It was a splash of colour in their largely bleak monochromatic lives. Breaking with tradition, the widows of Vrindavan recently played Holi with flowers. While this is at best symbolic, it is at least an affirmation that widows should not be shut out of our joyous festivities. But how exhilarating are festivals like Holi for women in general? By and large, we are afraid that it is one festival which is not all sweetness and light for women, rather under guise of celebration, hoodlums target women molesting them in public places.
Holi is meant to be a great leveler, people from all walks of life get together in public and private places to smear each other with colour and generally eat, drink and make merry. But there is no fun, indeed there's physical danger in being subjected to assaults by water balloons and by being forcibly smeared with paints and coloured water which contain chemicals. Those who dare to protest against these unwanted ministrations run the risk of being branded spoilsports. Most men on the streets during Holi seem to consider de rigeur to be drunk out of their wits, something which seems to spur their efforts to harass innocent women. The boisterous chant which accompanies such public mauling is bura na maano, Holi hai. Well, this says it all, doesn't it? Let us be clear, hooliganism is hooliganism. No one can use the excuse of tradition to molest and harass women. Holi or no Holi, those who are determined to force their unwanted attentions on women should face the firm smack of the law.
Any damage of property under the pretext of playing Holi or creating disturbances in public should not be treated with any indulgence. Holi was meant to be an inclusive and joyful event. It should not inspire so much dread in many of us. The law has come out all guns blazing on the side of protecting the dignity of women. Those planning to force their unwelcome attentions on women should be aware that their enthusiasm, if you can call it that, could lead to them ending up behind bars. Let us hope that Holi will once again be celebrated in its real sense as the harbinger of spring. We wish you a very happy and safe Holi.