it is now. There were swords, the bow and arrow, a spear or two and the occasional hypnotised tiger named Steve. With the exception of that last item, all of these weapons’ effectiveness depended on the strength of the arm behind them. Women will never be as strong as men, so it made sense to have men protect them.

    Now that weapons are on a more level playing field, it doesn’t mean that you throw your sister to the wolves and tell her to sort out her own stalkers because you have QVC returns to make. I’d say that that’s how everyone becomes a me-me-me selfish jerk and the family structure goes, as AM radio sports commentators say, to hell in a hand basket. Men will always be the protectors of women, and nothing slows down a man’s impure motives than another man who’s not having his ****. It’s part of a man’s nature to protect the women he loves, and it’s naive to think that because the year has changed, the nature of human beings has changed.