Describing this scene would make it seem very, very familiar. Picture this. Many young men are celebrating Holi, throwing colours and water balloons at each other, laughing and shouting. But suddenly they stop. They see two young men dressed in plain white outfits, whispering to let them pass, as they need to go to the mosque to pray. The crowd immediately clears the path for the two white-clad lads to pass, while covering them all the way from the playground to the front gate, lest no speck of colour falls on them. Out of the three people with cameras there, one clicked the photo of one of the youngsters in white moving through the colour-soaked crowd of youngsters. Doubtless, the photo got shared, and shared again, till it became viral.
This is a college in Malappuram, Kerala. And what makes it familiar, if anyone has still not made the connection, is the recent commercial ad released by Surf Excel of a girl protecting a boy headed to the mosque, from the colours of Holi. The ad had instantly created a furore among the right-wing supporters, who somehow connected the gesture of the children to âlove jihadâ and what not.
Itâs in this scenario that the photo from the Malappuram college fits in. But second-year Bachelors students celebrating Holi at the CPA College of Arts and Science had no idea their picture would become news.
The photo that has now gone viral was clicked by Mohammed Mahsooque, a second-year BBA student who also does part-time wedding photography.
Speaking to TNM, he says, âI have seen the Surf Excel ad but it never occurred to me to take a picture like that. I was handling a DSLR, lent me by a friend. Suddenly, these two students emerged in white and said they wanted to go to the mosque, and so, not to sprinkle colours on them. Everyone stopped the celebrations and let them pass since there was only one way to reach the gate. Itâs when one of the two students reached the front of the crowd that I took the picture, which all of us soon made our Whatsapp status.â
The main subject in Mahsooqueâs photo is Muhammed Suhail, a second-year undergraduate Botany student. âI was late to get out of class that day because I had a lab session. The students had already begun celebrating by then. They stopped for me to pass but it is only the next day that I realised the photo had become viral when people began asking me to treat them. In fact, it is only after this that I saw the Surf Excel ad,â Suhail says.
It is after their class hours that the students celebrated Holi, says T Ubaid, manager at the college. âThe management supports activities that give out a positive message of communal amity,â he says.