With Rakshabandhan just around the corner, siblingsand Saqib Saleem take a trip down memory lane and reflect upon their evolving bond, camaraderie, childhood memories of the festival and its reach across cultures – something that truly represents the ethos and diversity of our country.
Rakshabandhan is celebrated across cultures and regions. How have you both celebrated the festival over the years?
Saqib: We grew up in Delhi and we celebrated Holi, Diwali, Eid, Christmas… har cheez celebrate karte thay. We had big Rakshabandhan celebrations. I remember Huma used to tie me a rakhi. There were other girls in my colony who also used to tie me rakhis and some of them still do. On Eid, we would cook kheer and biryani for the entire colony. Likewise, we used to feast on faraal and scrumptious food during Diwali, or gorge on mithai on Rakshabandhan at our neighbour’s homes. The atmosphere was jubilant and fun. This is what India is all about.
Huma: I agree. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been born in a country rich in cultural diversity, and even more fortunate to have grown up in a family that always helped me understand the significance of each festival and enjoy them. I once decided to make kheer for Saqib as my gift for him on Rakshabandhan. It was tasty, but I forgot to add sugar. I tied the rakhi and offered him the kheer, saying it is your gift. He tasted and replied, ‘No gift from you is better than no sugar kheer.’ Even today, when I make something sweet, he gets someone else to try it before he tastes it (laughs)!
As two siblings living under one roof in Mumbai, how has your relationship evolved over the years? Is it comforting, chaotic, both or more?
Huma: I remember how we used to fight as kids! As we grew older, we realised how important we were to each other and things improved. As a result, living in Mumbai with my brother is both chaotic and reassuring. He is a clumsy person who will do things I don’t like, from leaving things around to purposefully tampering with my belongings; on the other hand, when I come home from a long, hectic, or bad day, he will make sure to lighten my mood with his stupid jokes and make or order my favourite food. Having a brother has only cons. Just kidding! Saqib has always been my personal entertainment source, my personal bodyguard, my support and someone I can always pass the blame on to. Life is so much better with him, but there are cons too, like sharing the room and belongings, his lame jokes, annoyance, and the fact that there’s someone to compete with for our parents’ attention. Privacy is something you can only dream of if you have siblings.
Saqib: We stay together and will continue to do so until we get married, I guess. We are more like friends today, I will always respect her as an elder sister, but if you see our banter, you will be scandalised. Then there’s no bada chota. We love each other, we hate each other, we fight, we hug. We are like any other siblings, but yes, we are much more evolved now. We are mature and understanding. Now we don’t need to work on this relationship. It’s easier today. I used to hate her when I moved to Mumbai. I was 20 and quite rebellious. She hated me because I was immature. It was Mumbai that brought us together! When you are younger, there’s sibling rivalry because you are told that your sister is better than you and vice versa. Parents tend to do it and that’s a weird phase because then you want to outdo each other. While growing up, we were a tad distant, but when I came to Mumbai, things changed. We were initially staying separately and would catch up at coffee shops every week. In one of those meetings I asked her if we could stay together. Paise ka issue nahi tha. The intention was to get to know each other better, plus, we worked in the same profession. Speaking of sharing a house, Huma is great at interior designing, so I leave all that to her. I let things be. Huma loves to redesign things.
Some families are still patriarchal. Were you two raised as equals at home?
Saqib: Since last year, Huma and I have started a tradition of tying rakhis to each other. We are there for each other and we were raised as equals at home. I have never in my life said to her that, ‘Yeh kya kar rahi hai. Yeh ladkon ka kaam hai.’ It’s a very equal world in our house. There’s no such thing as women should eat after men, which is still a common practice in many homes. Neither do we believe that mard ko hi sara bojh uthaana hai. What I can do, she can do and vice versa. The patriarchy in our society, though needs a wider discussion. It definitely exists.
Huma: In my family, equality has always been prioritised. There were times when Saqib did not get permission for stayovers, parties, or going out, but I was never told no. According to the Rakshabandhan tradition, Saqib should be protecting me, but I’m the elder, and I’ve always been the elder sibling protecting the younger. This is why we tie rakhis to each other, but the best part is that he has never received a gift from me.
Saqib: She is joking… I do get her gifts and she does
Who among the two of you is more protective of the other?
Saqib: Huma is far more protective. I am cooler. If there is a guy who is annoying Huma or trying to chat her up and she’s not interested, I will become best friends with that guy and ensure he doesn’t reach Huma again. I deal with things in a cooler way. Mumbai has mellowed me down. I want to be this calm person; I don’t want to argue with people.
Huma: Honestly, I’m the one who is more guarded. I might call him a loser, we might argue like children, and I might bother him over the tiniest things, but I won’t put up with it if someone else does the same to him.