Yesterday evening I was at a friend’s place. Her daughter came home from play, greeted me good evening and asked me a question that poked my social conscience. She asked, “Aunty, I have two friends Arpita and Vicky. Mom asks me to call Arpita by her name and call Vicky bhaiyya (brother). He is a friend of mine, just like Arpita. Why should I call him bhaiyya, why not friend?”
True; in our country right from childhood, many of us are asked to call our acquaintances of the opposite sex brother/sister even though biologically they are not our siblings. This is an honest effort from our elders to impart moral values to their children and I respect that. But honestly, I wonder how much this works. I’ve witnessed numerous instances where this word bhaiyya or didi(sister) lost its significance or was not given due regard.
In college, I’ve seen a couple of boys returning Rakhies because they didn’t genuinely feel like brothers to their friends of the opposite sex. No, they didn’t feel like boyfriends either. Their feelings were platonic towards the girls, just the way they would feel for boys. Of course there are those funny examples of boys not turning up in college on Rahki day fearing that girls would tie them Rakhi without confirming how they viewed them. Rather, in our community, it has become common for girls and boys to say no to a proposal sweetly by declaring “Oh! I’ve always regarded you as a brother/sister”. What an insult to that genuine relation that exists between a brother and sister!
Personally there were some situations where this word bhaiyya did not help me much in changing the disgusting attitude of some men I came across. For example, there was this boy in my locality who was trying to act ‘smart’ with me. I thought calling him bhaiyya, would drive some decency in him and he would start viewing me like his own sister. I did, but that didn’t seem to have any effect on him. Here again, I am hurt to convey that a chaste relationship is humiliated in the hands of a worthless person who does not know how to respect that relationship. But I don’t blame him for that. Rather, I blame myself for using the word for a roadside Romeo.
There’s this college buddy of mine who got married. Before marriage, he shared a very warm platonic relationship with a girl. After marriage the wife was not convinced that the relationship was platonic. This guy was left with no option but to ask his friend to tie a Rakhi to him to prove his innocence. Has the sibling relationship become so cheap that it’s used to appease a suspicious mind?
A college mate of mine would come to my house to do joint studies for a competitive exam. Some nosy neighbors started weaving stories. I had quite a time convincing them that he was just a friend who had come over to my place on some serious purpose. In our society do boys and girls have to mingle only when they have a serious purpose? Why does mixing with members of the opposite sex, on a platonic basis, invariably become an issue for gossip even to this day, when many of us claim to be so much evolved in our moral outlook?
According to me, the word bhaiyya is a very special one. I use it only for my biological brother(s) or for people towards whom I genuinely feel like a sibling and that too with their reciprocation. A brother-sister relationship is exclusive and with due respect for that, I don’t think I can generalize the relationship to every Tom, Dick and Harry I come across. Are we so unconfident of our moral attitudes that we have no choice but to harness them with an inappropriate moral label to establish our social relationships?