The winter season in North India delights not only with more comfortable temperatures but with a wealth of traditional festivities. The first I could attend was Raksha Bandhan: a secular Hindi festival which celebrates the love and duty between brothers and sisters, and more general the friendship between male and female relatives. As a sign of blessing and protection, the sister ties a colored bracelet around her brother’s wrist and paints a tilak (Tikka), a red mark, on his forehead while the brother promises to take care of her for all his life. The family of my colleague Rohan seized the occasion for a relaxed familiar get-together, with karaoke singing, tons of delicious food and Indian desserts and spirituous beverages. Being cordially invited to take part, I soon realized that I had plunged into the intellectual elite of India: originating from the far North East, from Meghalaya, where India touches Bangladesh, Bhutan and Burma, they all reached out to ambitious careers as lawyers, doctors, journalists, engineers with an intense intellectual drive of open-mindedness, curiosity and global exposure – everyone had studied, travelled or worked around the world, in Canada, US, UK, even Darmstadt. Some knew Germany and its history better than me. Perfectly informed about the situation on the global stage, we shared interesting discussions about the culture and economy of India in the triangle of tradition, modernity and education.
Later that night, the host Raghav and me scored 96 out of 100 points for our two-voices interpretation of “Bridge over troubled water“. In the following days, people often wondered about me not wearing any bracelet. I kept shrugging my shoulders: “nahi bahan – no sister”.