A few weeks back, Indian brothers and sisters all over the world celebrated the beautiful festival of Raksha Bandhan. It is traditionally a promise of protection and an affirmation of the bond between a brother and sister. Ever since I married, I have had the privilege of witnessing this beautiful relationship firsthand between my husband and his elder sister. Although we live in separate countries, my sister-in-law has never missed sending my husband a rakhi to tie on his wrist, her blessings and his favourite sweets.
About four years ago, my sister-in-law discovered the tradition of the lumba rakhi which is followed by the Marwadi community of Rajasthan and I was honoured since then to be included in their bond of love and protection.
With travel slowly opening up in these challenging times we live in, many parts of the world still continue to fight a seemingly unending battle to contain the spread and restore normalcy to day-to-day life, many of us expatriates for multiple reasons have not had a chance to travel and spend time with our families back home. Some of us are separated from spouses and/or children, some of us are not able to lend much-needed support back home to our siblings and parents in the form of our physical presence and an additional pair of hands to even the load.
A couple of days before Raksha Bandhan, these were some of the sentiments being echoed by my childhood friends in a WhatsApp group that has sustained us through the difficult times since the past year. We were all voicing our challenges and trying to keep each others’ spirits up.
A friend was separated from her spouse who was taking on a new role in another country. While they had decided to travel and meet up every few months, my friend’s country of residence went into a lockdown mode and they could no longer travel as originally planned. Another had just dropped off her son at college and was very worried about the risks that came with being around other students and was filled with anxiety about her son’s safety and health. A third friend was still battling long term side effects of COVID-19 and required to take heart medication now while her sister was critically ill in the hospital from COVID-19 (thankfully she recovered a few days later).
This sombre news coming from various parts of the globe coupled with me not having met my family members back home since a couple of years now put my mood at a new low. I missed the chats and laughter when we sisters got together when I visited, my mothers’ peaceful presence that just made everything right with the world, my mother-in-law’s amazing food and entertaining stories, my father-in-law’s banter and the daily jumble puzzle, shopping trips with my sister-in-law, catching up on the world of entertainment with my brother-in-law. Every moment spent so taken for granted until last year.
That was the exact point in time when my husband walked in from work with a package in his arm. After he sanitised himself and freshened up, we eagerly opened the package to find something that just felt like the universe felt my sadness and sent a slice of home at absolutely the exact time when I needed it the most.
We opened the package to uncover a beautiful set of rakhis, one for my husband and one for me. It came with the cutest and funniest set of coffee cups and some sweet treats. I had happy tears in my eyes and just like that, my faith in love and its power to restore a broken heart was restored.
A couple of days later, it was Raksha Bandhan and we happily donned our rakhis, feeling the love and the feeling of coming home seep into our souls.
We all as humanity probably have many more challenges and difficulties to face before we can say the world is free from the clutches of this pandemic. But until then, as long as we keep the bonds that hold us together strong, no matter how far away we are from each other, we will never be too far from home.