Blog – Holi Rules

By Puja

We are on a one week hiatus, and will be back next Monday with brand new episodes.

Holi is coming up on March 13. Well, that is the actual date. Some celebrations may be earlier or later; my temple will be celebrating Sunday March 12.

First, for those of you who feel like shitty Indians, here is a primer about Holi:

  • What: Holi (aka ‘the festival of colors’ that is in every non-Indian’s music video shot in India)
  • When: Officially March 13, but check your local temple or community center for when they are celebrating
  • Where: an empty field or parking lot at said temple or community center.
  • Why: you got the vernal equinox and spring,  the defeat of Holika, and the story that Yashoda told Krishna (his mother, an incarnation of Vishnu, respectively) that it doesn’t matter what color Radha (his crush) is, Krishna can make her any color with powder (he is dark blue, and she is fair/light skinned).
  • How: usually, some temples may go super traditional and burn the Holika, but most usually have a day where you come dressed in your whites, fling the colored powder (gulal or abheer) at each other, play games, eat some food made by the temple Aunties, cautiously get in your car and go home, power shower, and have powder fall out of your ears for the next three (3) days.

Now you can converse semi-knowledgable when your mother asks ‘what are you doing for Holi Beta?’ YOU’RE WELCOME.

There is a lot to unpack with Holi, so let’s get started.

We need to talk about cultural appropriation

Dear Non-Indians:

Since you insist on promoting the worldview that Holi in India is like Vegas (ready for business 24/7)  and need the shot of the people covered in powder or playing Holi, just save time and money by going in the Spring…during the only time Holi is officially happening. Get your exterior shots and B-roll, it will be easier than re-staging it during breaks in the monsoon season.

PS – THANK YOU for culturally appropriating Holi for your “color runs” now I don’t have to send away to India to get gulal, I can order 25lbs to be shipped to me from Salt Lake City.

We need to talk about sexual harassment 

When I was a little girl, our village had a Holi celebration at the school that brought almost everyone out (per my memory) and it was wonderful. Running, pelting your friends with colors or baby powder, the island breezes…

Cut to 15 years later and I show up at the local temple for Holi and get my boobs grabbed, my butt smacked, my hair pulled, and just generalized rubbing up. AT TEMPLE. Recapturing your youth is always a nostalgic fail on some levels, but this was assault. When you sided-eyed, smacked hands, or tried to go after these buffoons, you are swallowed up by the crowd… Talk about a metaphor.  If I found you guys that day, today’s blog post would be about how I pioneered Holi celebrations from a women’s prison. And if if they didn’t violently rub colored powder all over your nice white kurti, they got water guns. Water guns and white clothing, you guys know porn is free on the Internet right? Sari-clad Indian women dancing in the rain is a Bollywood trope, which will be reserved for discussion another time.

But to Indian Men who think Holi is an occasion for you to touch a woman un-welcomingly: how dare you? This is why we can’t have nice things, because you are idiots.

Pro-tip(s):

  • If you are unsure whether you can hold down a woman or young girl (or man and young boy)  and rub powder on their face, back, or any other part of her/his  body with powder – DON’T. Just toss it at their hair and move on.
  • Use this opportunity to teach your kids the importance of consent and what to do if someone ignores their “No.”
  • Young women, it is not sweet or romantic that the cute guy from calculus is finally paying attention to you.  If he only pays attention on the Holi field (pun not intended), he won’t remember you the next day.  If you don’t like your body being touched, let people know, the toucher, your friends, the organizers, anyone. Don’t deny your voice and shame.

Lets talk about complexion politics. 

Sigh. Did you clock that story about young Krishna and Radha?

Source: The Express
This is probably why skin-lightening creams are a big thing in India. So Yashoda, instead of telling Krishna that dark is beautiful, and all complexions are beautiful, she sells out Radha and advocates for her forced detaining and new makeover. Are we as Brown people past this yet? No? Sigh. We gotta do better. In the interim, don’t say to children ‘oh you look so dark, go shower,’ ‘thank goodness the purple comes off,’ and ‘tell them not to put powder on your face.’

Skincare is normally important, but not the shade of it. Be extra vigilant during Holi as the powders can stain your skin as well as dry it out. Be sure you are hydrated and sun-screened during the games; and exfoliate and moisturize after and you should be good to go.
Finally, Be Extra Safe

I sit on the board of my temple, and we had a passing discussion about not being too rowdy this Holi, we don’t want to attract negative attention from the neighborhood. Backstory: my temple was vandalized a few years ago, and our community is kind of jumpy… Oh and also Brown people are being yelled at to go home and then shot.

I hate that I am writing this. It hurts my soul to have to advocate for toning things down at HOLI for Pete’s sake. Regardless of what our western friends did to popularize the ‘festival of colors’ maybe the racist you run into doesn’t like Coldplay, so they don’t know. I don’t want to outright say ‘watch your back’ because then that admits defeat, and we don’t all want to be Bobby Uncle now do we?

So instead I will say, once you leave the Safe-Space you are celebrating Holi, be hyper-aware of your surroundings. If you are being stared at to the point where you feel uncomfortable, you don’t have to stay there. If you are being aggressively questioned, use caution, nothing is ever accomplished when both parties are acting from anything but understanding and open-mindedness.

That’s all we got. Good Luck and have fun! Adulting is hard. Let us know own about your Holi memories, good or bad, in the comments below or on Facebook.

Until next week, go in Peace and Power.

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