Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Galis of Gated-Community Delhi: Holi Hooliganry

I headed on foot to the grocery store - a few blocks from my house. As I passed a tiny neighborhood park, I heard a loud splat at my feet. Looking down, I saw a puddle of water. A bit disconcerted, I looked around and with raised eyebrows, said “Umm.. Excuse me?” to no one in particular, because I couldn’t see anyone. Then I heard a voice below - a little boy - “Didi didi its those boys over there that did it.” I looked across the park and sure enough, a group of 6-7 boys of various ages stood with water-filled balloons in their hands. I walked up to them. They watched me approach, poker-faced all.  

“Did you throw the balloon at me?” No reply. The youngest broke his poker-face and dissolved into giggles. The house under which they were standing had a family of 8, parents included, standing at the balcony.  

“Are these kids yours?” I called to the adults  

“All kids are like our own” came the lazy drawling Delhi-boy answer. This tone is sometimes charming, but on this occasion, not so much.  

“Well then, if they’re like yours, keep them under control!” I snapped. At this point, a lot more kids broke into snickers. Infuriated, I turned towards the market and marched off. Two more balloons burst at my feet. Saving the little dignity that had been spared for me, I declined to acknowledge them.  

After the shopping, came the time to decide how I would head back. I could take a longer route and avoid these kids altogether, but that would be a defeat. I considered buying more eggs that I could throw back at them but that would be war and I was far outnumbered. So I headed back, my only concession to them was that I walked around the other side of the park. No use - a few more splatters at my feet - luckily they all had missed me so far.  

After a couple of blocks, I found a couple of policemen sitting around, engaged in serious discussion - no doubt a sabziwallah had been caught flirting with a housewife in the community or something absorbingly outrageous like that. I approached one of them - a rotund friendly-looking sort.  

“Bhaisaab, I would like to complain about a bunch of kids throwing balloons at me.”  

He looked at me. That poker-face again!  

“Yes ma’am - where are they?”  

“Oh just down the street at the park - I’m sure its not illegal, but it was annoying - could you just go and scare them?”  

Grinning, he headed down. But now I was afraid - I had upped the ante - no doubt, if I passed that way again, I would be seriously pelted. I got home and called my husband for sympathy.  

"Sorry babe, I used to be those boys a few years ago” was his response.  

No help there. These past few days, I’ve not been walking down those streets. For grocery shopping, I call my driver and have him take me to another, more distant, store. Perhaps getting a little wet wouldn’t have been so bad after all. Holi spirit and all. Huh.