Not having a sister of my own had its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage being oh-poor-sisterless-me getting scores of invitations on Bhai Phota (Bhaiya Dhuj) and Rakshabandhan. Initially most muh-boli sisters were elder to me, so I got a lot of gifts and was pleasantly happy with the arrangement. Later, as I grew a little older, many little ones came around and I had to part away with the money that I had saved to enhance my comic book collection (not that I regret that). When adolescence came, with the realisation that young girls can be also be something other than sisters, the alarm bells started ringing. More than half the girls of my age in the locality had taken the sacred pledge from me that I would protect them as a sister for the rest of my life. Things were also not very bright at school.

Every Rakshabandhan, the joke in the school was that the guy with the most rakhis on his wrist is the one the girls are most wary of. My dear friend ‘Lalten’ (as we fondly called him) was the indisputable champion, with ornate threads reaching his elbow. Sadly, I happened to be the distant runner-up for two years in a row. Once, the girl I had a crush on, chased me all over the school with a rakhi in her hand (hope she’s reading this). Thanks to the ties of the resham-ki-dori, my sisters (there were quite a many going by the number of threads tied on my wrist) came to the rescue. ‘Mission bhaiya‘ was a failure, thanks to the behanas. My sister-count remained almost constant until I finally passed out.

College was different, as my stream didn’t have any feminine folks (things have since changed) and interactions with the few females on the campus (the first in decades) were mostly academic (initially). The girls had matured to understand that boy-girl relationships do have other inferences than mere boyfriend/girlfriend or brother/sister. School-time sisters also got lost in the maze of academics and career. University was similar. It’s been years since someone tied a thread on my wrist or put a sandalwood paste tika on my forehead. Today, I have a designer thread tied on my right wrist. I have a sister in town (though she’s right to complain about her aloof elder brother).

Many of you would have noticed the relative hush during the utterance of the lines “All Indians are my brothers and sisters,” at the morning assembly. The greater the silence, the more aware the kids.

I know that you’ve heard this, but phir bhi:

A teacher asks his students to take a pledge.

Teacher: India is our motherland
Students: India is our motherland
Teacher: We shall look upon all women as our mothers and sisters
Students: We shall look upon all women as our mothers and sisters
Teacher: We shall not smoke, drink or gamble
Students: We shall not smoke, drink or gamble
Teacher: We shall not indulge in any immoral activities
Students: We shall not indulge in any immoral activities
Teacher: If necessary we shall die for our motherland
Students: What would we do with such a life anyway?

(Sounds better in Hindi)

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