There's a reason we've chosen August as Sisters' Month. And it's not because we don't like brothers, or men. What we don't like is the narrative that a brother should promise to protect and that a sister needs protection, that a family is incomplete without a boy child, and that brother-less families are somehow rudderless, without a guiding light to navigate them through difficult times
So all through this month of Raksha Bandhan, we will share Stories of Sisterhood; of ordinary, and extraordinary, sisters who love each other and have made the other better in subtle ways. Share your stories, poems, pictures and suggestions with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the post Queen and TWM-2 world, Kangana Ranaut, the actress, needs no introduction. After all, she is rumoured to be the highest paid heroine in Bollywood at the moment. If her mass of curly hair and lack of industry connections made her an unlikely candidate for a Bollywood Diva, her forthright manner and brutal honesty has turned her into an even more unlikely Bollywood Feminist Idol.
For us, her brilliant interview with Anupama Chopra in the 2013 season of The Front Row was the first inkling that a Bollywood heroine no longer needed to hide her intelligence and her opinions under a cloak of mindless giggles. She could, instead, candidly share what it meant to be an ambitious working woman in one of the most chauvinistic industries in the world. We use the word "heroine" deliberately here; because till Kangana arrived on the scene, an actress like Nandita Das could talk about our country's obsession with fairness (and other "real" matters), but a heroine like Priyanka Chopra was expected to quietly do what it takes to meet the film industry's "fair is beautiful" criteria.
Sample this quote from the interview, which we believe is essential viewing for every young Indian girl (and her family):
I see this as a big problem...they (girls) are never encouraged to be someone or something as boys are encouraged....we have to prepare our girls as Superheroes
If Kangana the actress is a joy to watch and Kangana the feminist a ray of hope for Bollywood heroines, Kangana the sister is a terrific example of the joys of sisterhood. Both she and her elder sister Rangoli have had their share of ups and downs. During her initial years in Bollywood, Kangana was ridiculed for her poor diction, typecast as the angst-ridden gangster's moll and allegedly physically abused by a former Bollywood star. Meanwhile, elder sister Rangoli had acid flung at her when she was only 23 and still studying in college, supposedly by a spurned suitor.
But both the sisters appear to share a remarkable spirit of independence and resilience. As soon as she learnt about the acid attack, Kangana arranged to have her sister move to Mumbai so she could have the best possible treatment. After her recovery, which took over a year, Rangoli continued to stay with Kangana and took over the role of managing her affairs. When Rangoli got married in 2011, Kangana appointed herself as the wedding planner.
Recalling the acid attack and how it changed her life, Rangoli told a media broadsheet:
I have always been a strong person mentally. Even when I was in hospital recovering from the attack, I never cried because I knew everything would be okay. ...My biggest support system during this time was Kangana. Though she seems small and fragile you don't feel like that when she is around, because she takes care of her family and friends selflessly.
Kangana once again drew our applause when it came to light that she had turned down a 2 crore deal to promote a fairness cream in 2013 (are you listening, Mr. SRK?). Explaining her decision, Ranaut said that:
Ever since I was a kid, I have never understood the concept of fairness. Especially, in such a case, as a celebrity, what kind of example would I be setting for younger people? I have no regrets about turning this offer down. As a public figure, I have responsibilities. My sister (Rangoli Ranaut) is dusky, yet beautiful. If I go ahead and be a part of this campaign, then, in a way, I would be insulting her. If I can't do that to my sister, then how can I do it to an entire nation?
Now isn't this what makes sisters so awesome?
We will be publishing our Stories of Sisterhood all through the month on HP Blogs and our website. Follow us on Facebook & Instagram for more sisterly inspiration, and join us in celebrating a relationship of equals this Raksha Bandhan - one where brothers and sisters (or sisters and sisters), both tie a Rakhi around the other's wrist, both promise to respect and watch out for the other, and both reminisce over the years of laughter and shared memories they've lived through.