The Festivals that Were: Holi

Holi, Deepawali, Durga Pooja, Shiv Raatri, Sri Krishna Janamashtami, Raksha Bandhan, Saraswati Pooja, Chhath Fair, Durgaji’s Fair etc. were the festivals I grew up celebrating in Kasi. Over the years, the change in the times has also changed the way these festivals pass through my life. Or, probably, the change in the things outside has not been so big as the change in the things inside. And the change inside is the only change that actually matters.

I was not particularly fond of playing the colours of Holi outdoors. In fact, in all my years in Varanasi, I don’t remember having played Holi outdoors; not even once. We, the children used to be very excited about the colours, specially colours dissolved in water and sprayed through pichkaaris or thrown filled in a balloon. For many years I had played with plastic pichkaaris with my neighbours on their roof tops or balconies. Then we had graduated to metal ones: mine was the brass one, the one that has traditionally been associated with the festival.

The year in which father had bought me the brass pichkaari was the same as the one in which I took my board exam for class ten. The schedules of both this one and that of class twelve two years later, were made sandwiching Holi. Uttar Pradesh Board was totally against us students celebrating Holi it seems. Yet, we did celebrate, with colours and balloons. By an unwritten pact, we brothers never threw colours over each other. The idea was to colour our arch opponents and life time neighbours: Sriram and brothers, and if possible, throw colour or balloons on Nayar Uncle and Sriram’s grandpa. These two gentlemen were very difficult, nay, impossible, to locate during the wet colours time span of the festival, i.e. from around nine in the morning to twelve noon. I don’t remember any victories on that front throughout my active career (not active anymore).

The concept of using pure dye, mixed with water on the palm directly and applied immediately to someone’s cheeks etc. reached us late. Till then, we happily kept making our projectiles with balloons and coloured water. The process went on for around two hours, and then started around half an hour long struggle against obstinate colours of various hues and intensities sticking to our skin. The Municipality used to make special arrangements on the afternoon of Holi. It used to release water in the pipes at around twelve: the official time marking the end of the wet colour period. One full drenching with plain water used to wash all dry and loose colour away. Then there used to be at least two rounds of rigorous soap and sponge sessions, especially if the concentrated colour method was used.


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