Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Raksha Bandhan and Ubuntu: Two ends of the rainbow


Raksha Bandhan is considered a festival to celebrate the bond between brothers and sisters. But, many other relations can be counted under the ambit of Raksha Bandhan.

I fly for there are many who are the wind beneath my wings:

अयं निजः परो वेति गणना लघुचेतसाम्। (Ayam Nijah Paro Veti Ganana Laghucetasam)

उदारचरितानां तु वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्॥ (Udaracaritanam Tu Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam)

~ MahaUpanishad

Roughly translated as: Regarding one as a Relative and considering The Other as a Stranger is the trait of the petty. The Magnanimous regard and embrace the Entire World as a Family.

I recently learnt that social relations that are based on neither consanguineal (blood relation) nor affinal (relations established by marriage)  are called fictive kinship by anthropologists. The word ‘fictive” means that which is not real. But life teaches otherwise…

With just a month left before the Pujas, a father who had fallen upon evil days was out with his children; he suddenly remembered that he had forgotten to attend to urgent work and to make things worse it had started raining, and the work was unavoidable, but at the same time he did not want his little children to get wet; therefore, he went to his friend’s shop which was nearby. His friend, Rizwanur Alam owned one of the oldest tailoring shops in the town. The father said:

“Rizwan Bhai, bacchon ko yahan aapke paas chhore ja ra hoon…zaroori kaam hai…thodi der mein aake le jaaonga.”(I’m leaving the children here with you…there is some urgent work I’ll pick them up in a little while.

Rizwan Bhaireplied: “befikr hokar jaiye, Dada”. (Don’t worry …They’ll be fine here.)

The children were treated to samosa and jalebi by their Rizwan Chacha. When the father returned, he saw Rizwan Bhai was taking measurements of his children.

Surprised the father said: “Arre arre kya kar rahe hain…Aapko toh maloom hi hai sab kuch…abhi inke kapde banwane ki halat me nahin hoon.” (What are you doing? You are well aware of my situation… right now I’m not in the condition to get  new clothes made for them)

Master Sahab calmly replied:

“Jab naap liye hain bhatija bhatiji ke toh kapde bhi ban jayenge..Barish tham gayi hai…ghar jaiye Dada.” (If the measurements have been taken new clothes shall also be delivered to my niece and nephew)

Rainy days passed, and Rizwan Bhai kept the promise he had made to his Dada.

I’m a Prabasi Bengali, meaning a Bengali who lives outside Bengal. As a child, I remember my life was surrounded by Kakas, Kakimas, Pishis, Mashis, Mamas…life was full of struggles since my father had fallen on evil days…but these people around me had in their little ways made my life beautiful. Much later in my life did I learn that I did not share with them any consanguineal ties. They were, are and shall continue to remain my family.

One rainy, foggy morning we missed our school bus and with Papa not in town for a few moments Mother was at a loss, but with a town filled with kakus and Mamas who could save the day, it was Hakuna Matata. Enter our very own handsome Tanmoy Kaku, who had possibly just returned half an hour earlier from a long hauling tour; he smiled and said to my mother:

“Boudi tumi bari jao…aami oder school e diye ashchhi”

Next, we knew we had apparated in front of our school even before our school bus. Now that I come to think I believe Tanmoy Kaku’s bike was a Portkey.

“Boudi, Meye ta ke toiri kore dao…niye jabo…gaaner competition e…o toh obodharito first prize pabe”, said Sunipa Kaki to my mother.

When I actually won the first prize, one should have seen the smile on Sunipa Kaki’s face. This competition was held miles away from our house, and she had taken the pains to take me there to see me win the music competition. She was one of the first people to call to check on me after I delivered my daughter.

When Manab Kaku bought crackers for his children on Diwali, he bought them for us too. He used to silently keep the bag of goodies and leave without a word so as not further embarrass my parents about the tough time they were having.

Krishna Di has comforted me like a mother, held my hand like a sister…I find succour in her.

When my father stays in Ranchi, hundreds of kilometres away from us, we know he is not alone. Mita Mashi and Ashish Mesho are there as is Sumanto Kaku and Udita and Raja Mama are just a phone call away.

Pushu Mashi my mother’s friend has given me two amazing brothers and an equally incredible sister-in-law who continue to light up my life. I saw the sunnier side of life while holding Mupu Mashi’s hand.

I know for sure that if I land into a problem, Arati Kakima shall come to my rescue.

Are these then Fictive (not real) relations? Who are these people? I do not share consanguineal (blood relation) with any of them, yet they continue to make my life wonderful. I’m reminded of those famous lines from the song “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong:

I see friends shaking hands
Saying, “How do you do?”
They’re saying
“I love you.”

Who says that you are born into a family, you have no choice regarding it…I realized that life has ways of blessing us with beautiful people who go on to become your family… So when someone asks Rakshabandhan ka mahurat kab hai? I want to tell them how I’m tied to so many people who saved me in so many ways so many, many times. Raksha Bandhan is saving each other all the time. It is about saving a little of yourself for somebody else. There can be no specific auspicious time for Raksha Bandhan, for I believe as long as there is the Bandhan that is the relation one has to keep on providing Raksha to each other. It is similar to Ubuntu which can be roughly translated as “I am because we are” or “I am because you are”.

A tale to round up:

There was once a brother who loved his sister dearly, but he had to live apart from her to earn a living. He perspired for the happiness of his sister. Whenever it became cloudy, and she cried in fear, her brother would send her a rainbow that connected her to him.

I have often seen such rainbows on gloomy, cloudy, rainy days…

Rig Veda 10.121.4

समानी वा आकूतिः समाना हृदयानि वः।
समानमस्तु वो मनो यथा वः सुसहासति॥

Samaanee va aakootih
samaanaa hridayaani vah.
Samaanam-astu vo mano
yathaa vah susa-haa-sati.

Let our focus and aims be one, and our minds all be in harmony so that there is goodwill and unity all around.

Also Read: Menstruation: Ashadh, Shravan and the flowering tree

(Nilambara Banerjee is a former professor of St. Xaviers College Ranchi.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)


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