A dreadful afternoon saw a friend of mine travelling in an auto in Noida when a man on a bike smashed a water balloon on her left arm and sped away. In the process of attacking her with the water balloon he also happened to touch her. Before she could make sense of what had just happened the biker was already gone, and in that moment, a feeling of helplessness struck her; like thousands of other men and women across our country, she felt violated.
When she told me about the incident, the first immediate feeling was of shock and a subconscious denial of the fact – how could it happen to her? I had only heard about such incidents through Facebook updates that my friends had shared on different social media platforms, but accepting the fact that it had happened to someone so close, took me a few minutes to actually realize and accept the gravity of the situation. It scared me to death when I imagined something like that happening to me and this imagination took me back to my childhood, thoughts which I had repressed back then, thoughts which were deep imbedded in my unconscious, thoughts which were inappropriate for a “boy” to have.
When I was a kid I used to live in a building and on Holi all the residents of the building used to come to the terrace to celebrate the festival with immense vigor and zeal. I had a bunch of male friends who were all a couple of years elder than me. On Holi, the moment I entered the terrace, all my friends used to gang up and attack me with as many water balloons as possible. After their first line of attack was exhausted, they encircled me and took turns in showering me with all sorts of colours, knowing fully well that I’d feel uncomfortable. The way they pounced over me to cover my body with colors was no less than a predator pouncing over it’s prey. I could not cry, how could I? I had a younger sister. And what would my “friends” think? I would be termed as a weakling, a sissy, wouldn’t I? To escape that situation I would act. I would tell my friends that my eyes were itching due to the colours. I would then run, drenched in water- and tears; I would run to my washroom, a place where all expectations and conditioning would fall off just like my wet clothes, and in the shower the colored water mingled with my tears would percolate down the drain while the incident would find a safe corner in the drain of my mind, my unconscious mind.
These incidents continued for three consecutive years, after which I stopped playing Holi. A day before the festival I would pretend to be unwell and on the
day of Holi, I stayed in bed hoping that someday I would be able to play Holi the way it was shown in films, the way I imagined to celebrate the festival of colours.
The twenty-year-old me today questions how wrong I was when I used to throw water balloons from the balcony of my house on the pedestrians in the streets, did I ask for their permission? was it consensual? But the other half of me reasons that the throwing of water balloons came from a place of innocence and my child like behavior. That 8-year-old kid did not have any intention to violate someone and make them feel uncomfortable.
Holi as a festival is highly misunderstood. It is not an occasion where you violate someone and justify yourself by saying “Bura na mano holi hein”. If there is someone “jo bura maan rahe hein”, back off, respect the other person’s decision. Because all it takes is a thought, a thought to question and break generations of human conditioning.