The story of a sacred string

I shall never forget Aparna, and I remember her every year on this day of Raksha Bandhan. Aparna was one of my interns in an organisation I worked.
Matta, the head of HR called me to his office one beautiful morning. As I entered his office, I saw a girl sitting opposite to him. She must be in the late twenties, and she looked stunning. She looked like a model, dressed in simple salwar kurta. She was wearing a bindi and presented herself as a traditional Hindu girl. She smiled at me. Matta introduced me to her, and she would be my intern for the next six months. He asked me to give her some exciting work and take care of her.
As Aparna and I were walking out of Matta’s office, everyone was staring at her as we proceeded to my office. I briefed Aparna in my department and talked about our mutual expectations. After a brief introduction to my colleagues, I assigned a small piece of work to Aparna as a starter. I asked her to meet me every Saturday morning to review her progress on the task. She was free to move around and learn as much as possible during her internship.
Aparna was a friendly girl and an individual with a great sense of humour. She made friends very quickly with other colleagues. In a few days, she adjusted to the new environment quickly. She was sharing breakfast and lunch with colleagues, and she became a cynosure of all eyes. The news also spread that she was not married. The traffic to my department increased, and all the youngsters in my organisation wanted to become her friend. Some of them invited her to lunch with her, some a cup of tea and so on. Several good ‘samaritans’ volunteered to help her with the assignment. One would escort her to the bus in the evening and made sure that he sat next to her while returning home.
In two months, I realised that it was not a good idea to host Aparna. There was a lot of distraction to our work because of frequent visitors to her in the day. We had no mobile phones at that time, and my young colleagues visited daily to talk to her on some pretext or the other. I was unable to stop the traffic.
During the weekend review, I broached the subject with her. She agreed with my observation, though she was thrilled internally that she was getting a lot of attention, and her visibility has gone up. She had an idea, and she wanted to implement next week.
The holiday season was on, and the Raksha Bandhan festival was around the corner. This festival falls on the full moon day of the month of Savan. It is traditional for a girl to tie a sacred thread to the right hand of her brother on Raksha Bandhan day. This string is a ‘rakhi’ which symbolises the commitment of the brother to protect his sister in her life. This string comes in several colours and sizes.

Come Wednesday, Aparna came into the office, very elegantly dressed in a sari and a matching blouse. She was sporting ‘Jhumkis’ on her ears. She was beautiful in her dress and looked like a traditional Indian bride. As soon as she saw me, she came into my office, tied ‘rakhi’ to my right hand and offered me a sweet from the box she was carrying. It is always not necessary that you tie a ‘rakhi’ to your brother. She could choose anyone. It is a symbolic gesture to demonstrate the sisterly or brotherly relationship. Once the thread is tied, the brother commits to take care of the sister in her difficult times.
Aparna tied ‘rakhis’ to the few early ‘brothers’ who came to meet her in the morning. Very soon, the word spread that Aparna is carrying a lot of ‘rakhis’. My young colleagues were running away from her, trying to avoid her. They do not want Aparna to tie the thread which will seal them to become life long brothers and not as potential suitors. She started chasing the guys offering to tie the sacred string to the’ brothers’. After a couple of hours, Aparna came and reported me that several of her friends are missing and did not come to meet her.
With all the sexual abuses and domestic violence around, Rakshabandhan is a good tradition to take forward while several of the Indian youngsters are still sensitive to this symbolic gesture. The sacred thread could be an excellent antidote to the evolving culture of violence against women. I hope I am not wrong here.
I am sure Aparna has settled down in her life with a caring husband and lovely children. She must be still celebrating Rakshabandhan with her near and dear.

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