By Daniel Masih
TORONTO: The South Asian community makes up a large population in Canada. The strength of this community is embedded in the family-oriented lifestyle full of love respect and honor. I consider myself lucky to have experienced growing up in a South Asian (Indian) family where traditions are passed down from generations to generations. The gratifications of these traditions are vividly portrayed on the smiling faces of its participants.
There are several holidays and special celebrations in South Asian culture. My favorite holiday to celebrate is Raksha Bandhan, Rakhi, because it reinforces the importance of family and the loved ones. The idea behind Raksha Bandhan is ancient. In the early days, women would tie a ‘raksha’ on her husband’s wrist to protect him from evil forces. Gradually, as time went by, the role of the wife was replaced by the sister and the husband by the brother. The initial incentive remained the same, to protect him (brother) from evil influences that may alter his character. Raksha Bandhan is not only a time for blessings, but also a time to strengthen the bond between siblings.
Every year when I celebrate Raksha Bandhan with my family, my friends of other ethnicities ask me about the colorful string (Rakhi) that I would have around my wrist. Once I explain to them the significance behind the Rakhi they are always intrigued by the idea, expressing a desire to celebrate the same bond with their own siblings.
My idea is a simple one, three words: Raksha Bandhan Day (brother sister day). We already have Mother’s Day and Father’s Day but we do not have a Brother-Sister Day. Raksha Bandhan Day will honor the bond between brothers and sisters from all cultures and communities. I have a vision of returning family values to the young people of our country. Kids these days spend most of their time on the computer, watching television or playing video games instead of spending time with their family and loved ones. Imagine what it would be like in 10 to 20 years, if we instill these family values in the youth of today. This will not be another “Hallmark Moment”. This holiday will not only have an impact on the youth, but also the adult generation. It will enable siblings to mend broken relationships, and/or build stronger ones.
Recently I was at the CNE for the Masala! Mehndi! Masti! festival, where I had a copy of the letter I faxed to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. After meeting with friends and family, I met a young professional by the name of Marcus. He asked about the letter, which at the time was in my hand. I explained to him that it was about recognizing Raksha Bandhan as an official cultural day. He was so intrigued by the idea that he felt compelled to tell his friends and family to support the idea by sending an email to the mayor.
The South Asian community is known to be a giving community, where there is always an attempt to give back to the culture. This is my attempt to give back to the culture that gave so much to me. My vision is to share Raksha Bandhan Day with all cultures. My family has shown me support from the beginning. My uncle Satnam Bhatti said that ideas like this should be followed through because it encourages and introduces the youth to family values and traditions.
Currently I am talking with many media outlets to spread the word on Raksha Bandhan Day to the public. Support our culture and get this great day proclaimed. Help build bridges and refocus on the importance of family nucleus. With you support we can have Raksha Bandhan Day recognized in the Greater Toronto Area, to begin with. You can show your support by contacting the Mayor at email@example.com.
(Daniel Masih can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)