If you’ve been on the hunt for the perfect gift for the Rakhi festival or Bhai Dooj look no further. This delicious Indian Bhel Puri collection of 8 short Rakhi-centric stories by distinguished Indian authors fits the bill perfectly. The stories span the genres of fantasy, drama, thriller and folktale, and delve into the ups and downs of the special relationship that brothers and sisters share.
The Witch’s Gift (Ani Sengupta) was my favourite story in the book – it’s the journey of a magical Rakhi seeking its rightful owner. The Writing on the Wall (Roopa Pai) is an interesting story of a young girl who discovers that her brother is her best ‘friend’ after all, while Black Rain (Raja SG) takes one back to the time when cousins gathered together and recounted stories that were guaranteed to keep you awake at night. All About Big Brothers (Anu Kumar) and The Step Tapes (Rituparna Chatterjee) explore the strength of the stepbrother-stepsister bond set against the backdrop of modern day family realities. The Henna Boys (Deepa Agarwal) is a simple tale of sibling love that transcends the lure of money and comfortable living.
A Pinprick and The Tiger Man (retold by Kanika Sharma) are folktales from the states of Bengal and Manipur. A Pinprick reminds one of the typical Raja-Rani stories that grandmothers would recount to their grandchildren. While I understand that envy-ridden angst and violence are par for the course in some folktales, I found part elements of The Tiger Man harsh for the average reader.
Many of the author contributors are international-prize winners. Their varied styles of writing and interesting ideas add to the reading enjoyment. The authors stay away from stereotypes; the ‘sister’ characters are strong willed, independent young girls while the ‘brother’ characters range from the cool to the deeply caring.
It is heartening to note that international publishers such as Hachette are reaching out with books that are opportune to the Indian context. The well-researched section by Subhamoy Das on the history, mythology and relevance of the Rakhi festival makes for an engrossing read. The next section on Rakhi art and craft activities helps the reader make everything that he or she needs for the Rakhi festival – right from the Rakhi itself to dishing out a mean milk barfi.
And if you want to set the mood when tying that special Rakhi, do play songs from the ‘Rakhi and Bhai Dooj Super Songlist’ ranging from the immortal ‘Phoolon Ka Taaron Ka’ to the emotional ‘Mere Bhaiya Mere Chandaa’.
Alternatively, a movie pick from the ‘Festival Movie Marathon’ might just be the ideal way to wind down after the festivities with your favourite sibling.