Holi was always the most favorite of all the festivals with us kids. Nothing in the world would…could dim the enthusiasm that mounted with each passing day, as ‘the festival of festivals’ approached nigh. How could it, with the air itself colored in the hues of enthusiasm. Weeks in advance, one could hear freshly cut, huge branches being dragged outside by older ‘bhaiyas’ in the colony – having undertaken all sorts of risks and pains to cut them, now bringing them to the safe haven of the park to have them dry in the sun, for Holi. The discussions always hovered around which colors to buy, and discuss strategies how to color people the deepest and darkest. Bringing out our ‘phuvvaras’ (a kind of steel pichkari, with a pump pulled up and down to throw water) from the previous year, to see if they needed change of washer, if they were in good enough shape to shoot long, concentrated streaks of color very far, or were they to be replaced. Finding the right bottle into whose mouth the phuvvara would fit well, the bottle that would in turn, sit well in the crook of the arm. Whew! so much preparation! ‘Whew’?! Not at all! It was so much fun! Unlike today, when a day or two before Holi, kids go buy pichkaris and balloons and colors and lo. We saved every penny we could, earn every penny we could, to have that many more balloons to fill with colored water and bombard passers by, with.
Come Holi, mothers would get busy making the Holi special goodies – gunjiyas, mathi, namak paare, besan ke laddoo, kanji ka paani, moon ki daal ki pakodi, papdi chaat, besan ke sev…yummy!
It was so much fun to help out with the special chores of making tiny balls of the special dough or rolling out the balls for mathri or gunjiya, cutting the stuffed gunjiya with a cutter to lend it the beautiful design on its edge. And would also ensure the much awaited gunjiyas were made even faster!
The dried branches ready to be burnt were seen piled up on cross-roads. With Holika dahan started the playing with colors (mostly gulal at that time time of the evening/night). Boy! It took forever for the Holi morning to come, after Holika dahan the night before! Who says kids don’t know what a sleepless night is?! Waking up very early was never as much fun…there was much to be done – making color to pour onto people, testing – its concentration on each other, till it was the desired color, filling up of balloons with colored water. All done, Boroline applied on our faces and mustard oil to our bodies and hair, we were all set to go take on the world. Like charity begins at home, coloring on Holi too. We’d paint each other’s face silver, with this silver powder ‘mirgaan’ mixed in mustard oil, for no color would stay on it. Thus began the sheer bliss of playing Holi – coloring anyone and everyone we met on the way, regardless who they were, if they objected “buraa na maano Holi hai”(please don’t mind, for it it Holi) went up the chorus, if they still objected, “maano toh maano, Holi hai” (It doesn’t matter if you mind, for it is Holi) went on the next shout!
Holi songs played on loudspeakers added o to the ringings of “buraa na maano Holi hai.maano toh maano, Holi hai” and “Holi ka badwa jailjail” (of which none seemed to know the meaning) and of course, the plain and simple “Holi hai!”. All men of the colony gathered in the park, seated in a circle, as if to play ‘I sent a letter…’ and all the ladies in the temple hall, singing and dancing to Holi folk tunes. Unlike today, when people restrict themselves to playing Holi with within own homes and families, or not playing at all,Holi used to be sheer fun back then.