holi ’09

Today’s holi.

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?

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  1. says: Laksh

    Holi-aa? Apdina?

    Never celebrated it growing up. The one exception was last year of my B.Sc. Celebrated in college and was hauled up to the AO’s room. Got a nice lecture on decency and decorum and reached home with head hung in shame. 😛

  2. says: Adithya

    Holi is the festival I miss the most. Preparations start a week in advance. Me and a bunch of 19 yr olds(I was 14,15,16 as they were in their engineering years) buy balloons and fill them up in one of our bathrooms, and put them in buckets. At least 25-30 each day. Put them in terrace and go to the terrace(6 floors apartment). And whaaaackkkkkkkk, at any girl, pretty or not, or any aunty, fat or not. As soon as the water gushes out, we cower behind the walls of the terrace. Once or twice, an aunty would dare to run up to the elevator but then would change her mind for some reason. What fun I tell you, and am I ashamed? Of course not, never let a hawaldar spot us!

    And on the day, we head to four buildings(different quarters of Indian Bank, in the neighborhood and some chosen girls’) and on the way smear gulal on the faces of waiters and managers at Mcdonalds and Dominos Pizza, their biggest mistake being opening the stalls that early on Holi day.

    The only black day was taking a balloon on my eye and my Holi ended after just five minutes of fun. This was 2002.

    No wonder, Holi is the festival I miss the post.

    Sorry, this should have been a post. Damn.

    1. says: rads

      heh, you should post! These are memorable moments, ones which are most definitely nice to stay in memory, but penning them down help! 🙂 ouch@2002

  3. says: naren

    Here in Bombay, about 90% of Holi’s appeal is the fact that you can get dunk. Since I manage to do that without have to invest in colored substances and dunking myself into cold water, I spend the festival these days observing the world from my little outpost in my house, usually in the company of some chilled beer. Happy holi, tho.

  4. says: Roshni

    I’m confused… you had an exam on the DAY of Holi?! Holy mother of God!
    Holi in Bengal is just as riotous and reckless as your Gujju one. We had no mercy.. nowadays there are lot of restrictions about attacking unknown people who may not want to be smeared, but our childhood pleasures were to be made unrecognizable with ‘bandar’ color and then retreat to a terrace where we would fling color and water on any unsuspecting passerby!!
    Last year, in SD, we organized Holi near a lake and the NRI’s here are as willing to be made ugly with fancy colors.. so that helps!!

    1. says: rads

      heh, well, it’s Tamil Nadu, and Holi isn’t a prime festival at all. We are off for different southern ones. This was state board for 12th graders, through the state, not just Madras.
      I don’t think any one of us imagine the colors to be ugly at all, it’s just the convenience, charm and the cleanup of the place after that’s deterring, and then there are all those rules one has to abide by. 🙂

    1. says: rads

      aw@broken leg. I refused to go watch others do dandiya last oct as well. Would have killed me not to be able to join ’em. But splashing colors we can do well, no matter the leg eh? 🙂

  5. says: gauri

    Aah, memories! Miss it, darn. Buckets, colors, water balloons….the entire univ campus roads would be pink & silver 😀 The guys would use egg and some other yucky things too…*ugh*.

    Best part was throwing a balloon on some unsuspecting TV uncle 😀

    Nice one!


      1. says: litterateuse

        lol, yeah egg was yuck…thankfully they were courteous to the girls. That was supposed to be TVS uncle. Random uncle on a TVS/Luna 🙂

  6. says: Dev

    Even I being a northie used to have the same ideas of south indians not knowing the real beauty of the festivals. But a few friends from there have put those confusions and stupidities of my randomizing mind to rest. Now I know that its Holi for everyone…no matter where. 🙂

  7. says: maxdavinci

    baloons eggs and everything! dunking ppl in sintex tanks was also fun!

    here as the prez of the grad council n ISA we’d host foam parties with desi music and hot samosas!

    1. says: rads

      No it doesn’t Priya. I just happened to have friends who played. I know my sister didn’t, coz her friend circle at school was all traditional tam-brams!

  8. Oh I love love Holi. Again, as kids we did play Holi. Dunno how. Being in Bangalore, I guess there were a lot of North Indians or some stupid reason like that.

    But hostel was the best 😀 We’d go to teachers’ houses on campus and grab sweets from their table with dirty hands and that day, no one minded 😛 Sigh, those were the days. I feel old now 🙁

    And the older brothers of Gujju friends were not cute aah?

    1. says: rads

      lol@you sighing. Good times do that eh? :p

      Older brothers of gujju friends were very cute. Unfortunately, that’s where it stopped. Missed the “adopted” line? :

  9. says: bookworm

    rang barse! i played holi in college! we never played properly though b/c we ran out of color fast…learned our lesson for the next year.

    i think the coolest experience was when people played holi when we went to our hometown miryalaguda in india. what a sight!!

  10. says: Sangeetha

    Holi is not much fun without a lot of friends. So never really played Holi as a kid because I didn’t have many friends in my village. The most fun Holi was at my B-school where we had a semi-pool filled with coloured water and we dunked almost everyone in it, which of course got dirty soon and yet we didn’t stop 🙂

  11. I haven’t played much of Holi since all the kids in our complex were older and my parents were wary of the hooliganism that goes on during the festival. But no celebration should be forced on an unwilling person.

    1. says: rads

      Right, mine didn’t like it much either, but allowed me to venture only with this close group of friends. We’ve known each other since kindergarten!

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