Siblings can be frustrating, can’t they? Know-it-all elder sisters. Pesky little brothers, bullying big ones. There’s always naughtiness, teasing, sniffling, snitching. Sharing, borrowing, breaking, side-taking. As we crawl past toddler-hood, jostle one another through childhood, mope into teenage angst and emerge, somewhat baffled and bruised by the transition, into adult life, we come to know each other only too well (and of course, we get especially good at knowing how to wind each other up). There’s no airs and graces amongst siblings. No boundaries between us – you might try to put them there, but they’ll no doubt be trampled down again. These are relationships of tears and tantrums, just as much as of fun and laughter.
Yet despite (and because of!) this proximity, the endless chafing and bickering, a unique bond develops. Friendships and partnerships ebb and flow over time, and life may take you in odd directions, but your siblings will always be a part of you, and you will come to be glad of that. It will no longer matter whose colouring book it was (and in truth, it never really mattered – just saying). Although you might never admit it, those careworn hand-me-down clothes that you claimed to resent can actually be comforting in their familiarity.
Your siblings are your confidantes, your playmates, your partners in crime. They’re your own personal compass to guide you when you need guiding, and anchor you when you’re getting carried away. They’ll shoo you away from danger and encourage you towards your goals. They buck up your burdens when they’re too heavy to shoulder alone, scold you (rightly!) when you’re out of line, share your deepest secrets, and are a truly lifelong source of joy, support and companionship. You knew them from birth, and you will know them all your life.
The festival of Raksha Bandhan celebrates this most enduring of bonds. According to the Hindu legend, in order to protect the good people, Lord Krishna had killed the evil King Shishupal. During the battle, Krishna was left with a bleeding finger. Seeing this, Draupadi (Krishna’s sakhi – beloved friend) immediately tore off a strip of cloth from her sari and tied it around his wrist to stop the bleeding. Lord Krishna was deeply touched by her concern, and declared himself bounded by her sisterly love, and vowed to repay this debt by protecting Draupadi whenever she was in need.
And so Raksha Bandhan came to be the embodiment of this deep sense of loyalty and protection, a celebration of the love that exists between a brother and sister. On the day of the festival, the first day of the lunar month of Shravan, the sister prepares a pooja thali (plate) bearing red kumkum powder, a rakhi (piece of thread), and her brother’s favourite mithai (traditional Indian sweets). The sister prays for raksha (protection) over him, and puts a tilak on his forehead (smudginess often correlates directly to the sister’s mischievousness!). She ties the rakhi around the wrist of her brother, and feeds him the mithai. In return, the brother promises to return her love and protect her from life’s harms, and offers her a gift.
The ceremony now complete, the band laced around his wrist is thought to be stronger than a metal chain, thanks to the bond between them.
In 2013, Raksha Bandhan falls on Wednesday, August 21st. To celebrate this gentle festival of love and loyalty, we’ll provide rakhis and a special pooja thali for your ceremonies, along with our favourite, festive chocolate barfi.
So, faithful sisters, bring your brothers… and protective brothers, bring your sisters! It’ll be an honour to be part of your Raksha Bandhan this year, so if you come as a pair to celebrate at Dishoom on August 21st, it definitely deserves a drink on us.
With February comes a gladdening of spirits, lighter morning skies and discernibly louder birdsong. It is also the month to bid farewell to our winter cocoons (at least partially) and tune back into the world beyond our blankets. Allow us to ease the de-hibernation process, by sharing some of the things piquing our interest this month.
“Who wants to see some magic?” Chef Arun calls out. He flings the rolled out dough into the air, sending it soaring above the counter. It spins and twists, a graceful dancer in the air. The children watch its arc, their eyes wide with wonder, until it lands gently back in the chef's hands. The children shriek in delight.
January is a most divisive month. For some it heralds the hopeful turning over of new leaves; for others it is a month to trudge begrudgingly through towards the promise of spring. Whichever camp you find yourself in, we have plentiful diversions to share. See them as the cherry atop your already gleeful January cake, or a welcome distraction while you await winter’s end.
I AM HERE, dear reader, slovenly and slouched, staring into my drink at the end of the bar in our new restaurant in Battersea. My mind is still down and out, sifting around in the dregs of ’23 but of course it knows that I should really straighten my back, raise my chin and look squarely up into the cold new light of ’24. My drink – Choti’s Punch – clear and strong, sweet with a little salt, may help.