Growing up in Madras, there’s this obvious disdain among our dear north-Indian counterparts that we Madrasis don’t know the beauty of the festival. Well, if only I had a buck everytime I had to correct them (for the lack of knowing better in the past), but we move on. My best three friends growing up were Gujaratis. I was an adopted child when it came to their customs, cuisine and they were even gracious enough to share their older brothers with me, as I had none.
We played holi too, every year. I was the only non-gujju in a hysterical mass of colorful, boisterous un-recognizable within 2 minutes group of young boys and girls. Each year was at a different place, friend’s terrace, another’s backyard, the street corners, temple yard and so on. Lots of fun, laughter and well, color.
I remember a specific holi incident during my 12th grade. We had our board exams during the week, and the plan was to meet during the evening at my friends and spend 30 minutes. Not more, as she had a Statistics exam to take the next day. I leave for school on my trusty TVS 50, and realize I needed to fill gas on the way up. It’s mid-afternoon, the exam starts in an hour. I stand there is my sparkling white uniform, red tie, white shoes and socks, the model student representing the fancy convent school I was part of. The uniform during exams was specially scrutinized as it was a mark and representative of the name we carried forth to the other host school which was the center for our exams.
I hear shuffling footsteps and I swirl in horror to realize two humans charge at me. I say humans as I do not recognize them. They are a boy and girl I slowly begin to form an image, and they scream my name. That means squat as anyone who’s grown there would know. Guys in and out of the area would know and remember girls’ and their names more than their own in some cases. I blink. Aha! I know these two! This is my friend’s older brother and his girlfriend. The girl had her hands full of color, and was laughing at my expression. The completely dark face and arms splotched with various shades of pink, yellow and green that belonged to the guy on the other hand, had a fist full of harsh pink, and an arm raised to fling at me.
I scream, skirt, dodge, run behind the tiny vehicle. Begging for mercy.
They are two of them. I am stuck in the middle.
I cower and cover my face and scream: “Pleaseee, no face!”
They laugh, and she stands in wedged between me and the pump not allowing any escape. I hear laughter from behind.
Oh Great, now we a spectacle. I laugh which fades quickly as I realize with horror that I have my uniform on!
I wail: “O crap, no no, my face, my face, not the uniform! Please not the uniform, Sister Benny will be there,and she’s a royal pain you know where! I have a Botany exam to take guys, please!!”
He goes ” Ok, decide, where. Face or uniform?”
Knowing I can’t get out of this colorless, I nod and say “fine, just a small thing on my forehead okay?”
Did I tell you that I am a naive gullible idiot? I was always one I suppose.
Within a few moments, my face resembled a tribal warrior in the deep forests of the Amazon jungle. Pink and yellow on the sides, with a green forehead and a red nose.
They left on his Yamaha leaving me in a cloud of dust, their laughs stuck in my head.
We play holi here too; with a small tilak on our forehead. Nothing remotely resplendent to its original fanfare. One of those little sacrifices we make with time. The memories will however keep.
An evergreen number. Enjoy!
So you tell me now, how fun is Holi for you?