Of all the Indian festivals, Holi is the ultimate expression of trust in a community. It is the only festival where we surrender our selves and our bodies to fellow revellers, and accept forceful application of colour and water, while being grabbed or pelted.
This surrender requires an enormous amount of faith in the other – such that the completely voluntary letting go of inhibitions and acceptance of a physical onslaught is totally acceptable. Where being picked up by many others and thrown in a water pool or locking in playful hand-to-hand combat with a mere acquaintance is not a frightening prospect but a joyous abandonment of inhibitions.
This kind of trust eroded for many decades and for most the memory of Holi is from a distant past of our childhood, when times were simpler. Modern, fragmented, urban communities did not lend themselves to such trust – and most of us became wearier of celebrating Holi. Holi was to be feared, and the joy was gone. The rise of gated communities in urban India has suddenly brought the festival back.
With water tankers commissioned for rain showers, organisation that commissions food stalls and other activities, the ticketing of these events has led to a curating of guests. Communities are weaving a new fabric of trust again: People Like Us belong together and we are back again, celebrating with complete abandon.
While people in homes from Vikhroli to Malabar Hill, Patparganj to Greater Kailash stay indoors for Holi, gated communities across the country are celebrating Holi with a vengeance.
Groups are going door to door, dragging protesting residents out and dousing them with colour and drenching them with water – and everything is just fine.
Therein lies the real lure of these communities, which cost more per square foot and have high common area and maintenance charges. Holi is the ultimate symbol of the success of these new communities.
As published in Hindu Business Line on March 17,2016