Strange, the whole year people are miserable and on Holi suddenly they break out of misery, singing and dancing. And take liberties they never dream of…
He always had his eye on the vivacious young maiden in the neighbourhood but never had the chance to get near her. Well, the Holi festival of colours is his best opportunity to greet her, shout ‘Holi Hai’ and smear her cheeks with colours. No offence taken as it is all part of the celebration of this boisterous song and dance festival.
The bubbly teenager had a grudge against the college stud who teased her. During Holi, she wants to teach him a lesson. She offers him a greenish milk shake with the greeting, ‘Holi Hai’ challenging him to down it in one gulp. To save face, he does just that and soon starts laughing hysterically and dancing crazily when the ‘bhang’ or cannabis takes effect.
The naughty children get a chance to bombard anyone with water balloons from their safety of their multi-storey homes or drench them with coloured water squirted from their water guns as they pass by their front door. When they shout back, all they hear is ‘Holi Hai’ with mischievous laughter. No one can rebuke them for it is Holi.
Just before Holi, some women get their chance to literally hit back at men in the towns of Barsana and Nandgaon near Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. As part of the celebration, they are armed with strong sticks and beat up their men. Yes, actually hit them to compensate for the domestic violence they perhaps suffer the year round. Women activists love this sight, tourists flock to marvel at this ‘woman power’, and TV channels and media play it up. Even a 2017 Bollywood hit film, Toilet – Ek Prem Katha, had a popular song and dance number on this happening. In fairness, the men also get a chance later on to repay the women.
Finally, Holi culminates with everyone embracing each other to forgive and forget any hard feelings, if any. But the big question is: why do we need a festival like Holi to release our pent-up desires, frustrations and mischief? Does Holi open the lid of the pressure cooker to release our suppressed steam?
Strange, the whole year people are miserable and on Holi suddenly they break out of misery, singing and dancing. And take liberties they never dream of normally. Either the misery was false or Holi revelry is false; both cannot be true. And once Holi is gone, they are back in their dark hole, everybody in his misery, everybody in his anxiety.
Osho says, “When Holi comes, and we sing and dance, breaking all bounds and throwing off our normal codes of conduct. On that day, we throw all our morality, rules and etiquette to the winds; for one day our river flows, breaking all disciplines. But do you think that a river that flows for one day of the year is going to reach the ocean? And even this one day is only an apology for the real flowing; it is just a mockery of our real selves!
Osho goes on,“Look at nature: there is Existence enjoying Holi every day, and celebrating Diwali daily. In nature the colours flow afresh every day, new flowers open each morning. Even before the old leaves fall, the new buds are bursting out and the new shoots are springing up. The festival does not stop even for a moment — it is non-stop, every moment is Holi or Diwali. Such will be the life of a religious person. He will be festive each moment — he is grateful that he is. His every breath is an expression of gratitude and benediction.”
Kul Bhushan worked as a newspaper Editor in Nairobi for over three decades and now lives in New Delhi
* Published in print edition on 2 March 2018