2014-08-13

Raksha Bandhan, patriarchy and economics of inequality

Raksha Bandhan, the Hindu festival, celebrating the bond between brother and sister, was celebrated last Sunday. On the occasion, the sister ties a sacred thread on the wrist of her brother to protect her from all evils.


Over the years, I always looked forward to Raksha Bandhan where my Rakhi sisters tied a thread on my wrist as an expression of love, affection and respect. It strengthen the bond between brother and sister. Being the only child, I always miss a sister in life. But, over the years, I started thinking about Raksha Bandhan, wondering whether a sister needs protection from the brother, a male in the family. Unfortunately, I feel celebrations like Raksha Bandhan and Karwa Chauth are products of the patriarchal society hell bent to reduce the status of a woman to a non-entity and confined to submissive role in our society. I don't have anything against Raksha Bandhan and I respect people who follow the tradition.

The intention is not to provoke people or declare war on the religious sanctity of the celebration. What I am only trying to discuss is why a woman need a 'male' protector to shield her from evils in society. I wonder why we treat our girls as inferior beings who can only be better in the presence of a male member of society. If we really want to pave the way for more equality in society, why do we judge a woman and type cast her in the role of a wife, sister and mother. C'mon! A woman has her own identity as a human being and her role is not to sit at home, prepare food for her husband or brother, watch Saas-Bahu drama. Let her be who she is to carve her identity and fulfill her aspirations as a complete human being. She has her own needs and urge. She is not a doll where the remote control is in the hands of the male patriarch and she would laugh, cry or sleep when she is told to. A woman is no commodity on the market who is expected to follow certain courses at the university or enter career at the work place that women should do. She has the right to fall in love and follow her heart.

Unfortunately, celebrations such as Karwa Chauth and Raksha Bandhan reflect a certain conservative mindset where there is a hidden meaning, 'A woman's place is in the kitchen or to fulfill the obligations as deemed by society. Why let this old patriarch decide what is good or bad, morally right or wrong for her to do? The whole purpose of being a complete human being is destroyed by a society hell bent on promoting old age concepts of superiority and inferiority. Why can't a woman work in a corporate world and her partner or husband, for that matter, stay at home, look after the kids, cook and do the vessels? 

Today, we stand at a very critical juncture in society where women have been exploited, sometimes as the house wife, sister or mother.My take is simple: Do we need a Rakshak? I am speaking for both men and woman, where sons and daughters rely on their father to take all decisions for them, be it toys, career and who to marry. For me, a brother is someone who let his sister grow by being herself, carving her place under the sun and she needs no moral certificate or male patronage. For me, Raksha Bandhan is all about love and uniting souls, being each other's strength. My issue with conservative patriarchy ingrained in such festivals is that there is something terribly wrong with our society, a grave injustice perpetrated against human beings who are terrorized at every end to fit in certain roles. Remember the old age stupid crap, 'Don't cry like a girl'.

I rest my case. Let me assure again: My perspective on Raksha Bandhan is not meant to hurt anyone who believes in the celebration, forging love, among siblings. I am opening a healthy discussion on ugly patriarchy, conservative mindsets and whether these festivals have contributed to create inequality which is rampant and works against the interest of woman in society. I don't need to be a 'Rakshak' to my sister. If she can carry a child in her womb for nine months, she can very well dictate her life and live on her own terms.

V
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