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When Holi Lost Its Colour

06/03/2015 8:12 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Indian women smear colors on their faces as they celebrate "Holi," a festival of colors, in Allahabad, India, Sunday, March 16, 2014. The festival heralds the arrival of spring. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Winter has slowly passed on to a languid season, and with the rising temperatures, nature too seems dressed in warm and bright hues. As I enjoy the heady concoction that spring is, vibrant colours from my memories splash to the surface.

Red was the first colour I remembered. I saw it in the vermilion bindi on my mother's forehead and in the parting of her hair. She added golden honey to my milk, while green paddy fields stretched right outside our window. We woke up to these hues, offset by the cock's plume as it perched on the kitchen door.

And then we moved to other parts of the country. And other colours followed. Some in the sunshine yellow of mustard fields, in the flowers of a valley and some in the darkness of soil. But colour there always was.

The most powerful memory of all is from that February/March when the neighbourhood was aflame with the sudden burst of blooms in the palash (flame of the forest) trees.

And happiness was me.

Growing up, the one festival that excited me more than any other was the spring festival of colours -- Holi. That was one day when we could let out the wild child within us. Dousing each other with water, getting drenched and returning home resplendent in several layers of colour that refused to be washed away for days. And how proud we were to show off our stubborn streaks of colour to prove the amount of fun we had.

And this happiness continued in a cycle, through my growing up years, adolescence, adulthood and as a parent. I relived my childhood as I handed down the tradition of fun to my kids. There was only one change. I was at the other end of scrubbing and rinsing off the colours from the little ones.

"Holi is not unholy. It's not just North Indian fanfare. It's not an indecent and dirty festival. It is a celebration of life. A celebration of love. Of fun. Of spring. Of vibrancy. Of bonhomie. Of colour."

All was fine until we moved again to a different city. This time to the southern part of the country. As always we waited for Holi but the usual suspects that accompanied the festival were missing from the markets. The coloured powders, the pichkaris (water shooters), the water balloons were just not making an appearance even though D day was fast approaching. And then came the jolt - a chit of paper, a circular from my boys' school that drained me of all colour. It announced that there was to be no holiday on Holi. Oh no! I had never ever heard of such a thing in my nomadic life in which I moved from city to city every two to three years.

And now, bereft of colours on Holi, all we can do is remember days past. We attend office, go to school, there is not a speck of colour to be seen.

It's been two years now. Two years in which I've tried in vain to convince my neighbours that Holi is not unholy. It's not just North Indian fanfare. It's not an indecent and dirty festival. It is a celebration of life. A celebration of love. Of fun. Of spring. Of vibrancy. Of bonhomie. Of colour.

Hope springs eternal and I hope one day this country will unite in colours even in its diversity.

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