THE BLOG

A Contaminated Festival

22/03/2016 11:43 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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I always try to forget the incident but every year the festival of colours reminds me of it. I was just 14 years old when it happened, and I still feel traumatized when I think of it. It was the evening of Holi and my friends and I had decided to cap off the day with a game of cricket at the playground. As we played, we suddenly heard a commotion. We stopped playing to see what was going on. Two men were fighting with each other and in a split second one of them whipped out a knife and stabbed the other. The attacker ran away and the young man who was attacked died on the spot.

The victim wore a yellow shirt which was covered with blood along with coloured powder from the Holi festivities earlier in the day. It was a chilling juxtaposition--in that instant, for me, the festival of colours became the festival of blood. I had never seen this sort of violence, this sort of inhumanity before, and it made a lasting impression. I have never played Holi again and every time the festival arrives I feel despondent rather than joyful.

Using Holi as a cover for hooliganism has just gone on for too long and the actual meaning of the festival is close to being lost forever.

In any case, what does celebrating Holi even mean? It just means consuming more intoxicants than you can handle and then misbehaving with anyone unfortunate enough to come in your path. Water and colours are forcibly thrown on people who don't want to play and the day is seen as a license to molest women. If anyone complains, they're told, "Bura na mano Holi hai (Don't mind, it's Holi)." I'm sorry, but that doesn't work. What is ethically wrong shall remain wrong. What is criminal remains criminal. Using Holi as a cover for hooliganism has just gone on for too long and the actual meaning of the festival is close to being lost forever.

While times are changing and adapt we must, we're losing the very essence of our traditions along the way. At one time colours were made from flowers, now they are made of toxic chemicals. The spirit of the festival has undergone a similar contamination and bears little resemblance to the beauty and joy it once celebrated.