Yesterday marked the annual occasion of Raksha Bandhan, or as I know it, Rakhri. It's a day when Hindus and Sikhs celebrate the relationship between sisters and brothers. Sisters tie a thread, which is supposed to symbolize the bond of protection, on their brothers' wrists and in return the brothers vow to protect their sisters. This ritual usually consists of feeding each other sweets, and in some cases brothers giving sisters money or gifts. Keep in mind that this isn't exclusive to blood brothers and sisters; cousins partake in the celebration with cousins and even males who are "like brothers" are appreciated by women.
I've always been in awe at how widely honored brothers are by their sisters in India. Though I've been living in the United States my entire life, my family has definitely not neglected this ritual. I consider myself overwhelmingly lucky that I have been blessed with a big brother. He's been more than just a brother for all of my life, and in some ways has even acted as a father figure. Not because my father isn't around, but rather because of the difference in perspective that my father and I can have.
The relationship between father and daughter is a delicate one. On one hand, a father teaches his daughter the standards a woman should have for any relationship with a male. He is meant to protect her, provide for her as she grows up and support her in every way possible. On the other hand, a daughter softens her father, and she creates a space in his heart for vulnerability and emotion.
Growing up with two typically traditional immigrant Sikh parents, I have had a distant and confusing relationship with my father. I was first generation born and brought up in America, constantly battling with my father about the "American" ways. God forbid I hang out with the opposite sex in a coffeeshop....alone. Thankfully, I have had siblings who helped pave the way for me when it comes to experiences like high school prom or personal exploration.
Don't get me wrong, I love my father very deeply as any daughter who has had the chance to build a relationship with her father would. I know that he would protect me, provide for me and support me, but what's been the biggest mountain to climb (and 23 years into our relationship, we are still climbing), is feeling misunderstood by him. Why have I changed my career path a few times? Why would I cherish my individuality? How do I have the gall to question his opinions? What's the point of dating? Why am I struggling with anything at 23?
Enter: 33 year old, big brother, Ajay.
Ajay has played a number of roles in my life. He's been the pestering voice reminding me to be safe when I would go out behind my parent's back. He was my confidant when I wanted a male opinion on something. He was my friend, my protector, my provider, my punching bag, and my safety net. But most importantly, Ajay has always been a main male role model for me and my ally.
I admire my brother so profusely that I even use him as the standard for all the males I allow in my life. He has been the male voice that has verbally talked to me about right and wrong especially in relationships. A subject my father and I never touch on. As my ally, Ajay acts as the buffer between me and my parents. He would spend hours talking back and forth between my parents and me to help us reach agreements and mutual understandings. And he always, always, always stood up for me even when I didn't deserve it.
So today, I want to publicly embarrass my brother and say to him- Happy (late) Rakhri, Ajay, and a million thanks over and over. Maybe I'll get an extra bonus gift for this post ;)