Opinion: This is what it’s like to be estranged from a sibling

Opinion: This is what it’s like to be estranged from a sibling
When I am asked if I have any siblings, I often answer ‘no’, just so I don’t have to explain how – and why – we don’t speak to one another

Sunday 22 August was a special day for many Asians from the UK’s Sikh and Hindu community. It was the festival of Raksha Bandhan – a chance to honour a sibling.

“Raksha” means “safety” and “bandhan” means “bon”d. Raksha Bandhan – or rakhi – is an important celebration, dedicated to brothers and sisters. On this auspicious day, the sister ties a thread on her brother’s wrist (also called a rakhi) and prays for his long and prosperous life. In return, the brother gives a token of love to her: typically money, chocolates or an Indian suit. This festival is a time when the family gets together and celebrates with a meal and Indian sweets. It’s a way of a brother letting his sister know that he is there, no matter what happens.

I have a brother, but the last time I tied a rakhi on him was more than 20 years ago. We don’t have a relationship anymore and due to family issues, we stopped speaking. Seeing pictures on social media of celebrities – such as Indian actresses Priyanka Chopra and Madhuri Dixit celebrating with their brothers – and hearing of friends whose siblings travel miles just to tie on a rakhi on their sister was heartbreaking.

Growing up, I would always argue with my brother; but I always wanted a sibling who I could tie a rakhi on and enjoy celebrations with. You feel like you’re the only child and I am always being asked the question, “Do I have any siblings?” I often answer “no” just so I don’t have to explain how and why we don’t speak to one another.

Rakhi is a difficult time in my household – my father’s only sister is in the USA, so he also misses her – but it also made me realise how much love sisters and brothers can have, and that helps me stay positive.

During the festival, I instead celebrate the men who look out for their sisters – not just their real sisters, but the community of women who they treat like their own family. I had a conversation with a friend who wished me a happy rakhi. He didn’t even know I had a brother, but he treats me like a sister and this made my day. He was shocked to hear that I had a brother who I have no link with.

I realised how important love and kindness is after a year of losing so many people to Covid. The thread you tie on your brother during rakhi symbolises that. I respect all the brothers out there who support their sisters through difficult times in life – whether that’s divorce, single mothers or domestic violence.

I want to tell Asian men that they are making a difference more than they know. Tying that rakhi is special, it’s heart-warming and I want to celebrate the amazing men out there who look after their sisters.

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