Holi is one of the festivals that has continued to fascinate me despite I had maintained a safe distance from it. My first tryst with Holi was bit strange and perhaps that set tone of my relationship with the colorful festival of India.
Like any other girl from South India I had grown up without much knowledge about the festival in which people threw colors at each other. We had just moved to Gujarat and were only in the process of getting to know our neighbors. At school I had seen my fellow classmates vibrating with enthusiasm for the festival as they planned to meet each other in some or other gully and celebrate it. But I had little interst in it.
When the actual day of Holi arrived it coincided with my father’s birthday. Following the typical Keralite tradition my sister and I got up early, bathed and put on a clean dress and went o temple. The temple of Lord Krishna was beautifully decorated with flowers and gilded papers. By the time we came back and had our breakfast out neighbors were totally immersed into the festivity of colors, literally.
The society had built a temporary tank, filled it with water and diluted red and pink colors. As my sister and I stood watching outside we saw the men and women drag each other out, color them. The youngsters just threw each other in the tank and doused colors on them when they emerged. I was both fascinated and scared as never before had I seen anyone behaving in such a manner.
As we both clutched each other and huddled by the side of the house watching the ‘uncles and aunties’ color each other, shriek at and with each other in pure pleasure, we were spotted. One of the aunties saw us and came to invite us to join them. And my sister and I uncertainly proceeded to the ‘chaos’ I hoped to share their enthusiasm. But next thing we knew a huge packet of color was dumped on us as someone rubbed more colors on our cheeks. Someone else splashed a pail of colored water at us while screaming “Holi hai!” That’s it. Suddenly we were so scared of ruined dress and colors that we both ran inside our home calling for mother.
Although the aunty later on apologized profusely for their ‘unbridled enthusiasm’ and tried to make up to us with ladoos and all, my apprehension for the festival remained. However, even though I never really participated in the festival Holi still remains to be one of my favorite time of the year. thi was because growing up, the meaning of Holi became much more for me rather than a mere festival of colors. I realized its importance continued to evolve according to their age, for those who celebrated.
As a teenager I remember my friends using Holi as an excuse to meet with their lovers and beloveds. The popular ‘way to prove your love was to color your lover in front of others’ remains still a poignant memories amongst the friends. Then there was friendship Holi that was celebrated sometimes in worst way. I once had a friend who celebrated the Holi by ‘coloring’ the friends with slush. He had even threatened to mix the cow dung with slush if his friends refused to accept his ‘innovative way’ of Holi.
Now as adults Holi is much more important to us as it was also the day of gathering, coloring and catching up with each other. All of us would gather at a designated place after duly celebrating Holi with the family members. Along the way we would grab any of the classmates that we ran into or any other friendly figure who are willing to frolic in color with us. Although I would be satisfied with just a dab of color on my cheeks, I enjoy the joyous shrieks of my friends when the color was poured or applied or thrown at each other.
Several glasses of cool tandai and bunch of snacks later under the dusky sky, Holi would be my officially favorite festival.