Holi

17 Mar

Today is Holi and I came to know that it’s one of the biggest festivals of the year, today. It’s strange when you stay so far away from a place that’s home, in the root sense of the word. I still haven’t discerned which is home; whether I’m from the north or south, but I’d like to believe that I’m an awesome mix of both, with a lot of me leaning towards the North-Indian side, in the root sense of the word, like I said earlier. I don’t know if that made any sense, because it sure as hell didn’t make any sense to me.

So today is Holi, one of those festivals we usher spring and summer (I guess) in with. There’s a lot of colour, water and food involved, of course. Memories of Holi, back when I lived in the north, were laden with it all beginning with that essence of it in the air. One just knew Holi was around the corner. And then we had quite obvious (and most often obnoxious) signs of a festival with loud speakers everywhere, with an effigy erected at almost every junction, to be lit at the eve of Holi to signify the triumph of good over evil. I don’t know much about the mythological aspect of this festival and maybe it’s time I read up about it. But since I’m so far removed from it, I feel like I’ll be excused for not knowing. :D

Holi was always welcomed in by our verandahs stocked with cans of oil, bags of ingredients and a large stove at the corner where I remember my paternal grandmother spending almost all her time, dishing out magical goodies after magical goodies. I don’t remember seeing her get up from there as she produced sweet and savory treats for the entire household, family, friends and neighbours, perhaps. That was a lot of cooking. It wasn’t me, it’s my genes. I blame my family. I blame them for throwing me head-on into this blissful world that completes my life so beautifully.

We’d always wake up before the sun to get an oil bath before we head out to watch the effigy ignite. And once the sun was up, we’d be out, laden with powdered colours, water guns, water balloons and buckets that didn’t ever speak of drying up. Balloons got thrown at each other, colour got splashed when you weren’t looking and there was never really a sign of stopping. We’d go back in to recharge with all that had been prepared over the days that led up to Holi, unwashed hands, too nonchalant because we’d race to go back to the terrace and keep the spirit of the festival going. The baths thereafter were painful, except we got bathed by our mothers, or aunts. So it wasn’t half bad.

The last time I celebrated Holi, if I can call that a celebration, because I stayed cooped up inside the grilled balcony of my uncle’s friend’s house, was in 2011. Here’s the thing with Holi; the more you hide or act coy about not “getting dirty”, the dirtier you’re bound to get. So you might as well throw your hands up in the air and ring in the spirit of this festival, with fists full of colour, while you’re at it. The great thing about Holi is the bhaang, a preparation made from cannabis leaves, that one gets to have, if you’re old enough to do so. I’ve never given it a try but rest assured, if I do get the chance to celebrate Holi back up north again, I will give that more than just a try. :) Why must one stray from the norm, right?

Here, in Bangalore, there are almost no signs of Holi. We had work as well, today. So, there’s no wonder I was oblivious of its arrival. Perhaps it’s a good thing because the festival really has begun to become dirty over the years and I’m quite glad to be away from it. As time progressed, Holi took a back-seat and wasn’t one of those festivals I really looked forward to. It’s not Diwali and only Diwali that I love so dearly. But, having said that, and keeping in mind the gene pool that I’m blessed with, I came back home to get a few things ready for Holi, because it’s the done thing. In my head, at least.

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I managed to make namkeen mathri (savory crisps), shakkar paare (sugar crisps) and gudd chawal ki kheer (rice and milk pudding seasoned with palm sugar), which was a first since I’ve never really ventured into the territory of rice kheer before. I feel happy. Because no matter what or where I’ll be or under what circumstances, it’s heartening to know that certain things remain the same. And that’s the beauty of tradition I thrive on because it happens, almost unknowingly. Things get passed on, unconsciously.

Holi will always remind me of sitting with my grandmothers and watching them cook. Sometimes, all you need is to just be there. The rest sort of takes care of itself. It really does. And memories supersede religion. Almost invariably. And so comfortably. There’s no doubting the power of associations, memories and experiences. They catapult us to places we’d never dream of. In the best ways possible, in this context. :)

I hope you have a lovely festival and a beautiful year ahead.

And here’s what I would dance to, today, even though this isn’t a track pictured on Holi. Turn it up, as always. :) ;)

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