Hit by ‘semen-filled’ balloon: This DU student’s account is not the only sexual harassment story of Holi

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India Today

Shreya Biswas

New Delhi

February 28, 2018

 

Isaac GomesThe perils of Hooliganism in the name of Holi, the festival of colours.  Please read internationally well-known beauty therapist Shahnaz Husain's the advice dangerous side effect of the colours of Holi.  Isaac Gomes, Asso. Editor, Church Citizens'  Voice.  

 

Bura na maano holi hai…

What do you think of when you hear this song? Playful teasing during the festival of colours, or an excuse to force yourself on people to 'play' against their will?

Holi, like it or not, is a ripe season for perverts. They are, of course, always there — in metros, buses, at cousin's wedding, etc — but during Holi, they come out in the open like pests from gutters during rain.

Young women are the most sort-after targets. If you decide to step out on the streets, there will be water balloons coming at you from terraces, bikes, etc. If you're lucky, they will miss you and land near your feet.

"Once, while I was on a rickshaw, some boys on a bike flung a water balloon at my breasts. It knocked the air out of my lungs. They just laughed and rode away,"a former coworker once narrated.

Another friend, who wishes to remain unnamed, says:

"Last year on Holi, a senior at work pinned me down and basically sat on me to put colours after I said 'no'. It was the posture that comes to your mind when you think of rape. I can't forget the feeling of not being able to move…"

"The worst part is, people can't take no for an answer," says another woman.

"It's my body. You're putting your hands on it, invading my privacy, or touching it against my permission. How can all that be excused as 'just for fun'?" she says.

It only gets worse from there…

Holi is not even here yet, and the horrid stories are already rolling in. Doing rounds on social media is the account of Delhi University student, which she shared on Instagram.

The 18-year-old girl, whose identity is not being revealed, says she was hit by a balloon "filled with semen".

We won't elaborate anymore. Read her account for yourself:

"I went out with a friend for lunch yesterday to a cafe in the Amar Colony Market. It was about 5 in the evening when we decided to head back. I had had a busy day, but it had been a good one, and although tired, I was happy.

That came to an end pretty abruptly though. Not a minute of our short rickshaw ride had passed when there came flying my way a liquid filled balloon of sorts, hitting me square in the hip, where it burst open, it's contents seeping into my kurti and leggings.

It dried white on my black leggings, and the foreign smell clearly indicated that it wasn't water. Of course, at that point of time, I didn't guess what it really was. Not even close to what it really was. You see, nobody had thrown semen at me before yesterday, or any other substance for that matter.

For the past eighteen years of my life, I had had the great PRIVILEGE of not having semen flung at me, and I hadn't even realised just what a fine life I had been allowed to live-Commuting on roads without having things thrown at me by groups of men! *gasp* imagine such a luxury!

Only when I returned to my hostel to hear another friend of mine talking about semen-flinging that was currently the Holi fad in the back market area, did I realise what had been thrown at me.

Disgust, nausea, anger and frustration hit me in waves. More severe than anything of the sort I'd felt in quite a long time.

And you know what the best part was? Not a single person in that busy market batted a single eyelid at the sight of men throwing liquid filled balloons at a girl. Silly me of course, expecting people to react to 'normal' things.

"It's Holi season."

"Men are men."What an idiot for not being able to comprehend such a simple equation! I cringe in embarrassment at my own stupidity.

Ever since I've moved to this city seven months ago, I've been bumped against more than once by men who just seem to have invisible forces pushing them onto my back. All 'accidentally' of course. Hands have patted me inappropriately. Too many times I've crossed the road, blessed with a very colourful variety of nicknames by men in passing vehicles and two wheelers.

'Honey'
'Maal'
'Momo'
'China'
'Item'.

Just some endearing nicknames that I go by nowadays.

Go ahead. Scream 'Chinese' at me from across the street and run off. I won't even get more than mildly annoyed. I'm so used to it now. 'Chinky girls are easy'.

I wonder where my 'FAULT' lies really. In being born a girl, or in being from the North-East.

I'm not the first person to be going through these things. I'm just one of many.

But do you see things from my perspective just a little better now?

And do you still wonder, why I go on harping about gender issues ?

Why I want the luxury that is equality?

Do you still wonder why I believe that this country of ours needs feminism?"

***

With her Instagram account being set to private, not all can read it. A Facebook user calling himself her cousin has shared the text of her post:

Screenshot of the post shared on Facebook.

