Last Rakhi, I tied a Rakhi on Baba's wrist for the first time in my life. Well, that happens to be the last time too.
I tried to make it an all-encompassing Rakhi, last year, tying the sacred thread on my mother's and Jethu's wrists and on Baba's nurse's wrist, besides doing the customary Rakhi-tying on my brothers' wrists. It was kind of a get-together at SCG that day, Jethu making his special fried eggs for breakfast. By the time, the day got over, almost everybody had untied their Rakhi from their wrist. It was either inconvenient, or tight, or loose, or whatever. The only person who kept wearing the Rakhi till late evening was Baba. I told my mother, "See, he is the only person who is still wearing it. See, how good he is!". Overhearing that, Baba's nurse said, "We all have work to do. That is why we have opened it. He is just restricted to his bed with nothing to do on his own. Moreover, he cannot open it until we open it for him". True statements. Harsh ones. Painful ones. Ignoring her, I lingered on with my initial feeling. He is wearing it because I tied it on his wrist. Because, he is the one who never wants to hurt me. I am thankful, I tied that Rakhi, last year. Because, this year, on this day of Rakhi, when Baba is no more, the only memory that I love to cling to is the fact that everybody opened their Rakhis, but my Baba kept wearing it. He was different from everybody, always. He loved me more than anybody, always.
My Rakhi could not protect him from death. My Rakhi could not protect him from pain and illness. But, I can still see him lying on his hospital bed, with my red Rakhi tied on his right wrist. May he be safe, wherever he is.
This is the second Rakhi in my life when there was no Rakshabandhan for me. The first time was the year after we lost Thamma, and the second time is now when we have lost Baba. It were Baba and Thamma who ensured that a pair of Rakhis were bought every year. Rakhi was never a sexist ritual or festival for my brother and me. I tied one on his wrist, and he tied one on mine. We went to the market with Baba and chose our own Rakhis. Later on, my mother turned my Rakhi into my hairband. This continued till the time when my brother grew up too much to feel embarrassed to get a rakhi for me tongue emoticon! (I remember tying a Rakhi on Joyadidi's wrist in 1986. Do you remember it Joya Roydidi? It was just a few days after we had celebrated our house's birthday on Aug 8. Thankfully, we still have the pictures clicked by Jethu!)
Rakhi was also never a restricted-within-family thing for me. I used to tie Rakhis on my close friends' and colleagues' wrists always. However, last year, was the first time when I genuinely tried to follow Tagore's idea of Rakhi by including Baba's nurse in my list. It seems to be just yesterday. But, it is not. One year has gone by. Actually, more than a calendar year has gone by. And, Baba has left us, forever. My Rakhi could not keep him tied to me. Just as I have never been able to keep anybody tied to me forever.