Aha! That time of the year is once again here when the machismo of Indian men gets so built up that it sexes up one of North India's biggest festivals, Holi, in a not so holy manner. The air is full of colourful and myriad thoughts. Thoughts of Prahlada on a pyre with Holika, Lord Krishna playing Holi with Radha, the colourful descriptions in the 7th-century play Ratnavali. Wait a minute! Is this the Holi we know about? From what I have grown up with and seen around, our Holi is not such a holy affair.
Somewhere in the nip of the mid-February air in the plains of Uttar Pradesh, the erstwhile Krishna Brij, I hear the first Holi song playing in the local market. It goes like this, "Chabe gori ka yaar, balam tarse, rang barse..." In plain words, overt shameless adultery! So here we go again. It's time for the double entendres and pun-intended songs to start. Words which otherwise are supposed to be uttered in hushed tones will now be bellowed at every passing woman.
I have disclaimer to offer. I'm rather a Holi fan. It's a lovely feeling to play colours (organic, of course!) with your loved ones, to collect in a posh colony's garden, rain dance to the latest beats, wine-dine together and give each other hugs of gulal.
However, one metre beyond the walls of our apartment gate, the scene is little less wholesome. Gangs of men, loaded with bhang and out of their senses, patrol the streets. These streets may be quiet because the city knows what can happen at times like this. But they are not the only danger around. Even the balding neighbourhood uncle has relinquished his pleated pants and checked shirt in favour of a half-open shirt, a la Salman Khan. He is not at his government office today, so he thrusts his pelvis to the lecherous lyrics of a Bhojpuri number.
With his comrades, he too hunts for ladies who by noon are colorfully drenched in translucent saris sticking to their bodies. His imagination soars. While the 'gentlemen' in the gang stay happy leching, taking pictures or making videos, some bhaiya-devar-jijas leave no opportunity to rub their hands first on the cheeks and later unobtrusively slide it lower to other parts of a woman's body.
Those who miss the chance to lay their hands on victims do the next best thing. What could be better than a water balloon? They can hit what they would have loved to touch and are greeted by the sight of girls and women screaming with 'joy' and running around in their wet attire. This is the day words change their meaning. "Please let me go" is heard as "Do it more, baby." If the girl says, "I'm ready to play," she is thought of as inviting touches and if she says, "Don't", well hurray because today force will not be equal to harassment. Bravo!
This reminds me also of the glorious contribution of Bollywood in spicing up Holi's concupiscence. Like lascivious lover-boy Amitabh smearing Rekha with multitudinous colours in front of her husband and his own wife in the movie Silsila. Haven't we clapped enough on such chousing in the cinema halls? Like Deepika Padukone and her puerile company in the Holi song "Balam Pichkari" brilliantly dancing to the signature step of emulating a pregnant belly? Oh, we completely get the naughtiness intended, don't we? How about B-town lyrics rhyming into Holi-choli, ang-rang, gaal-gulaal, gulaabi-bhabhi that even the street urchins sing boisterously while the police and district administration enjoy the holiday slumber?
Come dusk and when one is done with playing colours, hogging on gujiyas and downing laced thandai, it is time to clean the body with soap and shampoo, to wash away the sins of the day. After a liberal application of Boroplus and eyedrops pinched into red eyes and falling into bed dog tired, delirious bewilderment takes over.
"I should've said 'No' to thandai."
"I can't believe it was Jiju who behaved that lecherous way."
"Shucks! I hate the way he put it on my face."
"I should've slapped him in public."
Just then someone suddenly barges-in, empties an entire bucket of coloured water on you and, as you stare speechless with disgust, hollers "Bura na maano, Holi hai! (Don't feel bad, it's Holi)"
Seriously? Well, I can't!