British Indians embrace the virtual reality of Raksha Bandhan

British Indians embrace the virtual reality of Raksha Bandhan
Courtesy: IndiaPix/IndiaPicture | IndiaPicture Via Getty Images

In time for Raksha Bandhan, being celebrated on August 11, British Indians are all set with their video call links via WhatsApp or Zoom or indeed any other virtual medium, having already e-gifted their Rakhi to their family members in India.

According to the Hindu calendar, Raksha Bandhan – also referred to as Rakhi for short – falls on Purnima Tithi of Shukla Paksha in the month of Shravan and this year falls on two dates of August 11 and 12. It is marked by sisters tying a “Rakhi” on their brother's wrists and wishing them a long, prosperous and happy life. In return, the brothers promise to protect their sisters for life – with sweets and mithai shared all round.

For Global Indians far away from their siblings, there are now happily numerous small e-commerce outlets specialising in Rakhi gifts and delivering them on time to their loved ones. iGlobal takes a look at just how this virtual reality has overcome the Covid lockdown compulsions and gone on to enhance a traditional festival, which celebrates an enduring family bond.


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A universal bond

Feature writer Jasmine Vithlani from Oxfordshire said her only brother lives in Sydney. It has always been a long-distance Rakhi celebration for them, on WhatsApp video chat, even before the pandemic.

"My brother has been living in Sydney for many years, and I was in London, and it has been a good eight years since we have ended up together on Raksha Bandhan. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder!

“Since he got married and had kids recently, I also send my bhabhi (sister-in-law) a Lumbaa Rakhi and some cute Rakhis for his little boys, along with sweets/chocolates etc.

“Thus, it is not just about us siblings anymore, but the whole family is involved, which makes it that much more enjoyable," she said.

"I cannot imagine not celebrating Raksha Bandhan, virtually though it may be. It is such a special day celebrating the brother-sister bond. It is not just about celebrating one day but showing my brother how much his presence means to me in my life, reliving childhood memories and cherishing our bond. It is a brilliant way of telling my brother how much I love him even though he is across the seven oceans and that I still care deeply wherever he might be," Vithlani adds.


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Millennial Rakhi

The mini millennials have inherited all the smarts from their parents and some more. Hence, it doesn't take them too long to adapt to virtual reality. It is as if they are born with it.

Gayatri Shenoy from Harrow, London, is a mum of two kids, Saranya, 8, and Sienna, 3.

"My daughters will tie Rakhi to their three-year-old cousin Karthik Nayak, who lives in Mumbai. They did it last year. They love tieing Rakhi to each other and themselves," smiles Shenoy.

"I'd ordered Rakhi and gifts for my nephew, and it has already reached my sister's place in Mumbai. My sister has also done the same. We will do virtual aarti and sweet feeding. Also, if required, we will do a pre-Raksha Bandhan prep session, explaining the process to the kids," said the happy mum.


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Celebrating wellness

Shreyasi Das, 25, moved to the UK two years ago and since then, she has been celebrating Raksha Bandhan virtually over WhatsApp.

"Every year on this day, l still buy a Rakhi for my cousin brother, virtually tie him on his wrist and send him sweets and Rakhi gifts and he sends my gift too through Amazon. Although, for the last two years the celebration has been virtual now, but still feels great. Knowing that we can still maintain the tradition even though we are miles apart.

“Brothers and sisters are always very special in our life and this little effort to continue celebrating this day virtually is a sweet little gesture of that," said Das, who is an Assistant Psychologist by profession.

She thinks that following and celebrating such age-old traditions strengthens relationships and forms an important part of our well-being.

"We, humans, strive in a society where we all have individual responsibility and honouring these traditions is a part of it. It nurtures our sense of belongingness, strengthens our human relationships, and improves the quality of time spent with our family. Through honouring these traditions, we honour ourselves, share happiness and empathy and thus help develop as civilised individuals. It's also our responsibility that each generation should learn about these traditions and pass them on to the next. So, be it Rakhi, Bhai Phonta, birthday, anniversary, Diwali or Karwa Chauth – celebrating our traditions are very important, be it virtual or in real," Das delves deeper.


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Meta Rakhi

On a more personal note, not being very big on the aarti and tikka aspect of the tradition, but instead with a major interest in electronic devices as gifts, my brother – eight years younger to me – has demanded a “smart, leather Rakhi” (!) and an Oculus video game contest to celebrate the day.

And as always, for good old time's sake, this sister will spend time with her face buried in novels while secretly cherishing the time spent with her pestering little brother – be it inside the virtual game room of Meta.

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