By Rachaita Hore
The other day a trending meme on Facebook caught my eye. It depicted a little boy asking his supposed mother that million-dollar question beyond his years- “What is normal?” The mother’s speech bubble read that it was “just an option on the dryer”.
Holi was celebrated a few days back with much gusto across India. Disappointingly this being election season I was denied my television pass to Lalu Prasad Yadav’s customary mega Holi party. Mr.Yadav had himself announced to the media earlier, albeit with a sheepish grin that Holi this year would warrant a much tamer celebration. Local channels profiled celebrity parties getting raunchier by each smear of gulaal. However, one needs to look at one’s neighborhood to gauge the scale of norms being relaxed. As mixtures of color flew out of pichkaris so also did the thandai flow generously spiked with bhaang. Cannabis, otherwise illegal in India still was consumed freely and openly. From little kids to their grandparents, everybody was allowed this Holi delicacy and indulge, they did. Ganja that is demonized on other days by confused Right-wing conservatives is offered as refreshment on this festival. The herbal intoxicant is infact enjoyed with sweets to increase its potency. It is as if Hinduism is embraced for all its teachings indiscriminately for this one-day in a year and then discarded the next and vilified. The blurred lines of social acceptability on this occasion are readdressed the next day as soon as one recovers from the previous day’s hangover. Society treats the indiscretions of Holi as a recurring episode of temporary amnesia. As far as implementing the ban on the commercial sale of weed, the police would think several times over taking any such step on Holi. Paan stores and Juice counters even put up banners announcing their “special” products every Spring to attract customers.
Holi is not the only festival that encourages a relaxation of prevailing societal norms. Shivratri, a fertility festival in the garb of modern decency worships the act of coitus. Through various allusions and metaphors, Shivratri simply put, deifies sex for its role in procreation. Folk and rural festivals are celebrated religiously to preserve traditional practices in communities, which usually perform a rather de-mystified usually natural purpose. One such example is the celebration of the Chata Utsab in rural West Bengal. Men and women from a particular tribe travel from all parts of the country and assemble in the fields, to find companionship for that one night and if lucky, one or several marriage proposals.
Internationally, St.Patrick’s Day was celebrated recently. The day originally set aside to celebrate America’s Irish immigrant population is now associated with leprechaun costumes and binge drinking. Then can it be said that festival-time calls for an excusal of norms? Perhaps so. But the question remains, what exactly is “normal”?
She is a second-year English Hons student at Lady Brabourne College, Calcutta University. She is a wannabe-writer/journalist and has been authoring articles on and off for The Times of India since her first-year. She has also had her fictional pieces featured in various national magazines, online and offline, notably Kindle Magazine and Youthopia. Feminist, Hipster, Oddball are all labels that have been used at some time or the other to describe her. To start a dialogue, drop her a mail at email@example.com.