Well, Holi is almost upon us -- it's the festival of colours, water balloons and revelry and tomorrow Indians will celebrate all over the country.
But let's face it, you need to exercise caution at the best of times -- Holi also spells skin ailments, altercations with strangers who are deluged with colour and massive hangovers for revellers who go overboard drinking bhang.
So, to make sure you have a healthy, happy experience celebrating tomorrow, we've put together a small list of dos and don'ts. Because good, clean -- well, as clean as possible, given the nature of the festival (!) -- fun is the order of the day.
Go the safe, organic way: First things first. Ensure your own wellbeing and that of your friends by opting for natural, organic colours as far as possible. Chemical powders are harsh on the skin and their side effects often catch up with you after you're done playing with them. Preferably, rub yourself down with baby oil before playing so that all the colour comes off your body easily. Wear old clothes that can be thrown away after playing around.
Set boundaries: Make a pact with everyone playing to limit yourself to acceptable Holi props. Often, what starts off with water balloons and colours ends up with people slinging muck and eggs at each other. And that kind of fun is not for everyone. So don't get carried away and ruin somebody else's good time. A vegetarian will not take kindly to being pelted with eggs and mud is unhygienic, it may cause a reaction with the skin or get in someone's eyes.
Don't pester bystanders: Don't assume an 'anything goes' attitude. Pelting strangers who are going about their business in and around your neighbourhood with colour and water, for instance, is a strict no-no. While you may be in the mood for fun, somebody else may not be and more often than not, altercations take place when passers-by are charged at. It ruins the celebrations and leaves everybody with a bad taste in their mouths. You don't want to drag somebody into the fray only to discover that one of his parents is in hospital and you upset him on his way there.
Show consideration towards people's property: Other than bystanders, make sure that you don't destroy people's property. Spraying water at someone's balcony in a bid to get him/ her to join you or pelting passing cars with eggs is not cool. Understand that you're severely inconveniencing people and have no right to manhandle anybody else's belongings; in the latter case, you may even cause a serious accident by obstructing a driver's vision.
Show some respect for the opposite sex: Guys, don't play rough with women in the name of the game and ladies, conduct yourself with decorum -- if you dish it out, be prepared to get it back. You can have a good time while still showing consideration towards each other.
Don't be a spoilsport: If you're not participating in the festivities, don't take to the street until the revelry are over. Chances are that even if people don't target you, the colour and water may be flung your way and your clothes will be ruined. If you're going to be a spoilsport about being dragged into it all, you'd rather keep yourself out of the way. If you're travelling by car, make sure that you roll your windows up and don't get annoyed if a little colour or water settles on your vehicle. It can be easily washed off.
Intoxication is a poor excuse for bad behaviour: A lot of people like to drink the intoxicating beverage bhang on Holi. Like all intoxicants, it can have serious effects on your health. The choice is yours, but remember, nothing in excess. If you must, make sure to have only as much as you can handle and don't start misbehaving -- getting intoxicated is no excuse to behave aggressive and loud. If you can't handle your drinks, it's better left untouched.
Don't impose on others: Don't try to force people into doing anything they are not comfortable doing and don't allow yourself to be convinced if you're reluctant either. Force-feeding people with bhang, dragging in folks who don't want to participate and creating a nuisance are not what Holi is about. Remember, to each his own.
Well, enough of the lecturing (!), but do keep these points in mind. That way, you'll have a great Holi and can create plenty of pleasant memories without creating a ruckus.
Photograph: Somnath Chivukula