March 02, 2018

From Holi to Hooliganism: the ugly side to a glorious festival

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Long long ago, the festival of Holi was started to herald the end of winter and welcome the beginning of Spring. However, with time, this occasion, also known as the festival of colours, this day that supposedly celebrated the triumph of good over evil, gradually changed meaning.
Cut to present day, the essence of Holi is almost lost in all its entirety, and it won't be wrong to say that a modern day ho(o)li-ganism has begun to replace it.

Mythology has many interesting interpretations of why we celebrate Holi. One is the fate of  Holika, Hiranyakashyapu's sister and Prahalad's paternal aunt, who was supposedly resistant to fire, was reduced to ashes when she tried to kill her nephew Prahalad, thus marking the end of evil and starting the custom of burning the 'Holika'--the auspicious fire, on the night before the festival.
Another legend talks about the blue skinned Lord Krishna sulking about Radha being fairer than him, and his mother Yashoda pacifying  him with the idea that he could colour Radha's face with colors of Holi to match his, thus commemorating the love between Radha and Krishna even more.
Still another popular legend speaks about the God of love, Kama, disrupting Shiva's meditation by shooting a love arrow. Angered by the disturbance, Shiva opens his third eye this destroying Kama. It is only later that Goddess Parvati convinces Shiva that it was her orders that Kama was obeying that Shiva brings him back to life. It is said that Holi is a reminder of the sacrifice that the God of love had made.
Honestly, all these legends not just made up good folklore, but more importantly imbibed lessons of love, respect and bonhomie to the celebration.

Unfortunately, over the ages, we have not just forgotten these stories regaled to us but also developed a crude and rabid mob mentality bordering on sadism and an uncouth sexist attitude.
Nowadays every community gathering has transformed into a potential space for hazardous activities. Be it communal disharmony, sexual misconduct or violence, we are living in increasingly unsafe times. To top it all, Holi is a festival that with its open culture of smearing strangers with colour under the pretext of celebration, proves to only be the proverbial match in the gas station.
Women and young girls are easy targets. The recent case of India's renowned singer, Papon, smearing an eleven year contestant's face with color and kissing her full front-face, has been a reason of controversy. Although the contestants family tried to douse the flames with some well rehearsed lines, the question remains. 'If a popular singer can dare to do this on Camera and get away with it, why wouldn't hooligans on streets dare to do the same?'
. In addition, Bollywood is largely responsible for this kind of brutish behavior. Holi song sequences often show an intoxicated hero, rubbing colour on his reluctant lady love, despite her disapproval for the same. All ends well on Holi, with the  hesitance being interpreted as 1) either the woman is a tease and no means yes 2) she magically realises she has always been in love after the colour-rub.
Of course, the intoxicated excuse always comes in handy. After all, 'Bura na maano, Holi hai,' no?
Well, No! That may work in reel-life. But it's definitely not going to work in reality. People are going to be offended with offensive acts, be it Holi or otherwise. And no dictum in the world is going to change that fact.

I recently read about a girl attacked with a semen filled balloon on Holi day. While I wouldn't argue with the validity of that claim, I dread to think what kind of deranged mentality would resort to such cheap and disgusting tricks.
If Holi has become all about this sickening power-play between the sexes, how different would it be from the infamous 'Gedi' culture of Chandigarh? Are we in the garb of religion and culture trying to keep that kind of retarded chauvinism rampant all over India instead of trying to destroy it?

Another reason I'm extremely against this festival is the effect it has on animals. Toxic chemicals and paints are equally (if not more) harmful to animals than to humans, but who cares? I see people drenching these mute unsuspecting victims with colour only to record their reaction on their phones and pass it on to their Whatsapp contact groups.
Somewhere in some parallel dog universe, I fervently hope they are doing the same to you.

Then there is the constant brouhaha about our water bodies being constantly polluted. We hear it in the news, watch documentaries made on the topic, discuss it at length in the face of epidemics or calamity, and then go back to leading our normal lives...until disaster strikes again. The brouhaha always stops at just that...being brouhaha. No action is ever taken against it. Add to it the air and noise pollution caused by the deafening music and drum-besting by the local 'gulaal' gang in every locality, not just disturbing the peace of the neighbourhood but also causing the tiny hearts of hapless animals to flutter with shock.

Now all those who are mumbling 'kill joy' under your breath, don't get me wrong.
I do not have anything against the festival. In fact, I'm all for the gujiya and thandai kind of celebration. In fact, I respect anything that revolves around a cheerful vibe and good food. But what I am dead against is the pulling in of non-consenting individuals (be it person or animal) into your idea of a good time.
So instead of gifting your children pichkaris this Holi, I'd say introduce them to colors on the canvas. Guide them to make art instead. Show them the magic of books and the myriad colours reading can add to life.

It is a known fact that irrational flinging of balloons from terraces cause majority of accidents today. Educate them of their responsibilities as future citizens of our country. Make them proud of our heritage. Lead by example.

And above all, teach them the meaning and importance of consent...
Because that is the most valuable lesson you can ever teach them. For Holi and for life.

Here's praying today blesses us with true colors of compassion, wisdom and serenity. Love and happiness to one and all.

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