I wish all brothers and sisters a very happy raksha bandhan. It is a beautiful and unique festival. I can go all teary eyed about it but putting sentimentality aside I am today thinking about the practicalities of having siblings. Without a doubt those with siblings have and edge over those who are alone. The least important reason being that they gain an invaluable life experience from interacting so closely with another human being and most important being that they can in the long run get a lot of emotional support in the absence of parents, for after all the sibling is the only other person who shares ones parents. My brother has contributed a lot of high drama and excitement in my life ranging from tooth and nail fights over bits of paper and also pieces of string to moving me by buying a ear-ring for me on my birthday with all the twenty-five rupees that he had saved as his pocket money. He has an awfully short memory so he must have forgotton all about it but I still have the earings in my almirah locker. I am also ever grateful for the nobility he showed when he realised that he could hurt me in the fist fights we used to have he refrained from hitting me even though I admit that I had provoked him enough. Anyhow these incidents of sibling infighting apart we have had a fairly cordial and supportive relationship. The one time that I really thanked God for my brother was when my father was ill. The immence peace of mind and strength that he gave me by just being there for my parents cannot be compared to anything in this world. I was unable to go to them promptly but atleast he was there, that thought was really reassuring for me.
My account about brothers would not be complete without mentioning my cousin. I share a very special relation with this cousin of mine, from terrible fist fights to the exchange of our innermost thoughts during our growing up years, I cherish his presence in my life. There are only seventeen days separating our ages, that's why we literally grew up at the same time. We used to correspond very regularly and exchaged ideas about life in general. I remember our lament when we crossed our teens and reached the 'ripe old age' of twenty. We are still very good friends but it is bond that transcends friendship and is a million other little things that has come out of years of common experiences and shared joys and frustrations.
At our time only brothers wore rakhis but my daughter receives rakhis from her grandparents and cousin and now even from her new little brother. I like this unique custom in my marital home. My mom in law used to send rakhis to her grandson my brother in law's son and she gave one to her new grand daughter too which I think was a very beautiful thought. Raksha bandhan, it means tying a string on the wrist of someone on whom you can rely to come to your help unconditionally and for whose long life you pray all the time. I am sure that a grand-daughter also comes with the purview of that description. During the anti-partition movement in Bengal in 1905 strangers tied the string on each others' wrists to show exemplary solidarity at the behest of Rabindranath Tagore indeed a unique and beautiful gesture.