The Holi Purge

Holi, a festival of colours, mirth, and merriment—and well, bhang too! How can you forget that piece of information?!

Holi- celebrated and enjoyed by a large population of our beloved country! Unless you’re old and a sour killjoy, or a clean freak who would appreciate it if his white clothes remained white even after they’re in their grave; a.k.a my father, who falls into both the categories! Well, I’ve successfully digressed from the topic. So getting back; this festival of Holi being cheerful and colourful as it is, in my colony it is also the festival of vengeance or the festival of get-your-frustrations-out-on-the-next-building’s-poor-sap. There are water bombs (balloons), water guns, moments that look like there has been a gas attack; a really colourful gas too! It’s like The Purge, the movie! Just less violent. Actually, scratch that. Less bloody. It’s been like this for ages. The two opposite buildings always engage in this war-like situation, though initially it was meant to be fun, now it’s more of a contest.

Sadly, in this colourful purge, I’m either the social pariah or the social target due to my ‘accidental coming out’ a few years ago. Nothing flashy enough to have a back-story! Yes, my parents are still traumatized but they’ll eventually get over it. They have to! I’m their only child; they can’t even ‘try’ to get it right with the next one.

‘Son, stop daydreaming! You need a hobby! It’s all you ever do anymore! Be a little more productive! What do you even daydream about?’ my mother complains, as she rants me out of my thought process of questioning my self-worth.

‘Don’t ask him that! I don’t want to know!’ my dad cuts her off mid-rant with a scowl on his face. Good thing too, because next she would have compared me to my cousins and peers, and you don’t need to know about Sunena or Dan. I simply roll my eyes and sass back.

‘Yea Dad, because all teenage boys do is think about the dirtier things in life. Teens think about lot more than that! Like insecurities!’

‘First of all, that is what all boys do, and I know your mother and I are not as conservative, but no parent wants to hear about that! And secondly, you and insecurities? Never happening! I raised you to be an independent individual who knows his worth and his capabilities!’ my dad sasses back.

‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, but ten on ten for knowing your son so well,’ I retort sarcastically. ‘Well, I’m off. I’m going to meet up with some human-beings who don’t think it’s funny to take out yearly frustrations on you by aiming balloons filled with questionable substances at you. See you later!’ and just as I maneuver toward the door my mom strikes back.

‘Wait! Where are you going? What time are you getting back? Who are these human-beings you are meeting? Is it a boyfriend?’ and that is where I had to stop her, at the mention of a boyfriend. Yes, I get it that my parents are trying to digest the whole ‘I’m gay and I’m coming out’ thing, but they don’t need to mention it to me all the time so that they can get used to it faster.

‘Ma, stop! You don’t have to keep asking! I’m socially awkward. There is no dating in the near future! These humans are just a couple of friends I made recently!’ I answer, exasperated from all the questioning.

‘Socially awkward has nothing to do with it! Also, I’m worried! There are some weird people out there in the world Anshu!’ I cringe at the nickname. ‘And ‘friends I recently made’? You mean at those pride events? A possible boyfriend?’ She goes on. I just raise my hand and gesture for her to stop. ‘Just stop lady! You’re not getting anything else out of me! And once again, before I leave and you spin some worst-case scenario; JUST FRIENDS!’ I yell as I storm out embarrassed.

Parents and their need to embarrass their kids! But I guess I can’t complain. I got myself the nicer half of the deal; at least they’re accepting. I know a few people who constantly have tiffs with their parents. I let out a sigh as I trudge towards my building gate where my friends were waiting. Lucky for me, I live on the way to most of the hangout spots; so generally, I just meet up with my friends in the immediate vicinity. But obviously, I should have thought this through!

As I neared the gate I could see Abby, this sweet girl who identified as transgender, with the coolest most flamboyant hair and my goofy best friend Daylen already chatting. I just sigh internally at the two as I question what my parents were thinking when they named me Priyanshu! I mean yes, Abby picked her own name but still! And what is with people who are blessed and born with the innate genius of communication? They’ve only met twice before! Just then Abby and I make eye contact as she notices me walking towards the gate at a sloth’s pace.

‘Hey Anshu!’ she calls out sweetly, as she waves at me. And as I lift my lift my hand to do the same—everything plays out in slow motion— I watch a water balloon fly out nowhere and splatter red coloured water all over Abby’s clothes. I gasp as I rush to her and ask her if she’s okay. Just then I hear laughter close by. And that’s when I spot my nemesis, Rohit laughing along with his friends. We’ve never once had a civil conversation, but I can’t blame him though. I’m sarcastic, but he’s annoying— and he’s always gone out of his way to bully me.

‘What the hell Rohit!? You don’t attack innocent pedestrians just because it’s Holi! That’s messed up!’ And it was! Abby’s parents aren’t exactly happy with her choice of apparel so she really works had to buy herself her choice of clothing. I continue to glare at Rohit as he sobers up from his laughing spell.

‘It’s Holi! People shouldn’t go out if they don’t want any colour on them. And did you forget? It’s war! By the guilt of association, they are now targeted too!’ Well, someone’s taken the purge a little too seriously! And it’s not like he’s nice after the purge! He’s still evil and he’s still mean, so that makes the purge irrelevant! Now I just had an incredulous look plastered on my face as I stared at the embodiment of idiocy.

‘Plus they’re your friends, so they are freaks too!’ he says condescendingly, looking towards Abby menacingly. Now that’s just mean! I don’t care that he just insulted Daylen and me, but Abby doesn’t deserve the hate. She gets enough of intolerance in her own time and she doesn’t need it from someone who she doesn’t know just because I’m her friend!

