Among all the holidays and festivals, there’s one whose invasive qualities I’ve always been terrified of. While other festivals, whether Diwali or Dussehra or Durga Puja or Christmas, bring their fair share of marauding relatives and not-so-friendly friends at our doorstep, it’s Holi that makes everyone feel as if they have the right to get a bit too chummy with me.
Okay, so the legal bhang-substitutes that are sold as various varieties of alcoholic beverages are supposed to lighten me up a bit, let me be bodily shaken about, felt up and muffed around, all in the name of a good, colourful festival. But the fact of the matter is that the thought of Holi itself makes me stone sober.
Perhaps it has something to do with childhood memories of being physically lifted and dunked in a tank of water, a bucket of water mixed with cow dung being emptied on unsuspecting me, and a pitch black colour (‘bat dye’ it was called then) smeared all over my face.
Perhaps the fact that I was susceptible to this one day of uber-bullying and could do nothing about it has left me as an unsocial Holi non-reveller. That I never continued the tradition of dunking, smearing or rubbing with people smaller in size as a young adult also could explain my deep-seated repression about participating in any Holi festivity.
So what do I — and shuddering people like me — do on a blasted day like Holi? One thing only: lock myself in and pretend that every time the doorbell rings it’s Jack Nicholson in The Postman Always Rings Twice at the door. I’d rather be watching Amitabh Bachchan in Silsila at home with a television screen safely between me and the blasted gulal that gets into my eyes and hair and…