As an elder sister, I am constantly bailing my brother out of sticky situations. Which makes me wonder, if I am his protector, shouldn’t he be tying a rakhi on my wrist, instead of the other way around? All traditions need an update and Raksha Bandhan is no different.
There’s absolutely nothing I wouldn’t do for my younger brother, even though he happens to be the single most infuriating person I’ve ever known. Considering that I’ve seen him every single day of my life, it’s only human to want to beat him up every now and then.
Although not much younger than me, my brother has always been a little child for me — one who has matured far too quickly. I still distinctly remember skipping school the day he was born 17 years ago, just to be the first one to visit him at the hospital. And then insisting on carrying him myself, without realising how heavy a newborn baby could be for a four-year-old.
Even though the age difference between us is only four years, I’ve always tended to him like a parent. I think it’s an internal switch that gets turned on when you’re an elder sibling. From ensuring that my mother puts enough effort into designing his fancy dress costume, covering for his stupidity, and completing his homework, I’ve looked out for him more than he has himself. Over the years, he’s graduated from calling me dida, didi, to just my name out of sheer embarrassment that he’d admit to his friends that I’m the older one. At this point, I’m just glad that he acknowledges that we’re related.
Raksha Bandhan has been a long-standing tradition in our family and one of my personal favourites, owing to all the gifts I receive. Like most Indian brothers every year, my little one promises to protect me as I tie a rakhi on his wrist. To his credit, he usually lives up to that promise. And one of my favourite Raksha Bandhan moments has been my brother pampering me by exclusively preparing a three-course vegetarian meal (despite his hatred for vegetarian food) last year. I don’t know if it was the fact that it was especially prepared for me, or just that he’s a great chef, but that was definitely the best meal he’s cooked.
As much as I love the festival, I sometimes can’t wrap my head around it: I know it’s tradition to celebrate the brother and have him take an oath to protect his sister. But what about elder sisters like me, who do the protecting? Growing up, it’s actually been my brother who’s always needed me to do damage control for his misdemeanours. I cannot even begin to count the number of times I’ve bailed him out and went out of my way to ensure that he didn’t get into trouble. Like most siblings, we have our own exclusive language. Almost always, he just needs to look at me and I’ll immediately know the extent of the damage while simultaneously racking my brains to think of a way to fix it before our parents have the chance to find out and ground him.
Tried to drive the car? No problem, I’ll handle it. Sneaking in late after pulling an all-nighter party? I’m on top of it. Failed an exam? Who else but elder sister to the rescue?
In fact, I’ve noticed that often, when my brother does something he shouldn’t, the first instinct anyone has is complaining about his behaviour to me instead of my parents. Even my parents have now realised that if there’s one person he’s most likely to obey, it’ll be me and not them. It’s funny how he always manages to get caught by my parents when I’m not around and then disgruntledly calls me first thing (before my parents can get to me) to recite the entire story. It helps that he’s never seen me as an authoritative figure, but more as his friend.
Which makes me wonder – if I am his protector, shouldn’t he be tying a rakhi on my wrist, instead of the other way around? All religions and religious traditions need an update and Raksha Bandhan is no different. As Kurkure’s new campaign acknowledges, the bond between a sister and her brother is a kind of #ChatpataBandhan, and sisters are often their brothers’ saviours. So maybe, this time around, I’ll ask my brother to tie a rakhi on my wrist.
Women are viewed as protectors only in the context of motherhood – in every other situation, we seem to be in need of protection. I’m going to do something different next Raksha Bandhan. How else will my brother thank me for ensuring that he’s not grounded for his entire life?