I remember sitting along with my father and my elder sister on the dewan, long back, deep in contemplation as it was a Rakhee day and I had no brother of my own. I was barely 8 years old and could see the happy expression on the faces of all other girls who were just ecstatic for having tied a rakhee on the wrists of their brothers. Or was I more sad because I hadn’t got any money that my friends boasted of having accumulated!
Money made a big statement even in those old good days though it would be just a fiver or a tenner that you could hope to get at the best for tying a rakhee. My father would give us some money on this day so that we did not feel being at loss so far the money part was concerned but to make up for the emotional loss, he could do nothing except making us tie a rakhee on his wrists, a rakheee sent by my Bua from Palampur. It would make me all the more sad.
I would now wait for our family priest to come. He would come without fail every year with a big bag hanging from his shoulders and would scoop inside the bag to bring out so many things that interested me. And today being the Rakhee day it would be the colourful rakhees that he would bring out of his bag! With a fervent religiosity he would tie a band each on our wrists to ward off any evil that may befall us during the year. I would be so happy to have this band as a shield on my wrist. Though honesty speaking I never liked the bands that he brought as they were the cheapest sort and displaying them would be a little insulting to me. Though they had colourful silken threads attached to them but the colours would come out the moment water touched them. Howsoever Ihard I would try to keep them covered, my wrists coloured in different hues would give them away. I thanked God for the Shimla weather where sweaters were a must throughout the year and I would hide it under my sweater. When he would tie these bands on our wrists, he would chant in a very clear and audible voice:
“Yen Baddho Baliraja, Danvendro Mahabalah,
Ten Baddhnami aham, rakshah mam, rakshah mam.”
I would ask him to repeat it and would write it down in my copy. It gave me immense satisfaction to have not only the security band on my wrist but to have the mantra to ward off evil as well in my arsenal. We were told to wear these wands till “Sair” that would be about 2 months away and it would be on this day that we would put this off, to be put away in flowing water. Such sanctity was attached to a mere thread of purity!
My Maa would come out, with her face covered, to touch Pandit Ji’s feet and to seek his blessings to have a son the next Rakhee day. A brother to her two daughters!
He would regale us with the stories of the magnanimity of Lord Shiva and how he bestows all with what they crave for. A real Bhola Bhandari, easiest to please among all gods. My little heart would swell with gratitude for Lord Shiva and would make a silent fervent wish to grant me one little brother. I would ask Pandit Ji about the easiest way to please him and he said, “Pour water mixed with milk everyday on his Lingam during the month of Saavan and He would be pleased.” “Not a difficult task by any standards”, I thought as we lived in the Lower Bazaar area and the Shiva Mandir was a small distance away. Perhaps my father had also some plans to beget a son and he decided to undergo a month’s fast during the month of Saavan.
Stubborn as I had been since my childhood I, too, decided to undergo a month’s fast to have a brother by next Rakhee. I would not listen to anyone and nothing could deter me not even my frail health. Looking back I find that I was always strong on the mental side. So it was a month of absolute devotion, piety and sincere pleadings that I underwent through! I would go, along with my father, to the Shiva temple that is some steps down near the Baljees’ on the Mall. Greedy as I was since my childhood, I would be dismayed not to get any prasaad in this temple. But over some time the priest of that temple became my friend and confidante and I would share my feelings and dreams with me. I still remember him. A tall and hefty man who would wear a long robe. The reason Iremeber him lies more in the fact that he would give me some prasaad everyday that he would not give to any other devotee. I was a special visitor for him.
The temple doesn’t stop to mesmerize me even today. Whenever I go to Shimla I make it a point to visit this temple to revive some of the devotion and piety that I had felt long back in its sanctorum but find that over the years it has been replaced by a sense of doubt and uncertainty. Perhaps this is the reason that Lord Shiva is not that bountiful towards me as he was during my childhood!
The next Rakhee day I had a small brother to tie rakhee on his wrists! Everyone commended my parents to have such a daughter who would take a month long fast to have a brother. But I did it to have a brother and get some money on the Rakhee day and also to test the veracity of Lord Shiva’s shakti!
Today, I am sitting at my PC wandering through the lanes of the past and reminiscing the sweetness of innocence that was my hallmark those days. I have posted Rakhees to both my brothers along with a yearly letter to them, wishing for all the best in their life. I have called them on their mobiles to convey, once again, my best wishes. They would send me some gift, if they remember, some day and then the same story would be repeated the next year. I wonder where have we lost on way to maturity all those small things that gave us so much of happiness, once upon a time. I want to go back to my childhood where all acts were pure and innocent, coming straight from the heart, whether it was a month long fast or praying to have a brother!
Today there are just two of us at home. With nothing much to do, we sit reading newspapers, watching TV and waiting for a friend to drop by. No Pandit Ji would come to tie a rakhee thread on my wrist and the little girl in me still craves for a band as a safeguard against all the evils that may befall me during the year!
The designers’ Rakhes and the hype that goes along with the day and the gifts that transact this day, make me all the more nostalgic and I wish to have the same very band that I so disliked to wear, because of its cheap quality, to have on my wrist and flaunt to all those who matter!
Because of the purity and love and care that gave its threads a lifetime strength.