When It Was Holi - (Remembering Childhood Filled With Holi)
The Evening Before It All Starts :
It's the evening before Holi and I am fidgeting with my book as I am too stressed as there is still no sign of water guns (Pichkari in Hindi - India's National Language) , no sign of color (Abeer in Hindi - A Dry Color Powder), no sign of sticky colors (Munda Phata Ranga in Odiya - A type of color that you can stick on someone's hair and that person would all day be busy washing that color off from her hair as the more water you put, the more color gets out of it), no sign of the gooey colors that needed to be mixed with water and used in the water-gun to splash it on anyone and everyone.
Lot of open ended questions in my mind, while trying hard to solve the factors problem. Back in my home town Rourkela, Odisha we play Holi a day after everyone else plays Holi in India as we celebrate Dola Poornima, a day before where Lord Krishna and Radha come to visit all the houses in that locality. They come in a fancy chariot picked by devotees or temple volunteers with pomp and show and those devotees sing and dance around the chariot as they arrive at our doorstep. As each family welcomes them with open arms and lot of delicacies are offered like laddoo, peetha(Odiya Delicacy - A Crispy Crepe Made From Jaggery, Coconut Filling), Chena Poda (Odiya Sweet Made Of Cheese), Gajja (Odiya Delicacy Made of Flour and Sugar).
Just then my dad arrives from his work, he used to work in Rourkela Steel Plant, where 90% of all my friend's dad's used to work too (best part of a small town). And while he arrives I ran to the corridor to open our steel gate, while my twinkling eyes catch the pichkari dangling from my dad's lunch bag. I open the gate with my heartbeats pounding louder than usual, and grabbing his bag rush indoors to show my brother that the loot has arrived for us to get prepared for the color war tomorrow at the break of dawn. Meanwhile I could hear kids running in the streets already doing a test and trial on their loved ones, along with cows and dogs that they can find for their experimentation.
Without giving it a second thought, as I see mom getting busy making the evening tea to devour with the delicious snacks. Like a sly fox I slowly close my book, then I give directions to my brother who is already on his hideout adjacent to the backyard, to then collectively head towards checking out the loot. My brother has meanwhile acquired all the Holi items and sneaked it to his hideout, while I was distracting mom by my silly questions on school curriculum.
Our eyes widely scanning through, the colors, the water-guns, and talking about an action plan of how to attack the friends we meet and how to make the experience impactful and memorable. Finally realizing we are nowhere to be found inside, our mom calls us for supper and with anxious minds we go to sleep, only to get up way earlier in the morning to prep for the big day.
& The Celebration Begins .....
1. Mom gives us selective clothes to wear, as mom knows those clothes would never be able to come back to our closet again after today's attack.
2. We are usually given the cemented backyard the whole day on Holi, as we had no permissions to bring the colorful menace home. So two whole aluminum buckets of water, one mixed with green, the other mixed with dark pink, while we start to play with plain water in our water-guns checking the pressure of the attack when it hits our fellow comrade.
3. We are fed enough sweets, to be high on sugar and energetic to bear the heat of the occasion
4. We prepare enough backup color buckets, and squeeze enough water balloons in our hidden bunker to dodge any of the last minute attacks by neighbors and family friends that come to visit
5. We apply oil to make sure no color is too sticky at the end of the day.
Then starts the celebration.....
A kid shouting loud while he ran through the streets and you don't even know who's kid it is.....
Accompanying our parents in a two wheeler (Bajaj- Scooter) was a delight during Holi, where I used to stand adjacent to the front seat while my dad used to drive with my mom and brother seated in the backseats. Suddenly the two wheeler would take the form of a colorful chariot making us feel like Gods and Goddesses that visited our place the day before.
Hopping from house to house, meeting friends, playing colors, attacking each other and massaging the faces while each of them give out a shout on their shrillest tone while getting attacked, laughing, running around like lunatics, eating without any calorie counter counter attacking our intake, it used to go for hours. Until all of us would be refilling our energy by guzzling down more food.
The best part was while ending the color ceremony, we used to take those buckets filled with color water and dump the remaining water on ourselves while laughing our guts out. Making sure each of us have used our color inputs to the optimum level.
The Never Ending Fun.....
While driving back home, I used to wave at strangers as somewhere I knew neither they nor me will ever be able to recognize each other if we ever met in future. Those faces were lit with all sorts of colors, black, blue, green, magenta, silver, gold but most of all radiating happiness. Dad wasn't fond of driving us back as he used to get hit by lot of balloons from unknown directions that used to make him uncomfortable, but I used to very carefully, then become the investigative spy in finding out where the next hit is coming from and asked dad to dodge quickly before it hit him again.
By the time we were back home it used to be late in the afternoon. Marching straight to our backyard and start the mission of rubbing the color out of our bodies by standing next to our open water tank and playfully throwing plain water on each other till mom used to shout from inside to wrap up the bathing ceremony as soon as possible. The bath used to take more than 2 hours, due to the amount of color invested upon us. Sometimes poor mom used to come for the rescue and help us rubbing the colors off our back.
After which we used to go to a deep slumber as if soldiers taking a nap after 6 hours of constant rough indulgence, battling color grenades, crashing balloons, non-stop sweet attacks as going to each of the houses and being served 2-3 Indian Sweets would obviously take a toil on your stomach.
By evening, we could hear dying down voices of the Holi thrill. Guests coming over for a sober meal and a greet or two. Flaunting your faces filled with snapshots of the color ritual was a victory every kid could feel on its own shoulders. That's the sign of Holi played really well, even for the school goers to show off how well they planned their attacks to knockdown their enemies and color their face in silvery blue.
I miss those days... ohh what fun. But whenever I get a chance to visit India during Holi, I don't miss that for anything.
The festival of colors is a way of welcoming change, welcoming new in its own way as summer kicks in. I believe Holi tradition is great for networking in general, coming together as one and coloring each other's faces to not let color, social status, race discrimination stop you from loving someone, from getting closer to someone. The uniformity of the festival is what I love the most where you just get a reason to be high and happy collecting best wishes from everyone around and not stopping till the end of the day forgetting everything about what's going on in one's life.
Happy Holi To All My Readers !!!!
So go and have some real fun with friend and family without thinking about what happens next. Dance around go crazy coz that's what makes the mind free to have a successful refresh and restart, it's good for mental health. Don't you dare miss it !
& If you want to experience HOLI, just get some colors from the Indian Store nearby, and take a tiny bit of the colored powder on your hands and spread it on the cheeks of your loved one and wish them success and prosperity.
By : Pratiksha Misra