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Friday, August 28, 2015

Raksha Bandhan, Stratford on Avon, Shakespeare's cottage, and my brother Navtej

Tomorrow is 'Raksha Bandhan' or 'Rakhee' which is a very significant day for Indian brothers and sisters.The name 'Raksha Bandhan' suggests 'a bond of protection'. On this auspicious day, brothers make a promise to their sisters to protect them from all possible troubles and the sisters pray to God to protect their brother from evil. The ceremony involves sisters tying the silk thread called 'Rakhi' on their brother's wrist and in return brothers generally give them a  small and interesting present. 

My brother Navtej and myself have always shared a close bond and today when I was thinking about some significant moments in our lives this particular incident came to my mind as extremely memorable and so I decided to write about it.

For that, I have to go back in time to an earlier visit to the UK where my brother is based.We were there for about a fortnight and high on the agenda was a trip to 'Stratford on Avon' which is the birthplace of Shakespeare. It was a regular working day and since Navtej couldn't join us, we decided to make the train journey to Stratford. The plan was to spend the day out and get back by dinner. 

Soon we were on the train journey to Stratford. The weather had changed by then and soon we were dogged by intermittent rain which lasted through the day. But did that deter us in any way? Not in the least as we moved around as we were reasonably well prepared for the possibility of rain, any day and all day.

Standing outside Shakespeare's cottage, Stratford on Avon

The untouched interiors
Shakespeare's Birthplace in Warwickshire has been welcoming visitors for over 250 years. This is the house where William Shakespeare was born in 1564, grew up and wrote a lot. Shakespeare also spent the first five years of married life in this house with his new wife, Anne Hathaway. By 1592 he was in London working as an actor and a dramatist. Between 1590 and 1613, Shakespeare wrote at least 37 plays and collaborated on several more. Many of these plays were very successful both at court and in the public playhouses. In 1613, Shakespeare retired from theatre and returned to Stratford-upon-Avon. He died and was buried there in 1616.

For millions of Shakespeare enthusiasts worldwide, the house is a shrine. Inside it, one truly discovers the world that shaped the man and one can also find out what other famous writers thought when they visited here-Charles Dickens, John Keats, Walter Scott and Thomas Hardy. Close by is the enchanting cottage of his wife, Anne Hathaway, who is believed to have been a few years older to Shakespeare and came from a very well to do family.
Anne Hathaway's cottage
This is the original cottage where the young William Shakespeare courted her  and finally got her to agree to his marriage proposal.

It is a thatched farmhouse with beautiful grounds and gardens, which overflow with fragrant blooms and traditional shrubs.The cottage is in Shottery, a hamlet within the parish of Stratford-upon-Avon. It was absolutely delightful to see many original items of family furniture, including the Hathaway Bed, crockery, cutlery and even some dresses and shoes that are believed to have been worn by her.

Walking around in the rain had finally taken its toll and despite all the wonderful things and places we had seen, by 5 pm when the place closed, we were all cold, tired and  hungry.We stopped at a small tea shop and had a quick bite but when we reached the station, learnt to our dismay that the train to Worcester had just left and the next one would only come an hour later. By the time it did, we were exhausted and by the time we finally arrived in Worcester, even more so.

But every cloud does have a silver lining and this is the best part of that day. Navtej was home when we arrived  and as we entered, the aroma of a delicious 'Tandoori' chicken and 'Rotis' and 'Ma Ki Daal' was probably the most delightful thing that one could have hoped for! All he told us was to wash our hands and settle down to the delightful Indian meal that he had put together for that evening- needless to say that is exactly what we did and as my brother insisted on serving me with the 'chest ' piece
( which is what my mother always does)

I realized two things that day.

The fact that Navtej had observed how my mother served me and had actually replicated the same in his own home.

That memorable dinner

And the most important fact-'family' really does mean a great deal.