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.
These are the last few days, the dregs of 2019. It’s my habit to sit here in the Permit Room at this time. I am the be-stubbled and dishevelled regular, cherishing his precious drink at the end of the bar. Weary, I sit here pondering the year, attempting to figure out what it was trying to teach me. What wisdom can I glean from it?
I love to truly understand and appreciate the origins of a dish, and learn how communities have adapted a recipe over time to make that dish unique to them.
We have arrived at a very sad, but inevitable and clear choice. As of now, all Dishooms are now closed to diners.
BOMBAY, 1949. A sultry June evening. Lights glow golden. Candles flicker in the warm breeze that arrives gently through the large open windows of the café.