By Kubair Chuchra '18
“What’s that around your wrist? A STUPID GIRLY friendship bracelet?” On Monday he had targeted my Mickey-Mouse Crocs, on Tuesday, my bowl-shaped haircut, and now, he was insulting the thin, long piece of red and yellow yarn wrapped around my wrist. He had insulted my Kalava. The blond haired, second-grade bully had found yet another flaw in me, and I had had it. It was time for me to fight back. However, instead of using my words, as my teachers had taught me, I used my fists and socked the bully right in the face. He started crying, and within a few short minutes, I found myself inside the principal's office.
Luckily, through some smooth talk and second-grade charm, I managed to get out of trouble by convincing the principal not to call my parents. However, despite the fact that I was punishment free, the bully’s words that day had a lasting impact. Before my Kalava was shoved into the spotlight, I had never paid much attention to it. After all, everyone in my family had one, so it was not something I considered unique. Whenever we made our monthly pilgrimage to the Hindu Temple, a priest there would rip off my old Kalava—it needed to be replaced every month, as exposure to water would dull the bright red dyes to a grayish brown—and tie on a new one. I knew that wearing the bracelet had something to with my religion, Hinduism, but other than that, until I started exploring my identity, I did not have the faintest idea as to why I was wearing it.
This question, why I wear my Kalava, is something that I now often ponder. The string serves many roles in my life. Literally, it distinguishes me as Hindu. Christians carry crosses, Seeks sport Karas, Jews bear Yamakas, and Hindus—we wear our Kalavas. For thousands of years, Hindus have worn these sacred bands as both physical representations of their allegiance to God and as guardians to ward off evil spirits. However, my Kalava means a great deal more to me then ancient superstitions and traditions.
My Kalava is a conversation starter. Whether on a bus, train, or airplane, strangers frequently ask me about the significance of the red string around my wrist.
My Kalava is a moral compass. When my brain has run out of answers, and I am tempted to take the easy wrong over the hard right, a quick glance at my right wrist reminds me of my morals and stops my eyes from wandering.
My Kalava is a source of strength. As the clock inches closer and closer to zero, and my football team is behind by just three points, feeling the threads of the holy bracelet rub against my skin gives me enough energy to keep fighting, no matter the price.
However, above all else, my Kalava is my identity. I know, it seems silly. A piece of thin red and yellow yarn, probably worth no more than a few cents, is an integral part of who I am and who I strive to be. I cannot remember a life without my Kalava, and I am proud that it serves as not only as a declaration of my faith, but also a reminder to act with humility, strength, and virtue.
So maybe my blond-haired bully was right. Maybe I really was wearing a “friendship bracelet.” However, unlike most friendship bracelets, my Kalava is a friendship bracelet with God, guiding and reminding me to act truthfully and ethically.