Having interns from many parts of the country in my internship batch, we sometimes talk about our respective state festivals and customs in coffee and lunch breaks. My South Indian friends were asking today about the festival of Holi, as the optional bank holiday nears. Some of us, from the states that celebrate Holi, started describing with enthusiasm, the craziness and wildness filled festival of colors. And unknowingly, the coffee break turned into nostalgia for me.
I smiled on remembering the ‘bachpan waali Holi’, that used to be uber-fun. We used to spend the entire day, since early morning, in playing with colors and water with our friends and family. It used to be one of my favorite festivals. And why wouldn’t it be? We, as kids, were allowed to play with colors as if the world was an uncolored coloring book and we could color it our own way. It was very exciting for me as I just could not believe the good fortune of having a holiday and HOLIday, both at the same time. Preparations for the festival would start before a week. And without a care of the world, we used to play Holi in its full glory.
I remember that all the girls of my street used to meet the previous night at the ‘Holikaa Puja’ and strategize on how to attack the mean boys the next day. It was the revenge time of the year. (It’s a different subject that we would always lose on the Holi day). Water guns and multi color gulaal packets used to be re-checked. And that night, the dreams would all be colorful.
Such would be our excitement that we used to be up at the break of the dawn, would quickly pull a pajama and tee-shirt and get to the streets. We would all feel like dons, going to houses of friends and families and coloring their faces with gulaal shouting ‘Happy Holi’! And if someone would act hesitant to getting colored, we would at least apply a meager amount of red on their cheek saying, ‘Bura mat maano, Holi hai’!
Moms used to shout all the time as we would waste buckets full of water to fill water guns and water balloons. Some of the more dirty Holis would also include going to the extent of mud and ‘pakka’ color, which would leave pink and red marks on face for some days to come, thus giving us a chance of victoriously showing off to school friends the next day about the fun we had. Streets would be painted in pinks, reds and yellows. We would gorge on the Holi delicacies of thandai and sweets. The scorching sun would be no hindrance to us. The entire day just used to fly by and by evening, we used to be exhausted and colored in all possible gulaal colors.
And then came an age when skin and hair started becoming more important than the fun of Holi colors and water. And an age when board exams happened. The notion of Holi suddenly changed. Who would expose skin and hair to harsh colors and water just for some hours of enjoyment? To escape from the pull of friends and neighbors on the day of colors, we used to plan leisurely getaways and holidays. It’s a sad reality but not many people celebrate Holi in its full glory.
I do not remember when I last played Holi. But now that the festival is here, I sit and smile at those favorite childhood memories of this festival, those carefree, delightful, fun-filled Holi times, when winning a water balloon competition with the neighbor kids was so much more important than worrying about what would happen to skin or hair, when the tension of studies did not even exist and when being colored and coloring others used to bring a satisfaction so great that it would wash away all sorrows.
I miss my bachpan ki Holi. What if we might have grown up? The most colorful festival of India is here. Let’s all be a child again and pick up pichkaris and gulaal bags. Some happy moments do not come again and again. Wishing a happy colorful festival to all and Khul ke khelo Holi!