Does the Festival of colours entitle people to indulge in crass behaviour?
By Vijai Pant
As the countdown for Holi starts, the nation is all set to get virtually immersed in a kaleidoscope of rainbow hues with people greeting each other ‘Happy Holi’ and splashing colours in gay abandon. The TV news readers with prominent but careful touches of paint on their faces, immaculately dressed, would bring to us snippets of celebrities playing Holi with their fans. With ‘amusement’ being the by-word, there would be no dearth of jokes and comic acts with, if you notice, the slapstick comedy fast replacing witty, humorous and, at times, sarcastic ‘Hasya Kavi Sammelans’. Not forget, the radio stations would not get tired of playing the vintage Holi numbers over and over again. Of course, the lilting, mellifluous and meaningful lyrics of yesteryear melodies like ‘Holi aayi re kanhai’ have now been replaced by the fun-filled, hip-gyrating and suggestive music of balam pichkari, perhaps a reflection of the changing times.
The festival of colours also comes with a lot of trepidation for many. The unlimited quantum of mirth and merriment all around often takes the shape of no-holds barred entertainment at the expense of others with hooligans ruling the roads, making the festival memorable, but for all the wrong reasons, for the unsuspecting victims.
For Pooja, the 2015 Holi was her last. “I still shudder at the thought of being mobbed and groped by a bunch of boys, when, without realising the danger, I foolishly went unaccompanied to my friend’s house just two blocks away.
These youngsters looked and acted as possessed by the devil. I somehow managed to flee from their clutches. The lecherous, garishly coloured faces, reeking of alcohol haunt me to this day. Ever since, I refuse to venture out on Holi,” she says.
The worse part
What is worse is that the, otherwise, fun-loving Pooja has now become suspicious of men in general. If we look around we’ll find that there are many others like her, who simply dread the festival. “I undergo a self-imposed curfew 3-4 days prior to Holi. One has to be careful of the rowdy elements while stepping out.
There are some who get into the Holi mood quite early. At times, a harmless water balloon might have stone or slush inside. It’s better to stay indoors than be at the receiving end of any such missile hurled at you from rooftops,” advises the middle-aged Vishnu.
“Although water balloons are banned, still they are used by both kids and young. It is the duty of the parents to dissuade their young ones from hurling these balloons at those who don’t want to be a part of the celebrations. Even water guns must not be used by children on people. They should also be prohibited from applying grease and cheap colours containing harmful chemicals on each other. Children must be told not to ruin somebody else’s fun by doing things which are inappropriate. In one such Holi, I know of a lady who got her retina ruptured when a balloon hit her,” avers the businessman Shashank.
However, it’s not only complete strangers who are to be feared but even overzealous friends and acquaintances who would not think twice before barging in and dragging you out, completely against your wishes, painting and drenching you. “They call it harmless fun, but I think it’s completely insensitive and cruel. Perhaps Holi is the time when the animal instincts of man come to the fore,” avers Meena Yadav, a homemaker, who has developed a deep aversion for the festival due to the crude behaviour of her neighbours and friends.
“Last year I saw a group of inebriated young men doing target practice on street lights. They not only broke some, but also pelted stones at speeding vehicles which passed by. What thrill do people derive from such destructive acts?” questions Vinod Pandey, a bank employee. “And all of this despite the fact that nearly all dailies carry appeals and full-page advertisements telling people to play safe Holi,” he adds.
“It has to be said that, barring some regions, the true spirit of Holi has been somewhat lost in the loud cacophony of drums, musical instruments and the general carnival atmosphere,” feels philosophical Markand.
“A needless adrenalin rush is seen on Holi leading to bullying and harassment of the weak, more often than not, crossing all bounds of decorum with some revellers indulging in vandalism, derogatory comments and immodest acts. It is wrongly presumed that everything is fair game on Holi. The cliched phrase “Bura na mano Holi hai!” is used as a licence by them,” he says in an annoyed tone agitatedly.
“Are bhai, bura kaahe na mano?” he shoots back, voicing the angst of many ‘un-Holi’ types like him. And therein hang a lot of tales.