There was a time, not too long ago, when I used to dread Holi. We were staying in this busy locality, located in the heart of Delhi, where everybody took more than a healthy interest in each other’s lives. Kitnaa kaa liyaa was their catchphrase. The boys loitered on the streets, trying to extend their hand for friendship to anything that walked by in a skirt. Yes, they were a friendly lot and I don’t think they ever passed any exam.
And there were kids – lots and lots of them. They would spend most of their afternoons outside in the gullie so that their Mummy jee could sleep in peace. Come festival time (especially Diwali) and the kiddos would be seized with festive fervour that would start weeks in advance. You didn’t need reminders, you could trust them to drill it in your head. The bachha party would go phaat...phut...phit all afternoon with their strip of cartridge. But instead of the damn thing going into the pistol, the kids would burst it one by one, in slow motion, till one got a splitting headache. My expressions of rage were apt enough to get me the lead role in Anaconda (no, not the Hindi version on UTV)!
If Diwali was a headache then Holi was the time when our neighbourhood would turn into Disneyworld’s Big Splash fun. The air would be rent with loud screams, with the Tom and Jerry chase enacted live. Come March and I would start dreading the newly-acquired hygiene fetish of the kids. They were intent on giving me a bath, every time I stepped out of the house. On my way back from school I was like a Ninja warrior, ducking balloons and water pistons from all possible angles. I am convinced Keanu Reeve copied my moves for his Matrix series!
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In the evening as I would go for my walk, I had to do a complicated hop-scotch-jump, to avoid the steady stream of water balloons. It more than took care of my warm-up. On the way to the grocer, dry-cleaner, any damn place, my head was perennially craned upwards scanning for those watery missiles. And the little devils had mastered their skill from Houdini – excited chatter – loud splash and voila the miscreants would disappear into thin air. There were times I was tempted to give them a loud round of applause.
All this practice had made me very bold. Once I even did a dare - a day prior to Holi, a friend and I walked all the way to the market for a golgappa expedition. When the tummy craves, the heart does not listen to reason. The GG’s were yummy and we came back almost dry, thanks to our ducking skills. And since most of the balloons landed at our feet, we returned with very clean footwear!
On the D-day itself, all hell would break loose and it was fun watching the frenzied antics from the cosy confines of the house. But we made sure Tee our daughter, did not miss out on all the fun. We’d push her out of the house with a go have fun baby! Our little baby would come back soaked in myriad colours, enough to give a rainbow a complex.
The fact is I was never enamoured with Holi. True, during my kiddy days this festival was one big party. Running around sopping wet, looking like multi-coloured baboons and the yummy gujiyas that followed....ahhh. My fingers would hurt from tying all those water balloons, but did I mind...Naah. And it was fun watching high-on-bhang adults make a complete fool of themselves.
But as you grow older your practical side overtakes you. You start noticing the rashes the colour gives, hate the mess and find the suddenly overfriendly males dying to give you a dip truly annoying!
When a friend suggested I write about Holi, my first reaction was, but how can I...I hardly play Holi! Yes, it is has been nearly seven years now. I live in a complex where even our neighbours are complete strangers to us; we make friends while going up and down the lift. I like to call them my lift-social-circle. The bachhas are civilized and the guys are intent on passing their exams. Plus it’s impossible to aim balloons from a high rise at unsuspecting adults! Gosh, is it possible I’m missing my hop-scotch dance, all that pleading and the furious looks I had to give to shoo off the kids (psst it never worked). Reminiscing about Holi madness in a non-descript locality in Delhi has made me all nostalgic.
Maybe this year I’ll ditch the organic colours and forget the calories in the gujiya and truly let go! The child in me is egging me on – go Purba go!