Holi and Home
Let me paint you a picture. It is 10 am on a Tuesday morning, and two kids- aged four and five respectively, have decided to defy the adults who refuse to provide water for the pichkaris. They are currently filling their pichkarisfrom a fountain in the garden where this party is happening, with huge smiles plastered on their face. When they are discovered and approached by their parents, they promptly empty these pichkaris, not inside the fountain, but on their pursuers. The adults cannot help but smile either, as they try to chase these kids and wrestle the pichkaris out of their hands.
I used to be this kid (I suppose most of us were). My sister and I would start piling our Holi wares more than a week in advance. Heck, even study extra hard for the exams that were scheduled around Holi just so that the day wouldn’t be ruined. We’d make water balloons in the balcony at the back, and it would devolve into a pre-Holi water balloon fight often. The different kids’ gangs in our residential neighborhood would become more concretised around this time, because you needed to be sure of your friends and your enemies. On the day itself, we’d take the stairs down, instead of the lift (just in case we got caught with someone from the enemy gang and needed to escape). I’d always hope I come back home with my original skin color, but that never happened, of course. It was either purple, or green, or worse still, when we were older, an ugly grey from the permanent silver color. After getting dunked in the tub multiple times, our clothes would drip drip drip as we made our way back home. My sister was always a little bit taller, so she’d reach out for the door bell, and even before she could ring it, my mother would open the door (no, not Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam style—this was a one off, because she knew we were super dirty) and ask us not to touch anything before we were clean again. I remember one year very distinctly, when we sat outside until we were reasonably dry and gorged on the Holi special papads that was brought for us fresh from the frying kadhai.
When I woke up this morning, this Holi morning, I felt a strange unease thinking about how un-fun I had become. I was back at home and we were supposed to have a huge Holi gathering. I had agreed to participate only reluctantly. As I saw the scene of the kids with the pichkaris unfold before me, I thought about the perils of growing up, the perils of being too busy, and the perils of being too mentally pre-occupied. Even as old Hindi Holi songs played in the background and both kids and adults frolicked about, I continued to think about the political situation of my country. I had had a heated discussion about it with my parents only recently (whose views are almost diametrically opposed to mine) and here we were now, rubbing color on each other’s cheeks. I wondered, if we can separate that discussion and the tension that it caused between us from this celebration, why can’t I separate my mental pre-occupation with work and everything that is wrong in my country from this festival, which I once loved the most. It was almost strange, how I was debating with myself, while others enjoyed the festival as one so easily can. Or perhaps, everyone was debating in their heads too, trying to balance their own preoccupations, trying to hold some things close and some things at bay. Perhaps everyone was rubbing color on each other while performing the delicate dance we all have to do mentally. A little girl came up to me and asked – “Shall we have some papads?” I smiled at her, wished I could be in her place again, and proceeded to have the papads.