Rakhi is a Hindu festival in which women tie decorative bracelets, called rakhis, around their brother’s wrists, symbolizing their bond of love and respect. In return, brothers give their sisters gifts, also symbolizing their love and vow to protect them throughout life. My grandmother grew up in Calcutta, India, where she and her sister would hand make rakhis and give them to their brothers and cousins each year. My grandmother had an arranged marriage to my grandfather. He saw America as the land of opportunity, and uprooted his life to Cambridge, Massachusetts to attend Harvard, wanting his family to follow a few years later once he had settled. My grandmother’s closest family and friends were surrounding her in India, and uprooting her life for the ambitions of her husband was very difficult. My grandmother feared that moving to America would break the close ties with her family that she had cherished and created growing up. Objects such as these rakhis that she tied on her family each year represented bonds that were no longer certain, since thousands of miles would now separate them. In the 1960s, with minimal travel and communication capabilities, the future of seeing her family was unclear. In the end, rakhis such as these helped maintain the close bond between my family across seas. My grandmother has sent rakhis each year to her brothers and cousins, showing that no matter how far they are from each other, their bond and love for one another will never falter.
– Surya Bedinger