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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

Humour: Are you an aggressive Holi warrior, or a thumri loyalist?

Whatever your age or ideology, it’s time to reclaim the colours you fancy

brunch Updated: Mar 16, 2019 23:38 IST
Rehana Munir
Rehana Munir
Hindustan Times
Wherever there’s colour, there’s an accompanying splash of emotion
Wherever there’s colour, there’s an accompanying splash of emotion(Photo imaging: Parth Garg)

Few people are neutral about Holi. There are the hot-blooded enthusiasts with their colour guns and bhang tumblers, out in technicolour troops, aggressively celebrating spring and renewal to the strident tunes of Bollywood. Then there are the high-minded, non-violent thumri and aloo puri loyalists, who gently smear a bit of gulaal on each other’s faces while protecting their pristine white kurtas. I’m decidedly from the second category, looked down upon by the Holi warriors as a gentrified wimp. But there’s one thing we can all agree on, the revellers and the reviled, from our firmly entrenched positions on either side of those horrible water guns. We love spring, and spring is colour. And wherever there’s colour, there’s an accompanying splash of emotion.

What’s the age for purple?

There’s this lovely poem by Jenny Joseph called Warning, which begins:

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.

Every time I encounter this 1961 poem, whether on a friend’s timeline or in an anthology of “light verse” (an appellation that diminishes the skill behind these seemingly breezy jottings), I’m struck by how the voice in the poem runs counter to that of so many women – or men – I know in real life. In fact, few people I know over the age of 55 flaunt brightly-coloured wardrobes, acceding to some arbitrary style decree. It’s all black, white and grey, with sober blues making an appearance every now and then. Then there are the hipsters of my generation who stick to a black and white palette, exuding an air of aesthetic superiority.

There are the hot-blooded enthusiasts and non-violent thumri and aloo puri loyalists , who gently smear a bit of gulaal on each other’s faces ...

I enjoy a white linen shirt or black T-shirt as much as the next fashion dinosaur, but I wonder why this association between age and sobriety, intellectualism and darkness. I’ve heard friends’ parents say “Not at my age!” while caressing a vivid pink sari or a vibrant green tie. Shouldn’t we dress in colours that please us rather than nod to some irrational, perceived notion of age-appropriate behaviour? By Jenny Joseph, we should!

Orange is for …

Then there are all those strong colour associations that force us to reconsider our personal tastes. Just yesterday, I spent the morning in a bright orange kurta, and the evening in a bright green one. Both colours strongly resemble the bands on the national flag. More worryingly, both colours have strong political resonances in these sharply divided times. The question bothered me for a long time, but in the end, the colours won. I’m now brazen enough to wear yellow and black and stay impervious to the taxi references. I even sport postbox red, canary yellow or parrot green T-shirts with the aplomb of someone who spent the late 1980s in stonewashed shirts with ninja turtles embroidered on to them.

A recent fashion feature in HT Brunch questioned why style needed to be “age-appropriate” at all
A recent fashion feature in HT Brunch questioned why style needed to be “age-appropriate” at all

But all my love of colourful clothing, décor and art hasn’t warmed me to the trend of brightly-coloured houses. One wall in a room painted a different colour from the overall white – that’s a style I can abide. But the fluorescent green or bold purple exteriors, and tutti frooti interiors of modern Goan homes, for instance, is a perplexing development. I remember when a family friend once had their sprawling mansion painted a curious green. We tried to placate her when it was clear her well-intentioned idea had turned a bit, well, mossy. She had the last word on the matter when she said about the colour: “I think it grows on you. Like a fungus.”

For kids of all ages

In Drew Daywalt’s children’s bestseller The Day the Crayons Quit, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers, a schoolboy named Duncan finds himself in a unique predicament. Upset at the way Duncan uses them, the colours in his crayon box stage a mass rebellion, each upset in its own way. The beige doesn’t want to defer to the brown any more. The yellow and orange both claim the sun as their own. And so on. Now Duncan needs to give each of them what it wants so he can colour again. The book raises important questions about art, society and philosophy, like so many works masquerading as kids’ books.

It’s uplifting to think about how colour shapes and informs our experience of the world. A friend’s daughter is currently in the middle of her blue phase, finding the shade to be more than adequate to represent reality as she sees it. Friends closer to my age have taken to adult colouring books, and scoff as I might, they seem to find it rewarding. Yet others are streaking their hair pink and purple. It’s making me want to splash my pristine white kurta with all the colours of spring this holi.

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From HT Brunch, March 17, 2019

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First Published: Mar 16, 2019 23:03 IST

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