Festivals hold a very special place in our heart, for one they always carry us back to the colorful lanes of our childhood. And when the festival is of colors, those lanes become more vivid. Those were the best of the times, isn’t? Together with siblings and friends, impatiently tracking the Holi countdown. 5 days to go… 4 days to go… and with every day getting closer, making and remaking the plans of celebrating the main Holi day, also known as Badi Holi or Dhulandi or Dhulendi, to its fullest. Visiting friends and families, throwing on them scented colored powder - famous as gulal, running behind to soak them in colors, and eating a lot of Dahi Papdi and Gunjiya with spicy Kanji were a few mandatory.
On the eve of the festival, also known as Holika Dahan or Choti Holi, many people get together, lit bonfires, say prayers and praise each other. But, my siblings and I were always more interested in getting our colored water balloons ready for the Dhulendi morning. It was no less than a team work and we used to take pride in calling ourselves Holi ki Toli. One preparing the colored water in a container, another filling that colored water in the balloons using his pichkari and yet another, the experienced one and usually me, making knots in those filled balloons, keeping them in a safe container and counting them back and again. I am not a morning person but on Holi I was the first one to leave bed. And my first task was to count those balloons, which always used to become less over night.
After getting into an old dress, and soaking hair, face and neck in oil, we used to take blessings from all the elders by putting some gulal on their cheeks. After which we were all set for the best part – balloon attack. We used to throw balloons from terrace on the people passing by, on the neighbours, on the visiting friends, and when no outside victim around, on ourselves only. In addition to our balloon attack, we used pichkaris and even the entire bucket filled with colored water to drench the other person completely in colors. And the worst but most enjoyable was attacking friends and coating their face, neck, hands, hair, back and what not with very strong colors, which will not go off the skin even after several bathes. Again some friends used to surrender themselves for this color coating while others were chased down.
One more and much bigger Holi ki Toli was of my grand father. He and his more than 20 friends used to come over on every Holi. Their tradition was to play only with gulal. No water colors. No strong colors. We used to serve them our Holi special food preparations, and they used to enjoy singing songs and cracking jokes, some of the best I’ve heard, and after every song or joke they used to shout in chorus - bhadiya bhadiya bhadiya bhai, uttam uttam uttam bhai. This was their tradition, and our tradition was to break their tradition by splashing the colored water on all of them and making them Holi ki wet Toli.
After all the friends are gone, we used to eat stomach-full and lie under the sun on our terrace. I remember that feeling of tiredness and those rays of sun were so much satisfying. Then after taking bath and sleeping till evening, we used to dress up in our new clothes and meet friends for dinner.
This is how the fun-filled colorful Holi festival used to end. Those were the times. But now life away from home in US is so different. Isha is at home. I am in office. No one here even knows it’s an Indian festival today. Holi celebration this year is just wishing your family and friends over the phone or Facebook, and may be writing this blog. That’s one of the many trade-offs of being outside India. But hey Holi won’t be that sad even today, for my lovely wife is preparing Dahi Papdi and Gunjiya with spicy Kanji and we are going to enjoy them stomach-full with few Indian friends coming over after office.
And after that I will again lie under the sun, tired but satisfied. Just kidding, it’s 2 degrees celsius out here ;-)
May this Holi color your life in its beautiful colors!