..and then, I began to grow up and understand why I was made to go through what I considered ignominies then. Now I think it was just suffering.
I am continuing a chain of thought that has been coming back to me over and over again last few weeks...thoughts of womanhood, and what I had to face, just because my gender was pre-decided by a very chemical factor that took place within the body of a person who is my mother. I did not even cause me to be a girl child, a woman, it just happened. I should have sometime, turned around and blamed my father for it, or my mother. But as is the nature of things - a woman learns to accept blame for everything, even for something she has not caused.
Anyway, I am digressing here. My thoughts go back to those childhood days more often these days because Rakhi is approaching. On this festival every year my brothers and I, (in fact, all brothers and sisters) renewed our brotherly-sisterly vows, if you could call them that.
It is amazing how somewhere between all the mental abuse I had to go through because of the 'superior existence' of my brothers there came a day where I was special.
Technically, Rakhi is supposed to be another one of those festivals, which is an ode to the male gender ' the better half. Women tie those threads pronouncing their undying devotion to their brothers, and those aristocrats ' brothers ' condescend to give their sisters some bribe so that they could profess their devotion again next year. Rakhi is definitely a festival to boost the already inflated male ego. It is a festival that feminists would love to strike out completely from the history of a nation. And I have been a feminist too ' a school of thought I chose to discard later, and I will come to this sometime in this series. But can they strike out years of grounding, the years of training where the bitter half is gradually, or sometimes not so gradually bludgeoned to look at themselves as the inferior? But I digress again.
Anyhow, there was this one day in the year for which the excitement used to build up much in advance. I knew Rakhi was approaching, when the roadside stalls started displaying those colorful threads symbolic of our love for our brothers, there was a general gayety in the atmosphere, my mother took me out to buy at least three or four new dresses, and I could have a say in what I wanted. The tantrums, and the scolding used to stop at least one week before Rakhi. My brothers started treating me like their little sister, I could make demands on what sweets I wanted to eat, I didn't have to serve them all the time, I was free to play ' at least two days before the festival.
That one week, in the whole year I was the queen of the show. And then I had to return to reality like Cinderella to her chores.
I have never figured out to this day, (and there are many things I have been able to reason out), why that one week I was special. The day of Rakhi, I used to dress in my best clothes, put on as much make up as I wanted to the point of making myself look ridiculous, could leave my hair open ' something I was forbidden to do all through the year, and could do anything I wanted.
I loved that festival. I used to decorate that plate for the religious ceremony ' the Puja ' put two pretty Rakhis in it, put an earthen lamp in it, put a paste of saffron and rice and go through the steps of tying the Rakhis on my brothers' wrists. But before that I lit the lamp, put the paste on my brothers' foreheads (the tika), and after tying the Rakhi, feed them with 'burfi'. There used to be smiles all around. I got hugs, and happiness and cheer, and even money for doing this ' maybe a bribe to ensure that I behaved well on this festive occasion. But whatever the reason, I was happy for the money ' because that was all I would get for the entire year. And it wasn't much. Sometimes I have thought of myself as an unpaid maidservant ' I used to do everybody's bidding, and didn't get anything in return, not even a minimum salary. But let me not digress this time again.
All those bridges have been crossed, my wounds do not fester anymore ' but they still hurt. Despite that hurt wedged somewhere deep in my heart and mind, my heart brims with love for my brothers ' how they were and how they are ' and as Rakhi approaches, I have begun to wish that I had wings and I would be back where I really belong ' tying those threads on their wrists again ' and not for money. But only for the sheer pleasure of being able to do it again.
Does distance and time do this to bad memories? Yes, but there's something about the festival of Rakhi that would do it anyway. There is a magic to this word ' Rakhi ' that ties my brothers and me together in a kind of a holy bond, which no suffering can weaken.
If I were asked to choose, I would choose the life I have had with them again, with some changes ' and if I can say that despite my years' of agonizing over being treated as inferior, there has to be a deeper meaning to this relationship. Somehow, I blame it on the Rakhi I tied on their wrists that has made me the prisoner of their love forever.
And this is the truth ' however badly a girl child might be treated, she is always loved as part of the family. Strange twist of an Indian girl's fate!