KARACHI: Every year at Raksha Bandhan, a middle-aged Padma dresses in her best red sari and comes to the Laxmi Narayan Temple with a red rakhi, but without a brother.
She goes up to the room where the statue of Lord Vishnu resides and tries the thread around its wrist. “He is my only brother,” she says, and carries on with her pooja.
A family dispute has severed her ties between her and her two brothers forever.
“We don’t meet even on happy occasions,” she says. The sight of other siblings who come to temple brings back many painful memories, but Padma finds solace in Lord Vishnu.
The girls and women who don’t have brothers or can’t be with them, like Padma, tie the rakhis around deities at Raksha Bandhan, the festival which celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters.
Meena, a young woman who has four sisters, says that the male gods always protect those women who consider the gods as their sibling. “When my mother died, lord gave me the support and comfort I needed to bear the loss,” she says, while sitting on the stairs of Laxmi Narayan Mandir. “Just like a brother would give to his sister.” Besides Vishnu, Meena also makes sure to tie the rakhi around the writs of her cousin, Raju, who presents her with a sari every year.
“The festival may seem light-hearted to some people,” says Raju, as he sits beside Meena. “But the responsibility a sister bestows on him is huge. The brother will never leave his sister alone. This is not a game for us. The thread brings with it a lot of prayers.”
Anand Prakash has three sisters. He says he wears the rakhi till it breaks. “By the end of the day I have seven or eight Rakhis,” he says with a smile. “I even get one from a Muslim sister in my neighborhood.”
Before the actual festival begins, women fast for 17 days and pray for their husbands and brothers.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2012.