the somnambulist

the somnambulist

Festival Of Touch

India truly amazes me. Indians celebrate each one of their senses, be it taste, color or sound. They also celebrate each of nature's elements be it fire, wind, water or earth. There are a few festivals that transcend all barriers of relegion, caste and creed. Holi definitely is one of them. It is a day when India's seething masses unite to celebrate the most cherished of senses, color. The entire nation is awash in splashes of red, blue , green and yellow. Streets are overrun by colorful groups brandishing water cannons and gulal.

I feel that in a country tutored to detest all forms of touch, this festival is a stark contrast. Indians are Haphophobics by nature. The polite NAMASTE is an Indian ploy to resist being touched by other people. Most Indian ladies hesitate to shake hands with the opposite sex. This sometimes leads to embarassing situations where an extended hand has to be hastily withdrawn. The situation has become severe with greater infusion of western ideas and culture. Earlier a namaste would have been the ideal form of greeting. But now a namaste may be taken as being old fashioned by some and an offered hand may be taken to be too intrusive by others. Surprisingly physical contact among men is normal in Indian culture. Many a times I have witnessed men walking with arms around each others shoulders and some even go to the extent of holding each other by their waists. Such displays of camraderie are looked upon with raised eyebrows in the west. But in India they are as common as cows on highways. Contradiction yes, surprising no.

Holi is a festival when people lower their guards and allow themselves to be touched by others. I have always looked with amazement as traditionally demure ladies, frolic with juvenile excitement and maul each other with an assortment of colors. A male rubbing gulal on a lady's face is not frowned upon. Even a light embrace fails to register with the moral brigade. India, thy name is contradictions. The way I see it Holi is not only the Festival of Colors, it is also the Festival of Touch.

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