TODAY -

Yaoshang : An Extended, Expensive Holiday

Natalidita Ningthoukhongjam *

Yaoshang Thabal Chongba at Lilong Haoreibi Lampak :: 31 March 2013
Yaoshang Thabal Chongba at Lilong Haoreibi Lampak on 31 March 2013 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam



"Bura na maano, Holi hai!"
-Popular Saying

This Yaoshang was my first after seven years of missing the holiday due to college and work. For me, the Holi I was a part of in Delhi was different from the Yaoshang I'd celebrated since childhood. Yaoshang was more than just playing with water balloons and colours for a day. It would start at school before the holidays even began, with students smearing colours on each other's face in spite of strict rules not to dirty the classrooms and corridors.

Then, on the first day, we'd dress up in traditional wear and go round the neighbourhood, shouting "Nakatheng" at the top of our longs. The next morning, we'd block our local street, charging tolls on passersby, and dashing home whenever gangs of boys armed with water-guns and colours approached. As we grew older, our interest shifted to local sports competitions. During daytime, we were busy running, ploughing through obstacle races, blowing balloons till they burst, singing, dancing, and trying to break that elusive earthen pot while blindfolded. By nightfall, we'd be engaged in picking out clothes to wear for Thabal Chongba.

It was five days of complete madness, and my memories of them were visualised through huge, rose-tinted glasses; my involvement this year was, however, much less pleasant.

Perhaps, I was never fully aware of what Yaoshang brought with it each year. Perhaps, I've been jaded by distance, although that can't explain away the fact that people who have been here through my seven missing years share similar frustrations. At the close of the fifth night, I couldn't lie back and congratulate myself on having had so much fun.

For one thing, Yaoshang is apparently not over yet. It's the 3rd of April tonight, three days after it was supposed to have ended, and somewhere in the vicinity, a "band-party" has started playing, calling out youths to take part in the communal dance.

Now, this is the question that has been bugging me since Yaoshang kicked off: Where is the limit?

Upon hearing such a question, one might wonder if there should be a limit at all a natural reaction since we're talking about a festival here. It's a valid occasion for breaking our daily routine and spending quality time with family and friends. Yet there are certain areas that call for second-thoughts, such as the tradition of asking for donations from the general public.

While I fully support Yaoshang sports competition and understand that they cannot be organised without such donations, I fail to comprehend why, for example, a leikai group would go to other leikais and beseech people to fund their own feasts. During the five days, so many parties came seeking donations for their private events. How could anyone possibly shell out enough money for all of them? Does anyone have to? Are these feasts that important?

The same criticism applies to Thabal Chongba fund drives as well, not to mention how many are still being held, and will again be held once Cheiraoba gets here. There aren't that many members of the youth in a single leikai for one such dance to be successful, so why can't two or three leikais join hands and organise just one? That way, sufficient funds can be raised without having to ask others for help.

Or, take the issue of charging tolls. It's one thing when pre-teens do it and can be appeased with two rupee coins, and another when those old enough to drive join in and demand a specific amount. Once again, I'm going to ask, who has enough money to cover all of these expenses, for five continuous days?

But then, ours is a community that will willingly sacrifice newspapers for nearly a week because it's Yaoshang. As a kid, I didn't care enough for newspapers to feel any change in my daily routine if they weren't printed for one day; as an adult, it is earth-shattering to realise the state's print media has gone off on such a long vacation.

Although it's a holiday imposed by the state government and the newspaper people themselves aren't at fault, it's still something worth examining. While many of us now have access to the internet and can get our news online for free, I'd wager that we barely make a ten percent of the population. There is a massive hole left by such a holiday in our perception of the present that can't be filled, because neither the world outside nor our own has stopped for our sake.

My quote for the day is a popular Hindi saying often used by Holi pranksters. It roughly translates to "Don't mind, it's Holi." It's a way of reminding others that during Holi, you can't get angry for having a bucket of water emptied on you. Though the saying isn't a part of our Yaoshang, it's quickly becoming or has already become our unacknowledged slogan, but for different reasons.

Personally, I hate being a party pooper, and I'm all for merry-making. I can't imagine living in an extremely conservative regime where festivals are banned, and I'd be a liar if I stated that my recent experience was marked by negativity only. I enjoyed watching the sports competitions at Lalambung, where an aunt lives, and I took part in their Thabal Chongba for a while.

Yaoshang is when the community gets fully involved. It's wonderful to watch everyone coming together. At the same time, it's impossible to feel comfortable where we are presently, where such holidays come cheap in number and expensive in cost.


* Natalidita Ningthoukhongjam wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao as part of 'The Methodical Magpie'
This article was posted on April 05, 2013



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