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A large yellow sponge cut out in the shape of a flower, with a shiny Bollywood pink cardboard Ganeshji stuck on top, stitched precariously onto the middle of a flimsy golden cord.
That was the design of the rakhis on offer, in my first year here. It was over thirty years ago, and as a brand new bride who had left her family behind, I was homesick as hell. On my first Rakshabandhan here, I couldn’t believe I would miss my two brothers this much. Still, I couldn’t send them the yellow monstrosity for rakhi – not even as payback for all the disagreements we had had over the years.
Oh well, I thought, I’ll just make my own rakhis, and walked into Lincraft. A few ribbons and ribbon roses later, I had two beautiful rakhis carefully taped onto the front of two blank greeting cards, and wrote my rakhi line in each: “I pray that all your dreams may come true”. So what if the rakhi looks different, I thought, both boys will understand. And next year, hopefully, the Indian stores here will have some better designs.
As it turns out, both brothers loved the rakhis – and I have never sent them store-bought rakhis since, except for that one year when my second child was born and I found myself perpetually exhausted. Some years, I’ve stitched on tiny glass beads in place of ribbon roses – ie whenever I have been a bit better organized to do this well in advance. But the rakhi line inside the cards has remained the same, for two reasons: one, I figure I can be myself with my brothers and have no need to ‘act’ or impress, and two, I mean those words from the bottom of my heart.
The number of ribbon rakhis have now increased from two to seven, with my daughter sending out her wishes to her cousin-brothers in various parts of the world.
For one of my brothers who was in the Indian Air Force, it was hard to keep track of all the change in addresses as he moved from posting to posting. One time, as he got ready to serve 9 months in Sudan as part of the UN Peace Keeping Force, I said to him, where shall I post your rakhi? He thought for a moment and said, “We’ll talk on the phone or email on Rakhi, don’t post me anything.”
Soon after, I heard a Rakhi Special on Indian Link Radio. One frequent listener Subhadra Moudgal had rung in with her own Rakhi story. Subhadraji, with her gentle voice and sensible thoughts, was everyone’s ‘mother figure’ in Indian Link Radio world. “I just tie my rakhi onto Ganeshji’s wrist in my home mandir,” Subhadraji revealed on air. “And I hope he carries my wishes to my brother.”
I tied my own rakhi that year on Ganeshji’s wrist – and prayed he would carry my wishes to Sudan.
Ever since, Ganeshji has an annual change of rakhi at my home.
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