Weak thread, strong links

`AB KE Baras Bhej Bhaiya Ko Babul, Sawan Mein Lijo Bulae Re.' This song from Bimal Roy's "Bandini" is loaded with the pain of separation that a woman expresses on the eve of Raksha Bandhan, remembering her joyous childhood when she journeyed on wings of innocence.

Raksha Bandhan celebrates the relationship of a brother and sister. It goes beyond boundaries of caste, religion and even nationality. Because girls tie rakhi not only to their biological siblings but to any man with whom they share a relationship of brotherly love.

In South India, the Pongal festival has an interesting dimension, in which girls, after praying for the well being of their brothers, prepare several dishes and place them on a banana leaf, which they offer to birds and animals. This epitomises the philosophy of `vasudhaiva kutumbakam' - the entire world is one family.

Rakhi was not always a festival for brothers and sisters. In ancient days the priest tied a sacred yellow and red thread on the right wrist of the person for whom he was conducting a ceremony. Later the womenfolk tied this thread on the wrists of king and soldiers before they left for battle. Recently this practice was observed on a large scale when women tied rakhis on the wrists of soldiers bound for the Kargil war. Be it a priest or a sister, the reason behind the festival has remained the same: Prayers for the well being of the menfolk, who in return promise to protect - in olden days it was the entire community, and now it can be their sisters or nation.

With this festival gaining popularity across different communities, the market forces have joined in too. Great pomp and show go into this otherwise unpretentious event. And somewhere the simplicity gets lost amidst the glitz. Every year new corporate colours aid in `packaging emotions'. Rakshabanshan has almost become like another Valentine's Day. True, we all have our own way to express ourselves, and money does play a vital role, but is it fair to decorate our feelings to the extent that they get squashed by the weight of our wealth?

With society being ripped apart by divisive forces, it's time we tried to weave a thread running through each of us, bonding us in a bond - `bandhan' - of love, peace and happiness.