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Holi triggers unpleasant memories in many Indian women. This author recollects her trauma as a child during Holi, which makes her scared for her daughter.
I am a sucker for festivities in India. I think the whole essence of the cultural ethos of this country lies in its customs and festivities. Religious or nonreligious, every celebration brings with it an amazing sense of merriment, fun and frolic. And, I love them. Every bit of it. But, sadly, there is one festival that I could never wrap my head around. I couldn’t make myself allow to revel in the vibe. I couldn’t allow myself to dive deep into the riot of colours and drench in the fervor. I tried, year after year, but I couldn’t. I told myself, “it’s alright, take a plunge, you can handle it!” But again, after taking a few steps forwards, I took a few step backwards.
I was around 14 then. Just beginning to get out of the shell of parental cocoon, and exploring the world out with friends. It was fun. It was new, it was exciting in many ways. It was, as if, a plethora of newness was opening up, and filling my senses every day. It was also the time, I would not accompany my parents, but my friends for moving around. Durga Pujo was more fun than before. Diwali was even more exciting, and so was the Christmas and the New Year.
And, then came Holi. Well, I felt free for the first time to play it on my own, with my friends. Plans were made in a jiffy. The day started on a lovely note. A bit of gulal, some jokes, some teasing, some sweets and loads of laughter. It was like flapping those colourful wings, which were fluttering to find their way. It was good, you see. Thrilling!
As the day progressed, we started moving around the colony, visiting houses (which was the norm), slathering people with colours, and gorging on the ‘gujiyas’ and ‘gulab jamuns’. And then suddenly, in a blink, everything changed. We had just moved out of one of the houses and we realized that we were followed by a group of boys. Unrecognizable. They were painted all over. It was difficult to gauge, if we knew them or not. And before we could realize the impending threat, these men were all over us. We were groped, molested, a few of my friends were kissed. Water balloons were burst by shoving hands inside our kurtis…and what not.
And, the only thing they shouted, “Bura Na Mano Holi Hai.” Really…hum bura na mane? Is that so simple? Within minutes, all the happiness just disappeared, then and there.
I stood there shivering from top to toe. And, I still shiver at the very thought of it even after close to twenty five years. Because of a few fun seeking perverts, a festival that I used to love turned into a nightmare. I still avoid Holi. And even if I do play, it is strictly within the family.
I hear a lot of women saying Holi is a bad festival. No it isn’t. No festival is bad. It is the people who make it unpleasant for others. It is a few who, despite repeated warnings, resort to blatant violations that make the festival a nightmare for others.
It is because of some, that this otherwise fun filled festival is reduced to an utterly traumatic and nauseating experience for others.
Does a woman not have a right to enjoy this festival without fear?
Today, when my daughter was asking if she could play Holi, I was in two minds. While a part of me was screaming aloud that I am not supposed to bring her up under my dark shadows, a part of me was petrified. What if?
This has to stop. Just has to stop. I am sure, as I write this, there are several young girls who are preparing for a beautiful Holi tomorrow with abundance of excitement in their mind. But I am also sure that many will stop playing Holi after tomorrow. In some corner of this country, there will be girls who will be grappling with the question of what they did wrong to deserve whatever happened to them. “I was just playing, then why this?”…and the saga goes on, year after year.
Holi…(Holy)… I wish, it was as simple as that!
Image Source: Youtube