I think it is fair to say that I am a sucker for a good festival. I dance around the Lohri bonfire; I go bonkers with diyas on Diwali; I love getting into the Yuletide spirit around Christmas; and I treat Eid as an occasion to OD on biryani and seviyan.
But there is one festival that I simply can’t get behind. And that is Holi. I can see those of you who embrace the Holi madness every year shaking your heads sadly, and wondering what on earth is wrong with me.
Well, take a good look in the mirror. You see the remnants of the red colour you were dunked in all over your arms, legs and face? You see the hair that has turned a virulent green because of the colours dumped on it? And you see, don’t you, that it will take at least a week before you can revert to your normal self? I rest my case.
But quite apart from all the damage the excesses of Holi inflict on your skin and hair, there really is nothing to love about this festival. Okay, I can probably get behind the consumption of industrial quantities of gujiya and the mainlining of bhaang, but not if it comes with the other, less savoury, parts of this festival.
I guess you get the drift by now. I hate Holi. I loathe it with a passion. I detest it intensely. Let me count the many reasons why:
* Street hooliganism: You can tell that Holi is approaching when walking or driving down the streets becomes an active hazard. You can’t stroll through the neighbourhood without some pesky kids chucking water balloons at you from some balcony or terrace (and if you’ve ever felt the full impact of t his, you know they hurt like crazy). There is no getting away from people who think throwing indelible paint on your car is some kind of joke (oh, how we laughed!). Or from those sickos who think this festival gives them license for a good old grope.
* Peer pressure: No matter how loud and hard you protest that you are not playing Holi this year (or any year, really), your family/friends/neighbours will refuse to take you seriously. Think you can lock yourself into your house and get away with it? No chance. A bunch of inebriated, over-excited folks will show up on your doorstep and refuse to take no for an answer. They will create such a ruckus that you will emerge reluctantly, if only to prevent them from breaking down the door and trashing your house. And then, it will be open season, as you are hosed down with pichkaris and doused in psychedelic paints.
* Playing dirty: It doesn’t matter how often your friends swear that they are keeping Holi ‘low-key’ and ‘organic’ this year (“just some abeer and gulal, I swear, we won’t use a drop of water”). There is always one member of the party (you know who you are) who will play dirty. He (and it is invariably a he) will start off by introducing water – the colder, the better – into the mix. He will then throw in hard colours (it is no point telling him that you have an important presentation tomorrow; he is beyond reason by now). And then, depending on how many glasses of bhaang he has tucked away, he will use mud, tomatoes, eggs, just about anything really, to smear your face and body. Sigh!
* Looking like a mess: No matter how hard you try, you will never really look like Rekha and Amitabh Bachchan in that iconic Holi scene in Silsila. You remember it, don’t you? The lovers dressed in pristine white kurta-pyjamas, which gradually take on the colour of the gulal being sprinkled liberally all around, while their cheeks glow radiant with abeer. Sadly, real life is never like that. No matter how hard you try, you will never ever succeed in looking quite so photogenic while playing Holi. What you will look like is a red-hot mess; and worse, a mess that will take a week to clear.
* Sexual harassment: It starts about a week before Holi, building up to a crescendo on the day of the festival itself. In the run-up to the day, there will be office ‘Holi parties’ where the resident perverts will feel up all the women on the pretext of getting colour on them. There will be ‘Holi milans’ in the neighbourhood, where the creepy uncles will let their hands roam free. And the day itself will be a nightmare of grasping hands, unwanted embraces, and roughhousing with a sexual edge that is hard to miss.
Given all this, are you surprised that I loathe this festival? Frankly, I am surprised that there aren’t more people who feel this way. Or maybe they do, but are forced to grin and bear it for fear of being seen as spoilsports or stick-in-the-muds.
Well, I have no problem in taking unpopular stands. So, I am saying no to Holi; this year and ever after. No more forced dunkings in chilly vats of coloured water. No more being groped and pulled about by men who are three sheets to the wind.
Next year, I am packing my gujiya and bhaang and taking off for some beach nearby. The only colours I intend to play with are the gold of the sands, the turquoise of the sea and the sapphire of the cloudless sky. Don’t you wish you could do the same?
From HT Brunch, March 27, 2016
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