Saturday, March 17, 2012

Holi: Licence for hooliganism?

No, I am not mad to publish a commentary on Holi after it is no longer in people's consciousness. Only the editors of Critical Thinkers (where this article was supposed to be published on 9th March) have vanished. Any further delay would have made this article redundant I publish it in my blog.
Picture this: A week into holi and one is afraid to step out. Water balloons, mud water balloons, eggs and many other things (including condoms I have heard) filled with water and colour can land on you out of nowhere, Delhi being Delhi and Holi being Holi.
Picture this too: 2 days into Holi and one has to step out to get the data card recharged, and one does since the shop is a one minute walk from the PG. Narrow escape from 3 water balloons. Narrow escape for the parents’ of those tween boys, too- they were spared a long lecture on teaching kids how to enjoy with responsibility.

Now picture this: Holi is here. No escape possible because the landlady herself calls me to have breakfast with the family. But before I am allowed to touch anything out of the lavish spread, I must partake in the ‘celebrations’. Colours smeared on lips and stuffed into nose. Water thrown at me from a pipe.I run downstairs to bath again and come back for breakfast only after repeated assurances that the thing won’t be repeated. I bless my PG owners for the delectable food and think that the taste and the satisfaction will overweigh the effort and money that will go into washing the clothes this evening and replacing the lenses of spectacles before the mid semester break gets over. Yours truly is wrong. This time, before I am allowed to run downstairs, I am made to stand in front of the water pipe for a good 3 minutes and plead for mercy to my phone and watch.

Image courtsey:

That’s my Holi experience this year, giving me all the more reasons to hate it more than I ever had. To a reader who doesn’t know me personally, this may sound very silly- after all isn’t this festival meant to be a day when you let yourself loose and just enjoy? But the reader may not be aware that I have never been able to make sense out of first getting yourself and your clothes dirty for 3 hours and then spending another 3 hours to clean up. Fine, this wasn’t as bad as it could be but the very fact that it all happened without my consent serves my hating this festival. Talking of letting loose and enjoying, how are you supposed to be able to enjoy being thrown mud or being thrown into a water tank? Let’s not talk about alcohol and shit here which are other popular Holi ammunition.
One may ask- Isn’t this day a part of our rich cultural tradition? My answer- I have never caught up with how all sorts of propriety in interacting with strangers, especially ladies, come to vanish into thin air on this day, granting license to hooliganism, so the culture part is out of the question. Surely, those of our ancestors who were the first to play Holi didn’t mean it to be a day when you harass random ladies who chance to pass your street, when you play pranks with strangers and laugh it off!

The biggest joke on all those who use the excuse of ‘Holi Hai’ to run amok with hooliganism- The International Women’s day coincided with Holi this year. I would love to know how many ladies felt empowered on the day.

Of course, I am not asking for avoiding Holi altogether. One can always enjoy with one’s family. Play only with your friends and relatives and don’t kill the spirit of this festival by harassing those non-willing. Set a good example for the kids in your family and teach them how to have a good time even while staying within limits.
There is always a right way and an easy way, to do things. Our choice reflects who we are, even in something trivial like the way we play Holi. Think it over.


  1. So true! I dislike Holi too. Firstly it is not really a big part of my culture - but seems to be catching on fast :-(
    I simply do not want to be drenched in coloured water, smeared with pink powders that ruin my dress and refuses to wash off, leaving me with a pink-hued sking for a couple of days and worst of all - I do not want random strangers violating my personal space! I truly cannot understand why ppl still love this festival!

    1. Perhaps only those people love this festival who have not been made to do things on this day without their consent or not been harassed, if I can use the term, in any manner. In the safety of one's own family and friend circle, I believe it is alright to play with colours, but alas! the boundaries dissolve so easily on this day...

  2. Very disappointed in this post :-( I have always envisaged holi as this joyous occasion where friends and relatives got together and had so much masti...and u shattered my, where's yr sense of humour gone?? It's one day of the year where you let go of yr inhibitions and laugh and have fun - no holds barred!! So your dress gets what?? It's a vibrant part of your culture and traditions ...and I whenever I think of holi...the song from the old movie Sholay pops into my head..."holi ke din dil khil jaate hain rangon mein rang mil jaate hain" :-D

    1. I don't hav any problem dear doing masti with family and friends, and no issues with letting go of all inhibitions and laugh and have fun.
      The whole crux of my article was this- holi has become a license for hooliganism. I certainly can't enjoy being smeared with colour without my consent. I can't stand being thrown water balloons by mischievous boys, that too, younger than me, on the road. I can't have people damage my specs and clothes when it is me who will have to spend money over replacing my specs, and curse and curse while rubbing detergent bar over my clothes.

      Granted this festival is a vibrant part of our culture and tradition, but it has been twisted so much that it is now a blot on our culture when this day is used as an excuse to harass random ladies guiltlessly and without fear of reproach.

      One more thing Jannat- I think u shud go through the 2nd last pragraph once more to get over your disappointment Lol.

    2. Sudha, I have read your penultimate paragraph and fully understand that for you holi is something that should be celebrated with family and friends.

      I just find it a shame that a minority who take the concept of fun too far should ruin it for the majority. I accept randomly throwing balloons at strangers is taking the fun element too far....but those that do are being reproached arent they?? And to be fair, women aren't only the victims but sometimes they can be the perpetrators too.

      However, the clothes issue??? Lol...I would've thought having grown up with this festival as an integral part of your life you would've learned not to reserve your best outfits for that

      I find your statement that "it is now a blot on our culture", a tad harsh.

    3. Agreed, that was a tad too harsh. I got carried away perhaps.
      But I still stand by the rest of what I said.
      The clothes issue may seem trivial to u as u r ok with getting all pink and blue. To me, however, if it is a question of making some kind of compromise, that too just to please those around me, which incidentally I am not very comfortable with, then it becomes much more than the immediate issue at hand. I know people r nt supposed to have such silly metaphysical crises, or there would be very little left to really 'enjoy' something, but me being me, I don't allow anyone to make claims on my time when I see m nt happy doing what I m wanted to. Even at the cost of losing out on the 'enjoyment'part.

  3. Anne thats ur personal view.... wat do u mean its not a big part of ur culture n still its catching fast???... u want urs to bloom n mine to doom.... i can suggest u to keep ur self locked in room if not stay out of india say in pakistan they dont celebrate it....u will stay safe n ur space will be all yours. i am surprised is holi that bad?? had i been the blogger i wud have answered u well.

    1. @ anonymous

      "Yours to bloom and mine to doom" I shouldn't laugh coz its not funny but it made me smile purely for the rhyming factor :-D

      But on a serious note, isn't India a secular country where people of differing religions and cultures reside? Are u suggesting that anyone who does not celebrate holi move over the border to Pakistan??!!!??? Thats a preposterous remark if I ever heard one....had I been the blog writer I wouldve answered YOU better!

  4. While I'm no great fan of Holi and religiously avoid the festivities of the day, I do beg to differ when you say people could exercise restraint and can perhaps be gentle to others who aren't keen on the revelries of the day.
    True, Holi has been extrapolated far beyond what the customs were in the ancient times, but that is culture. Unfortunately or otherwise, it is an ever changing object, often taking cues from the morality and the mentality of the times.
    If one would really want have nothing to do with this festival, one should lock himself up in a room and not emerge from it unless a few days have passed and people are getting ready for their next big chance at harassing others, ladies especially, sadly.


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