Holi: Happy hooligan day to you too

Holi is a very different festival for men and for women. 

 |  2-minute read |   07-03-2015
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That day when women can’t head out for a morning walk, or run an errand. When uncleji on the 13th floor who has been eyeing you in the elevator for the better part of the year – and make no mistake  every woman knows when she’s being eyed – takes license to touch,  prod, poke and smear you with his grubby paws. Let me break it to ya fellas... there isn’t a woman on earth who does not “bura na mano” because “holi hai”. As the helpful marauder (@agastya80) who responded to us two women cringing at the image of Hema Malini very clearly wincing at being smeared by a fellow BJP MP said; “This is completely innocent. Don’t be such fucking psychos?” Yes. It is innocent for every professional groper we encounter. Holi is a very different festival for men and for women. 

My last memory of Holi was heading down the street with friends in class eight, being cornered into an apartment block by some eight guys who proceeded to rub their hands over every inch of me from my then short hair to my toes. To me, it was a full blown gang sexual assault (I won’t insult Jyoti Singh by calling it rape, but those who have faced more violent encounters by inebriated men will tell you the scale of violation is similar). I have never stepped out of the house on Holi day again. I see it as National Assault Day.

Because you see, if you don’t *enjoy* and *allow* men – neighbourhood men, men you are related to, male colleagues, hoodlums on the street, men you have never met before, met you never want to meet – to touch you unasked for on this day, you are a psycho. Your cheeks, your chest, your ears, your hair, your arms, your back, your waist: it’s a free for all. Bombay women know not to wear white on a monsoon day. It sticks to your body and exposes more than it conceals when wet and is a bitch to wash. And yet the code for Holi is to wear white. It’s custom, ritual, and tradition. And every Bollywood-watching man’s wet T-shirt/sari fantasy. As the tempo of the day rises, water, bhang and licentiousness increase. You’re not in with the festive spirit woman. Grin and bear it, while drunken men do as they please, because the repression of men is so supreme in the country that it needs a day to burst forth like a public mania. Because consent is not a thing the average Indian male has ever understood. Consent is so not understood that it is celebrated as a national festival.

Or perhaps it is even just that the celebration of spring be merged with the frantic divestment of womanhood in the name of festivities. Is that not what we do to Nature in the name of progress? Bura na mano, progress hai.


Gayatri Jayaraman Gayatri Jayaraman @gayatri__j

Mumbai-based writer, reporter, editor. Currently writing two books.

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