Yes, it is that time of the year when people in Mumbai celebrate the festival of color: Holi. In all honesty, there is no Hindu religion, that I am aware of, that is not colorful. However, Holi, in particular, is all about color, and is celebrated in all parts of India.
March 17th marked the Hindu festival of Holi (coincidentally, it is also happens to be St. Patrick’s Day). This is a day where I will dare not leave the house until late evening. This is also the day that people wear white clothes if they wish to attract color their way. This also happens to be one of the days in which people tend to drink too much, get rowdy, and end up behind bars.
There is a long explanation for the festival and the mythological origins, and as with any Hindu festival, are quite fascinating and complex. But in a nutshell, Holi is celebrated on a full moon, and signifies the victory of good over evil, and a welcoming of the summer season in India. That’s right, typically around this time, temperatures are going to peak until we hit the monsoon season, and I will be on slow marinade for the next 3 months!
And with every festival, especially Holi, there is the abuse of alcohol and other intoxicants, such as bhang, ganja, etc. Today, I was witness to people drinking and smoking up, publicly. Mind you, today is one of those “dry days”, where the sale of alcohol, state-wide, is banned. And it was disgusting to see animalistic behaviors, more so if you are a woman! But as one of my neighbors mentioned, in a rather dry and satirical tone, “This is Indian culture for you.”
I also saw, first hand, a police van stop bang in front of my building, and publicly hit a few men who were misbehaving. They showed no mercy, and after the hitting, ordered the men to get into the van, and drove away. It was a pretty disturbing sight and people just gathered around and watched.
But what I love and appreciate most about Holi, is not the riot of colors or the melodrama on the streets. No, sir! What I love is the deafening silence when you wake up in the mornings. On this day, people dare not leave their house for the fear that they will be randomly splashed with color; vehicles tend to ply the streets only after sunset; most people tend to stay in, silent observers of the cacophony of sounds and colors that plague the streets of the city. I can safely say that Holi is the quietest day of the year, in Mumbai; a much welcome change to the noise and distress I experience on a daily level!