Food for thought

A few days back during an open house meet, Naisha's teacher suggested I get her to do one short composition everyday to rid her of her fear/laziness of writing. One of their recent write ups was on Rakshabandhan. What they wrote, proved to be quite an eye opener.

Naisha's wrote two perfunctory lines on the rakhi tying and then went on to talk about a radio which she had got as a gift. Hrit too got by with a few words on rakhi and then described in great detail how we went out to lunch with an account of all what we ate.

Knowing my children I hadn't expected anything too sentimental but I certainly had expected them to talk about the spirit of the festival. I was sorely disappointed.

When we were kids rakhshabandhan meant posting the rakhis to our cousins a week in advance and that was that. Even on the rare occasions we were together with our cousins, getting something from them was a total no. In fact gifts were never related to occasions - not even birthdays. Rakshabandhan - definitely not. When the girls at school would discuss their rakhi 'spoils' laughingly asking each other, "Kitni kamayi hui?" I'd look on with wonder and, I have to admit, some envy too.

However over the years the message became only too firmly ingrained - rakshabandhan was about handmade rakhis, formal clothes, roli and tika maybe even laddoos and kaju katlis but that was it.

When Hrit Naisha came along the festival finally found a home with us and became something we all looked forward to. So secure was I in my belief that the kids would imbibe its true spirit by default, that I made no effort to reinforce it for them. Worse, I saw no harm in small gifts because I thought that would make the day 'perfect'. It is tough to resist those super happy smiles on their faces.

How wrong was I. Of course the gifts brought smiles, but that was a temporary, fleeting happiness at the cost of something far more precious. Instead of celebrating their very special bond, what remained of the festival in their minds, was the gift and the eating out.

I wonder how my mum got it so right. She was half my age when she had us, she had no Internet to guide her, no mommy support groups to help her along and years of conservatism to struggle against. She had much more on her mind than I do. Yet I never saw her obsess about 'mothering', never saw her struggle with decisions, specially those related to my sister and me. I don't think she ever consciously thought "I need to explain to my children that rakshabandhan isn't about gifts" and yet she managed to get the message across so clearly. How did she do that? I have no idea. 

I will now borrow a page from her Great Book of Life principles and try to pass some of it on to Hrit and Naisha. If subtelties won't do, I'll simply have to blunder in and spell it out for them for this is a lesson too important to let go - for them and for me. 

I like to think there's time yet to put right what I messed. Next year on rakhi I hope I'll get to see two very different compositions - compositions that'll come a bit from the heart. I hope the day will bring to the children a renewed realisation of how truly miraculous it is to have someone by your side right from the moment of your birth - a brother, a sister, a friend for life.

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