‘It fine, Priyanshu. I’ll just leave for home. I’m not in the mood to socialize any more.’ Abby says with a sad pout on her face. Of course, I don’t deem this situation as fine at all.

‘No it’s not fine! Now, I won’t make you stay, but I am going to beat these bullies at their own game.’ Okay, that didn’t sound remotely cool, but that’s fine. I have no one to impress present over here.

‘Do you even have colours?’ Daylen asked me with a calculative look on his face. I know that face! It’s his not-so-resting-bitch-face; you know the one an evil person has while they are scheming the downfall of humanity. Yea, that one!

‘Of course, I do! My mom always buys some. She thinks I’m fickle. I think she has problems understanding me.’ I reply back, going completely off topic. Just then a water balloon hits me right in the face.

‘Rude! I was talking!’ I whine at Rohit as he smirks back. Just then I get a glance of pure evil, I mean Daylen’s face, just after he makes eye contact he starts running, which means I need to follow. I grab Abby hand and make a run for it.

‘Wait, guys! Where are we going?’ Abby gasps out.

‘Inventory’ was Daylen’s intelligent one-word reply. This day just got better as the three of us escaped towards my house, successfully dodging several badly aimed water balloons. By the time we entered my house we were all laughing, only to have my mom screeching at me.

‘What happened to your shirt?!’

‘Rohit happened! I’m telling you, mom, I think he hates me probably because his mom compared him to me frequently when he was small. It was child trauma! This is exactly why I tell you to stop comparing me to other people! That shit is traumatizing!’ I rant, going off track once again.

‘Stop being weird Anshu! I swear it; I didn’t drop you on your head enough times as a child for you to be this weird! This is all you.’ She jokes as I yet again cringe at the nick-name. How many times do I have to remind her! Not in front of my friends! Not anywhere! Unacceptable!

‘Gee thanks, Ma! Now I know you dropped me as a child! And now my friends know too! I can take you to court!’ I yell back with an accusatory finger in her direction.

‘Okay! Enough with your weirdness!’ Daylen yells as if he was disciplining a puppy, which just succeeds in making me pout some more.

‘Hello, Aunty! Long time no see!’ he goes on to greet my mom as I whisper ‘suck up’ which only encourages him to tap me on the back of my head. ‘Aunty where are the colours? Also, do you have any balloon we could use? We have a situation, as you can see’ , he says gesturing towards Abby and her ruined clothes which gets a blush out of her and an almost inaudible hello.

‘Also, since your son is not getting any better with his fabulous communication skills, I’ll just introduce Abby’, Daylen continues and she just laughs it off! LAUGHS! You’re supposed to defend your son; regardless of the fact that his communication skills are in fact poor. I mean rusty! Yea they’re just rusty.

‘Aunty this is Abby, a friend of ours. Abby, this is Priyanshu’s wonderful mom!’ he introduces them. ‘Suck up’ I whisper once again only to get the same result.

‘Thank you Daylen’ she says smiling, ‘and yes I bought balloons and colours because I knew Anshu would use them anyway. You know where the water guns and the pichkari’s are kept, also the bucket too.’

And just like that, we had our ammo and we were ready to rain hell one those losers! We marched onto the edge of the compound keeping an eye out for Rohit and his band of idiots; Kunal, Shrushti and Rhea, his sister. Just when the coast was clear and Rohit, our target was out in the open, Abby threw the first blow, it was only right that she got the first blow we agreed. And just like that, the purge began. Back and forth of colours, water balloons, the opposition was annoying enough to have a few balloons with some oil in it! That’s just gross! Luckily, it was only Daylen who had to deal with those! At one point the three of us got separated, though unlike Scooby and his gang we played it to our benefit trapped the idiots on all three sides and rained havoc on them!

As the purge continued, the rest of the kids playing around also joined in on the fun! Although the aggravating part of it was that it began with them mocking us which later transgressed to an unprejudiced, carefree, fun where we all united to be innocent kids.

Finally, when it was time to go home, we were all exhausted but it was all worth it. Yes, the three of us ended up ditching the rest of our friends and Abby might get the yelling of a lifetime from her parents after Daylen walks her home but at the end of it all, we all really had a good time. Abby and Daylen agreed too! Abby was away from her disapproving parents and even though the rest of the kids that joined later started off shooting balloons in attempts to poke fun at us, in the end, it was everyone just playing around, having fun. And also, for once, the three of us had the satisfaction of getting back at the haters, with powerful throws of water balloons at their faces.

Even Rohit and the band of idiots had agreed and it was hilarious to watch! The moment we were about to leave was also the same time the band of idiots had chosen to leave too, as a result, we had to cross paths. That is when Rohit mumbled, ‘This was fun.’ in a very sour manner may I add. Then he looked right at me with a glare, ‘This doesn’t change the fact that you and your friends are freaks and I still don’t like you! We’ll crush you next year!’ he begrudgingly yells out and stomps off, leaving me and my friends to stare at each other dumbfounded, only to start laughing the next minute.

The old folks were right! This festival was definitely one where a diversity of people mingled together putting their differences aside and just had fun! Well, in our case our differences are what caused the agenda in the first place but that was just a means to a happy end! And even though tomorrow might not be as triumphant, we had this moment of victory and cheer, a memory to look back on with nostalgia. And now for the fairytale ending!

And so they lived happily ever after, or until the next day. Actually, till they reached home but meh… details.

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