By Sharan Saikumar
Holi Hai! It’s the war cry that we’ve been hearing all our lives. It’s probably what the person who threw a semen-filled balloon at a DU student shouted before speeding away. Bura Na Mano Holi Hai.
The Holi weekend is upon us and the only way we know it (other than counting down to the long weekend) is that invariably, around this time, reports of molestation begin to flow in. From different parts of India, different women begin to tell the same stories; of being mauled, attacked, touched, gyrated against. The semen- filled balloon story from Delhi that made headlines is nothing but a modern-day variation of an old classic called What Can We Get Away With In The Name Of Holi?
Turns out, a lot.
“Rang Barse”, the song which would become the national anthem of Holi, shows us the way. In the song, two married couples are celebrating Holi with a bunch of extras. The air is thick with gulaal and sexual tension except that it’s not between the couples. Amitabh and Rekha, who have been doing the dirty behind the backs of their spouses, are taking their secret shenanigans public. The song is sensory in its picturisation. Hands are touching other hands, bodies are gravitating toward each other helplessly. The air is fragrant with the distinct smell of airing out what has been in the closet all through the year. It’s Holi and everyone can get away with murder. Holi hai!
Holi Hai! It’s the war cry that we’ve been hearing all our lives. It’s what young boys from your own building who grabbed you and smeared gulal across your face and chest yelled on looking at your shocked face. It is what Amitabh Bachchan insinuates when he winks at Sanjeev Kumar while singing a song after not only hitting on his wife but also reducing him to a cuckold in public. It is also what the person who threw the semen-filled balloon at the young girl from DU shouted before speeding away. Holi hai! Bura Na Mano Holi Hai. And if you mano bura, really, it’s on you. Clearly you don’t get the spirit of the holiday, you fucking dimwit who thinks the world only wants to touch you – a variation of what the men that the DU girl went to for help allegedly told her. (If there’s one thing in this country that we do better than victim-shaming targets of sexual harassment, it is gaslighting them.)
Amitabh may have given a nation the licence to pass of tradition as tharak but make no mistake, tharak it is.
Because, let’s face it. Holi is more than just a colour fest. It is a morality-free zone, where you get a free hall pass to Misbehaviour Central. Many Holi songs went before “Rang Barse” and many will come after, but there is a reason it remains the nation’s Holi anthem. It is the only Holi song that celebrates out loud the reason we love this rather handsy festival of ours.
If Diwali is about unchecked consumption, then Holi is about unqualified permission. For one day in the year, the strict social segregation of the sexes is forgotten. Boundaries and body autonomy, nebulous areas for the rest of the year anyway, are allowed to be disrespected. “No” means “yes”, and “yes” means “fuck yeah”. Holi and the licence to harass thrive, in an otherwise politically correct world that takes exception to crackers and gaudy idols that cause traffic jams everywhere. Holi is on the wrong side of everyone – women, law enforcement, conservatives – and yet we reserve the bashing for Valentine’s Day. Why?
Well, because, Krishna. We play Holi in his name. The God we revere was allowed his playfulness with Radha in the season of love. And since man is cast in the image of God, why shouldn’t we?
Holi is proof that our nation loves a good party but for some reason needs religion as an excuse for revelry. Which is all fine. If God is what it takes to get you down and dirty, so be it, but no part of the Holi tradition has ever involved throwing semen-filled balloons at women or gyrating against their ass while channeling your inner AB. Amitabh may have given a nation the licence to pass of tradition as tharak but make no mistake, tharak it is. A semen- filled balloon, on the other hand, is just fucking twisted.
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