It is holi- I am at office, discussing restructuring, performance improvement plans, promotions etc. and the in-between breaks keep pulling me to FB/ Whatsapp world where the colours are flowing free on people’s faces and smiles. I am reminded that as a child, Holi was my favourite festival.
Once upon a time in a perfect place called ESI colony (where I was born and lived the first 20 years of my life) all the wonderful neighbours celebrated all festivals together. For me, Holi was most special. By special, I mean I enjoyed throwing objects at strangers from afar.
My friends and I would start pelting water balloons at hapless passers-by even 2-3 weeks before the actual festival. I could do it myself too: Prepare a bucket full of balloons, wait patiently in balcony, throw it quickly at a passer-by and hide, stand up again when you know s/he will look back again to see the culprit, give a big teethy smile. Chuckle with uncontrollable delight.
The day of Holi, the preparation was like going to war. The kids’ battlefield used to be the “1st block” terrace. For my brother and me, Dad was the trusted supplier of grenades- he would fill balloon after water balloon till we had 2 buckets each. A packet of coloured powder in pocket, buckets full of balloons in each hand, and a rifle-size pichkaari under the arm- and I’d would march to the terrace, feeling like a very well-prepared soldier.
Except that as soon as you opened the door to the terrace, and before you saw anything, you’d feel the buckets snatched up from either side, and realize a few seconds later that you’ve been placed neatly inside a water tank. (Nothing traumatic.. after the first bout of shivers, you actually enjoyed it). It was a time-saving induction, and when the next person entered the door, you joined the induction team. Nothing personal. Life Lessons? Sure.
These water tanks, of course, were the same ones that supplied water to people’s homes! People called them ‘tankey’ – everything had endearing nicknames!
While the kids’ action raged on, the elders had their own charming ritual- of going door to door to collect the neighbours from their homes to join the celebration. Yes, across about 30 homes. No hurry. At each home, stop and smear colour, collect eatables, laugh and exchange wishes.
By afternoon everyone would get hungry, and kids and elders would come together to party- Home made Gujias and Kanji (yes, a carrot drink that has to be fermented for weeks before you drink it) and songs and Antakshari. The boys would play cricket, for some reason, once they were full.
People would begin to disperse, only unwillingly. Who likes to bathe anyway? But holi did not end there. It continued for days later, with kids competing as to who still had colour left on their skin. It was macho to still have colour on your skin after several washes.
When I look back, it makes me smile how much life used to revolve around Holi even weeks before the occasion, I wonder now how all office goers and others who were pelted water balloons by clueless kids always looked back with a smile, sometimes with a wave too, I cherish the affection with which snacks were hand-made in bulk for massive consumption, and how everyone wanted to sing during Antakshari. I sort of understand why we didn’t want the colours to wash off even after several days.
I think some colours clearly haven’t washed off even after years.