India is known for it’s festivals. The emotional connection with festivals is true for all ages. Every festival is celebrated with utmost joy and togetherness. Holi is one festival which is a hit with people of all ages. Water and colours are splashed liberally, on everyone present. It’s a welcome respite from the hot weather, which is one of the reasons why kids love it.
As I travel through the memory lane and relive the Holi festivities, when we were kids, I can’t help but feel joyous. Coming from an Army background, life was very adventurous and equally exciting. The Holi preparations would begin well in advance. The ladies would be busy, preparing sweets and savouries, the officers would be busy, organizing the Holi get together in the Officers Mess (club). The kids, would be busy creating special mixes of colours and concoctions to be applied on their friends and foes.
My brother was an adept at making these special mixes. He would start preparing them quite early. There were rival groups and one had to be clever in coming up with unusual mixes. My brother Shyam, would first get his ingredients ready in the night, after the parents had slept. The ingredients would be, all types of flours, paints, varnish, oil, fevicol, gum, beet root juice, gun powder, from left over Diwali crackers. He would painstakingly mix up different combinations and create unique mixes, ready to be used 🙂 Unable to wait till the D day, he would sneak into his friends homes, living in the neighbourhood, and try it on them, while they were fast asleep. Oh what fun, it was! All hell would break loose, after that. They would finish up their prepared mixes much before the actual day and spend the entire night preparing them afresh.
On the Holi day, we would wake up very early, as our mother would apply Parachute oil on our hair and body, so that colours would be easy to wash off and the skin would not become dry and rough. She had no idea about our weird mixes, obviously 🙂 Surprisingly, they would come off too and quite easily! We would then dash off to our gang and play with the opposite gang, in what was more like a competition those days. Around 12 pm, we would all move to the Officers mess, where there were more festivities awaiting us. There would be barrels of water mixed with colours and tables laden with dry colours. After having finished the preliminary festivities back home, we would be in a raring mood and throw the water fillers and instead use huge mugs to throw water on everyone around, be it bhaiyyas (soldiers), uncles( officers) and their wives( aunties). The ladies would run helter skelter, panicking. After a couple of drinks, the officers would get into form and use buckets of water to drench everyone. The most interesting incident to watch out for, was, who would be the one to drench the commanding officers wife? And two of her favourite bachelor officers would do the honours. Such a close relationship, just like a family, living in the campus and taking care of each other.
Soon after the water works and colour showdowns were over, we would head to the lounge, where delicious snacks and soups were served. Now, it is a well known fact in our circles, that the commanding officers wife calls the shots, when it comes to cultural activities. All the ladies in that post had been modern in their views (or should I say normal 🙂 ), and we used to dance away to cool English numbers, in the lounge till late in the evening. The new lady in that post was different, and we were soon to come to know, when she asked for a Dholak (drum instrument) amidst the celebrations!! We were amazed and soon shocked. She asked the officers to assemble on one side of the room and the lady wives on another. She made them sit down and started playing the Dholak loudly and singing. The poor elders had to join in, in the revelry, which lasted, till quite late in the evening. As there was no role for us kids, we would sneak into the neighbouring mess, and gatecrash their party, as we had friends there. Once there, we would dance to our hearts glory and even enjoy the delicacies being served. We would return to our mess, during dinner time, quite contented and cheerful. After a sumptuous dinner and rich desserts, we would sit around for a while and go home late.
After my brother passed away, twenty years ago, life changed for me. I stopped playing Holi as the memories hung heavily.
Blessed with two boys, life has again taken a turn for the better. As I write this article, sitting on my workstation at home, my boys are busy making water balloons for tomorrow. The thrill on their faces melts my heart. They always maintain, that, Holi is for everyone. The boys apply colour on my aged mother too. Breaking free from my self imposed shackles, I might just join the boys along with my doting husband this year, and play Holi to my hearts content.
May the festival of colours bring you happiness
Taking away all sadness
Filling it with a new hope
And a wider scope
Enjoy the treat with childlike enthusiasm
And fill the age oriented chasm
This video is a must watch
Image credits – holione.com, en.wikipedia.org, holifestival.com, festivalofcolorsusa.com