Social media, the zeitgeist barometer, though indicates a different Holi to me this year. On the one hand, there are people talking about the HoliCow party - stripping holi to its most basic ritual, and turning it into a modern dance banality. And on the other, there's concerned city folks who are advocating abstention from the whole thing - save water/ "Think of the poor" - droughts across India/ natural herbal colors as replacement for the more energetic color+water combination.
(Should we blame this on ACs? I have a hypothesis - Holi will be played more vigorously in towns where there is low penetration of Air-Condition machines. There is a correlation between 'forever weather' (AC) and demise of 'weather/ time rituals' (festivals such as Holi.). (note to self - death of time.))
Both attitudes indicate a basic degeneration of the festival. I would concern myself with the later for this post.
Old tradition - the sacrificial lamb on the altar of new gods
The Hindu society has no crucifixion equivalent central narrative of a knowing and willful sacrifice (not that I know of). But with the western media consumption, there is an appreciation for such a sacrifice and an implicit sense of sin, though it might manifest differently.
"Ecology is the new opium of the masses, replacing religion" says Slavoy Zizek.
So what that means in this context is - the original sin now, is towards nature - we feel that we are creating an 'imbalance' with our acts of excess and dereliction of our effects. While, this sense of original sin towards nature is now almost universal, the implication in India is new.
We (urban Indians) are 'sacrificing' our festivals and rituals at the altar of our new religion - ecology.
The feud: modernity V/s tradition
Yes. we must be more conscious of our consumption, but how is it that this dialogue surfaces only in the context of our traditions and rituals? It never occurs to people to switch from shower to bucket bath, or from car ride to bike ride (or even better, bicycle ride), or from wasteful quick service restaurant food to traditional foods. (served in plastic v/s metal plates. excess tissue papers/ no tissue paper.)
It seems that the modern ecological consciousness activates itself only in offense against the traditional practices. It seems that urban India can only see modernity and traditions as dual opposites, (even as they lamely try to negotiate between two)
Sacrifice of the other
The urban thought culture sees traditions in context of the other India - poorer, backward, the one that needs to learn from the urban.
(cracker less diwali, colorless holi - Project deIndianisation. Q: 'what did you do in Diwali?' A: 'saw TV').
(Either objectify - holi in vrindavan with firangs. or strip it of its meaning - holi in HoliCow in Delhi with EDM playing)
The operative assumptions (wrongfully) are
Traditions = non urban India, aspirations = urban India
the sacrifice must come from this other India that doesn't know better. (would you dig a mine under marine drive if you find oil underneath?) (power outages - 0 hours in Mumbai, 15-18 hours in many villages)
How about exercising moderation always? don't kill our festivities, kill the wastage.
Being able to waste is a sign of wealth, so people have incentive to waste.
Brand wasters as idiots. go ahead, next time you see someone wasting food/ water/ electricity - call him/her an 'idiot'.
Shift the object of our offensive from our traditions to our excesses.
Stop being a spoil sport. Go play Holi.