This Rakshabandhan, don’t let the limitations of the pandemic and social distancing kill the spirit of celebration. There are various ways to express your love to the siblings, writes NAvneet Mendiratta
For Indians, especially in the north, every year, Rakshabandhan marks the opening of the festival season. This year, however, is different. With Covid-19 playing spoil-sport for the entire human race, there is a definite ebb in the enthusiasm that surrounds the festivities around this celebration of bonding between brothers and sisters.
The markets wear a rather dull look and don’t seem to be pulling the usual crowds. All travel has been put off, either due to lockdowns, or pure caution for the fear of the spread of contagion. Social distancing being the need of the hour, many are choosing (wisely) to stay back as caution, keeping the wellbeing of their loved ones in mind. While, this Rakshabandhan may not be about large family gatherings, it does not mean that spirit be affected.
A lot is happening online — from sending rakhis and sweets to brothers living in the city, or even far away lands, to opting for customised and conscious gifting for the sisters, e-commerce has emerged as the saviour of this festival. It is heartening to know how people are choosing conscious and local over mindless consumption while sending out their love and greetings.
The Rakhi edit
It begins with the choice of rakhi. DIY rakhis seem to have found their way back into Indian lives, where it was believed that love is personal and handmade. Crochet and woven rakhis seem to be popular among those who don’t want anything plastic and “Chinese”.
This year also brought in a limited edition curation by some of the Indian designers, who thought of creating something lasting and sustainable for the celebrations that could be marketed online as well as provided employment to their artisans.
When Indian designer Anavila Misra, who is known for her curation of gorgeous handwoven linen saris and clothes, announced limited edition of handcrafted rakhis to be sold along with her special rakhi edit of saris for brothers to gift online, little did she realise they would be sold out in no time. These rakhis have been crafted from beautiful linen, organza, and silk fabrics — all repurposed from textiles discarded as scrap — comes packaged in a linen envelop and puja material.
“A small product like rakhi, when made with love and enthusiasm, can create such a positive vibe at the workspace,” she shares, adding, “We have been busy making rakhis for the last three weeks and it has been heart-warming sending all the personal messages with rakhis from siblings to each other.” To her, the inspiration to create rakhis was the occasion itself. “Even better, it meaningfully kept us and our artisans busy at this time,” she adds.
Jewellery designer, Ritika Sachdeva, too has crafted beautiful rakhis that you can keep on using, either as a piece of jewellery or even key-chain. “In keeping with our no wastage policy, the idea was to create something that you would want to wear post rakshabandhan,” she shares. Each of her rakhis is handcrafted and made using pure-cotton. Sachdeva too has taken great care to keep her packaging sustainable and simple. “It’s simple jute and brown paper packaging with lots love,” she says. Simple, sustainable.
You simply cannot have an Indian festival without sweets, rather, meetha. This year, even mithai shops, have extended their sales online and are offering to deliver mithai to homes. Artisanal sweets and desserts are the two big hits with siblings who wish to make up for their absence and feel like pampering their loved ones a little more. Brands like Khoya Mithai even introduced Ghevar in four interesting flavours — Kesar, Malai, Rabdi and Rose so there is variety in tradition. It also brought in an old favourite Kaju Katli in a special saffron variant that adds depth to the flavour of this classic mithai. Nihira’s exotic laddoos and gluten free collection is particularly favoured by the younger ones, who wish to send a classic greeting in a quirky way. Known for its contemporary take on the traditional, this young artisanal mithai brand run by mother-daughter duo Subha and Arshya Aggarwal particularly finds favour with the generation that loves unconventional over staid.
Speaking of unconventional, this year, chocolate sales have been taken over by ice-cream orders to be delivered to close and distant family members alike. If you happen to live in Delhi/NCR and wish to order something really different and special in meetha for your loved ones, then you must check out Zoet. Started in 2016, by another mother-daughter duo, Geeta Bector and Sana Bector Parwanda, Zoet has some really interesting ice-creams and desserts on offer. The brand has created special Rakhi gift boxes with a set of 6 Ice Creams and Ice Cream Cakes (available in two sizes) and Cookie jar sets to choose from. Even better, they promise to deliver on the same day and have even offered time slots that you can choose your delivery from. These gift boxes come with an optional rakhi and you can send a personalised message along. The orders can be placed online.
Cold Love (again in Delhi) is another good option for those looking for something other than the ordinary to send in ice creams. Started by a tech-entrepreneur, Aditya Tripathi the artisanal Cold Love ice creams are made using everything real — milk, cream, sugar, real fruit and other pure ingredients. There are no chemicals, no added colour and no artificial flavours. You can place the order online and ask them to add a personal message to bring cheer.
Clean gifts for the sister
This year, since a lot of gifting is being done online, the siblings can be seen choosing mindful gifts that their brother/sister would appreciate. Clean beauty tops a lot of lists. When Sonia Sahni, the founder of clean beauty brand, Ethiko, put up the brand’s Rakhi special package on Amazon, she had little idea that the gift would be a hit. This gift, inspired by Persian royalty, comes in a beautiful hand carved wooden box containing Ethiko’s Resplandor Elixir (which contains Neroli, an oil that was used by Persian princesses) and a hand crafted rose quartz gua sha. This exotic formulation, infused with luxurious neroli and geranium essential oils to rejuvenate and revitalise your skin as well as to delay signs of aging, can be used by men and women alike.
“A lot of the orders came in from the overseas market. Many of these buyers shared that they wanted to gift something healthy, natural and locally made, indicating a big change in the consumer mindset,” shares Sahni. Added bonus is that 5% of the sales proceeds of this product is being donated by Ethiko to plant trees in India, in keeping with their commitment to the cause of environment. How is that for a good cause!
Another unique rakhi on offer this year is the Food Trails Rakhi by Ferns N Petals. These rakhis are actually cute little mouth-watering delicacies that have been exclusively handcrafted into rakhis, to remind your loved ones of the flavours of their favourite food. Made with Thai clay, each piece takes three days to be ready. People have been sending anything from Gulab Jamun and Kaju Katli to Paneer Tikka; North-Indian Parantha with Lassi to classic South Indian Sambar-Dosa to Punjabi Dal-Makhni Naan to yummy Burgers, Sandwiches and crispy Lays. These rakhis double up as fridge magnets and serve really well to remind your brother of sibling love even after the festival is over.
To cater to the last minute demands, the company is delivering its rakhis in almost 80 countries worldwide this year and is offering free shipping and promise to deliver the same day in certain countries like Canada, UK, UAE, Singapore, South Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia and a few more and next day delivery in most of the other countries like USA, Australia, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, etc. So this one’s for those who like to do everything last minute!
Whichever way you choose, the idea is to make your sibling and family feel loved. This year particularly, when the times have been harsh, a thoughtful gesture is all it is going to take to warm hearts. That in real is the essence of this festival — any festival, for that matter.