Bhaidooj or the Bhaiphonta has been a tradition in India since ages. It is the ritual where sisters put the tika on their brother’s forehead and wish them good health and prosperity. It is a very popular festival which is said to increase the love and bond between brothers and sisters and Bengalis celebrate it with much fanfare. However the pandemic has changed the celebrations this year, for some it’s been a boon, for others a bane.
Let’s see how.
25 year old Sharmi Chakraborty, an engineer working with a reputed Start Up in Bangalore has three brothers with whom she celebrates this festival every year.
“Two of my brothers are outside India and they cannot come due to the pandemic. Last year too I was not in town and neither were they so I have not been able to celebrate this festival with them for the past 3-4 years and it deeply saddens me. However I am lucky that one of my brothers stays here and we are lucky to be in town at the same time. Strangely, it is the pandemic which has made it possible for us to celebrate bhaiphonta his year and I am really looking forward to it after a long time”, says Sharmi beaming with joy.
On the other hand, Shalini Mukherjee, a bank employee who has just arrived in Kolkata from Mumbai due to work from home has an interesting story to share. Shalini and her brother Ryan share a strong bond like any other siblings. But career made them move in different paths due to which this brother sister duo could not celebrate bhaiphonta together for the past five years.
“I had a friend here who was very close to me and we bonded so well that we considered ourselves as brother sisters from different mothers! When I couldn’t give Ryan phonta he was the one I gave and it somehow eased the pain a little. But this year we are in the same city and I cannot wait to meet my little brother Ryan and give him tons of sweets and phonta. This year will be special,” says Shalini with a big smile.
Romit Chakraborty, a 25 year old techie has been living outside Kolkata for the past seven years and has an exciting reason to be in Kolkata this time. Needless to say, he missed the celebrations back at home during this time since it would often be impossible to come back to his hometown, this time around. Being extremely close to his sister he would video call and skype her on the day of bhaiphonta, but missed the presence of their loved ones near them. “Bhaiphonta is that one tradition for which every household waits with eagerness and happiness in their hearts. My brother Ankit, my sister and I would video call and discuss when we all will be able to celebrate the occasion together. Every year we would miss our sister on this day, as we stay in different places. But this time, except my brother, we are home, and will be able to celebrate the festival with family. I am not just excited but it is nostalgic at the same time since it is after seven years that we will be celebrating this together. We will be missing my brother but I am happy that I will be getting phonta from my sister after such a long time, “says Romit joyfully.
His brother Ankit Chakraborty too has a story this time. “ Since 2013 I have been staying outside Kolkata and I have been missing all the major celebrations of Bengal for a long time. Back then I was at Bangalore and whenever these celebrations would take place, we would talk to our cousins over call and video calls. After that I shifted to Indore but the good thing that happened here was my landlord’s daughters used to treat me like their own family. So on occasions such as rakhi and Bhaiphonta they would give me sweets and the tika, which would make me feel at home. Although I terribly missed my own sisters but my extended family here made sure that I enjoy the same feeling outside my hometown. Normally I would try to go back to my own city and enjoy, but this year due to lockdown it will not possible. So it is my extended family here with whom I will be celebrating this festival this time” says Ankit with a smile.
It seems Bhaiphonta, a beautiful and a sweet tradition which has sweet memories attached with it, be it brothers sisters, families or even friends. Let’s all hope that love and peace prevail on this bhaiphonta and may the siblings and loved ones reunite with and celebrate this beautiful day together