It was a glorious morning, and the whole city felt like one big happy family with strangers smiling at each other. One young stranger standing in a corner, though, was smiling to himself. As the lady just stepped out towards her Audi Q5, dressed in a plain green sari, the young stranger took aim with his gun and let go a stream of red water shouting, “Holi!”
The red blotches on her green sari looked as if an inveterate paan-chewer had showered his blessings from the third floor. The lady was seething with fury and let go a stream of invectives as colourful as the children who were playing in the yard. Now she would have to postpone her appearance at the tomato-flinging festival launch in India.
As she washed her hair with Kinley, she thought about the ‘terrorists’ in her midst, the ideology of Hindutva which transformed innocent children on this day into obstreperous monsters with guns in their hands, spraying carcinogens mixed with untreated water, polluting the ground with a riot of colors as if a rainbow had been murdered and its pieces strewn around. The tub overflowed with the bubbling Kinley, but it was not enough to submerge her concern for children.
“We need to stop this chromatic terrorism,” she said to herself, “for the sake of the environment, for the future of our children, the children of decent folks, for the future of both the countries.” The last one was a recurring theme in her thoughts anyway even if it had nothing to do with the festival of colours. She decided to invite a few of her friends over the next day to plan the ban.
The doorbell rang, and she expectantly opened the door only to find the stone-faced postman standing. He thrust a letter in her hands and left. She opened the letter and turned red, as it was a “red notice” from the Metro Water Board demanding her to pay up the dues of 4.4 lakh or face dire consequences. She threw the notice on the floor, partly because she couldn’t care less for the threat, and partly because Prime Minister Narendra Modi had exhorted people towards cleanliness. It was her way of defying the ‘Hindutva dictator’.
As her friends tumbled in, they went on swiftly to the agenda, with of course, an unlimited supply of liquor and hors d'oeuvres. Anyone unfamiliar with the ways of these self-appointed saviours of everything modern would have been awestruck by the alacrity with which they shaped their plans. “We kick off the PreJuDiCE Campaign,” said one, a balding man wearing an off-white kurta, as everyone else nodded. Inspired by that veritable Master of Acronyms who was now weaving his magic in the Rajya Sabha, the group now sipping their scotch on the rocks had come up with PreJuDiCE, a contrived acronym for “Press, Judiciary, Digital (Media), Celebrities, Education,” denoting all the modes through which the campaign can be executed. The die was cast, and they had about 11 months to play their game.
A month before the next Holi, the prime time fever was steadily rising with colourful offers, discounts, rewards and surprisingly this year, messages to save water. Suddenly, companies that were making washing machines to companies that were selling pieces of frozen and heated meat between breads made use of children and celebrities to shove water down our throats. When the music channels played the quintessential Holi song, “rang barse bheege chunarwali,” they beeped out the word, “bheege,” and put a disclaimer with a large font: “Using water during Holi is injurious to environment. The actors in this movie do not endorse the use of water. Save water to save environment.”
The highest court of the land had passed a judgement that the sale of Holi colors would be banned in Delhi in 2018 as a pilot to assess its impact on water consumption as well as the environment overall. “We want to get rid of the fog, not make it more colourful,” was the sarcastic remark from the court. A senior lawyer, who was known to make phone calls at odd hours to save his clients, recommended that only three colours be allowed: green, yellow, and pink. He argued skillfully that red should be banned because it would remind children of blood, always a bad idea, and orange because it would be provocative to the minority, an even worse idea.
Friends in the media had not been idle, for just after the verdict, there were countless stories that beseeched people to save water. The relentless message, accompanied by the picture of an emaciated kid gloomily looking at an empty tap, was, “How can you waste water when millions of children don’t have a drop to drink?” However, environmental concern was just a pretext to lead to the larger issue. If the national media made up stories of “majoritarian boisterousness”, the international media went after the “colours of Hindutva terrorism”.
A day before Holi, the self-appointed saviours, along with a plethora of their celebrity friends, newfound youth leaders holding assorted placards, religious heads, including a few token saffron-clad ones, really old college students, and of course, kids dressed in school uniforms, arranged a silent protest in an open area to drive home the message of saving water. The placards, though, had more profound messages such as “Colors are Racism” and the ironical “HOLI means Hindutva Only Loves Intolerance”. Some Twitter users had a field time that day. After they dispersed and went their ways, all that remained were empty plastic water bottles strewn around everywhere. All that the empty water bottles had was air inside.
It was a glorious morning. As the lady just stepped out towards her Range Rover, dressed in a plain green saree, a young stranger took aim with his gun and let go a stream of orange water shouting, “Holi!”
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