 

What are the dangerous side effects of Holi colours? Let Shahnaz Husain tell you

The annual holiday-festival of colours, Holi, is less than a week away, and as usual, we can expect the traditional promises to be made of renewed friendship, forgiveness for sins committed in the recent past, and a fun-filled day of frolic marked by a splashing of coloured powder, water and balloons, and a chanting "Holi Hai".

Coloured foam being thrown at women during Holi. Source: Reuters

Traditionally, spring flowers, berries, spices and other plants were used for making coloured gulal and wet colours from flowers like hibiscus etc.

There is no doubt that Holi is one of the most popular festivals of India, but there are dangers associated with the event too, such as the blatant use of inexpensive, artificial and bright colours made with the help of chemical solvents and toxic agents like lead oxide, mercury sulphite and copper sulphate etc.

These can damage eyes, skin and lungs, says beauty expert Shahnaz Husain.

But again, all of us love this carnival of colours, and according to Husain, can enjoy the festival with the use of organic and home-made colours. These are available in markets, but cost more.

It is essential to take appropriate safety steps to prevent your skin or hair from getting damaged.

The dry "gulal" and the wet colours of today are not derived from natural sources. They contain chemicals, shiny particles of mica and even lead, which not only irritates the skin, but collects on the scalp too.

Since Holi is played outdoors, exposure to the sun can have a detrimental effect on the skin. Apart from harmful UV radiation, sun-exposure makes the skin dry by causing depletion of moisture and also tans the skin. The skin can become dry and dull after playing Holi.

What, therefore, are the preventives?

Husain advises one and all to apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going out in the sun.

"Use a sunscreen of SPF 20 and above. If your skin is prone to pigmented patches, select a higher SPF. Most sunscreens have built-in moisturisers. If your skin is very dry, first apply the sunscreen, wait for a few minutes and then apply a moisturiser. Apply moisturising lotion or cream on the arms and exposed areas," she says.

For the hair, apply leave-on conditioner or hair serum.

"This protects the hair from the effects of sun exposure and dryness caused by colours. Hair cream containing sunscreen is also available. Take very little, spread on both palms and massage light into the hair, or smooth palms over the hair. Or, apply pure coconut oil and massage it lightly into the hair. This also provides protection against colours," Husain said.

Apply transparent nail varnish on the nails.

When it comes to removal of colours, rinse the face with plenty of plain water and then use a cleansing cream or lotion. Then wipe off with moist cotton wool. Remember to cleanse the area around the eyes too, using a light touch. A cleansing gel helps to dissolve the colours and facilitates their removal.

"To make your own cleanser, take half a cup of cold milk and add one teaspoon of any vegetable oil, like "til," olive or sunflower oil. Mix well. Dip cotton wool into this mixture and use it to cleanse the skin. Sesame seed (til) oil can be used to remove colours from the body, massaging it on the skin. This not only helps to remove the colours, but gives added protection to the skin. Sesame seed (til) oil actually helps to counteract sun-damage," the beauty expert said.

While bathing, scrub the body gently with a loofah or wash cloth.

Immediately after your bath, apply a moisturiser on the face and body, while the skin is still damp. This helps seal in the moisture.

If there is itching, add two tablespoons vinegar to a mug of water and use it as a last rinse. This helps reduce itching. However, if the itching continues, and there is rash and redness, there may be an allergic reaction to the colour. Consult a doctor as soon as possible.

While washing the hair, first rinse with plenty of plain water to wash away the dry colours and tiny particles of mica. Then apply a mild herbal shampoo, working it into the hair with the fingers. Massage the scalp gently and rinse thoroughly with water again.

Beer can be used as a last rinse. In fact, it will soften and condition the hair. Add the juice of a lemon to the beer. Pour over the hair after shampoo. Leave on for a few minutes and rinse off with plain water.

The day after Holi, mix two tablespoons of honey with half-a-cup of curd. Add a pinch of turmeric. Apply this on the face, neck and arms. Leave it on for 20 minutes and wash off with water. This helps to remove the tan and soften the skin.

Over the next few days, give your hair nourishment by mixing one tablespoon of pure coconut oil with one teaspoon of castor oil.

"Heat and apply on the hair. Then dip a towel in hot water, squeeze out the water and wrap the hot towel around the head, like a turban. Keep it on for five minutes. Repeat the hot towel wrap three to four times. This helps the hair and scalp absorb the oil better. Wash your hair after an hour," Husain concludes.

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