It was in 2007, I was driving from Imphal to Leimakhong on Yaoshang (Holi) day when city was marked with colourful celebration throughout the week.
We were stopped at several points by womenfolk with rope blocking the road. For one or two points we were excited to join their celebration by donating few bucks from our wallet as they use to demand. Finally, our purses were dried up. We felt like cutting onions….lol.
At this point, the womenfolk grew stronger and bigger in number tried to force us to leave something other than cash if we want to spare our car in which we were travelling. “Peisha Pidragadi Thouri Lanba Yaroi” (if you don’t give money you cannot cross this line). “Peisha Loikhragadi Potchei Thanammu” (if you have exhausted cash, leave with us something in kind), “Gari thugaibyuro” (shall we break you car?).
I used to attend thabal chonga (dancing of boys and girls) in the evening in different localities during Yaoshang (Holi) as a symbol of love and respect to them though the culture is foreign to me. Here, only boys hails from locality other than hosting one can participate. At first, the boys have to observe the local dancing girls for a while and decided where to join and whom to propose for long term relationship. This is an open stage for boys to choose their partner for life. Girls have full liberty to accept or reject when the particular boy tries to join hands with her in the dancing. Local boys/ youths guarded throughout the program to ensure success and safety of all against odds and violence.
But alas! Such a beautiful practice and high culture of celebration of yaoshang has different meaning and ideology for some womenfolk if not all in Imphal city and elsewhere neighboring areas. The true spirit of Yaoshang celebration which is only once in a year is now seen as season when some people turned into a street beggars, a season allowing robbery to take place or stealing is socialized on this very day. Please correct and forgive me if things have been changed.
This was the last Yaoshang (Holi) I experienced in my state capital.
I am neither blaming the whole womenfolk of the community nor the community that uphold the festival in true spirit of celebration. And I know those people who involve in forceful demand of money during this celebration don’t represent their community in anyway. I considered them as their individual ignorance. Meanwhile, I am also sure that if the leaders and especially youth leaders ignore and allow this rampant practice of forceful confiscation of wallets or other properties during Yaoshang, the actual value of this celebration will be degrading soon and it will cast a wrong spell on others and also among the young generation. I wish the old value of Yaoshang (Holi) where people from all walks of life enjoy together to continue and build a stronger social entity.
** The article was first published in Facebook by Sovey Chahongnao