Do you play holi??
I don't remember,ever being asked this question,all these years.Except,in the past two years that I have been in Bangalore(no…I am not being judgemental about the city) .
As far as my weak memory can recollect.You didn’t have to ask anyone to play Holi.You just had to.It was an unwritten,universal rule,that no one dared to break.If you happened to be one of those,who were(mentally) allergic to colours, wet clothes ,violence and detested spending the day painted in the weirdest possible combination of colours…well…you just had to keep mum,grin and bear it,because that would incur the wrath of the rest and you would be the ‘ holi-da-bakra ‘,that everybody loved to get their hands dirty with.
It would be ridiculous to ask anyone such a question.It would be even more absurd to ask someone who wasn’t a " so called north Indian",if they played holi.One thing was guaranteed at every home,sweets...sweets and lots of sweets and mostly from homes were I (now) have realized Holi wasn’t celebrated culturally.Call it being naive or just too blindly secular. I never knew Holi could be segregated into regions...states....areas and worst of all would be celebrated in different parts of the same country on different days.
Growing up in Delhi,as kids we looked forward to Holi(for different reasons)Firstly,we were never asked or rather told when to come back home !!.If you were a kiddo,it would mean inhabiting the streets with all possible brands of water pistols and tankers(which you would beg your parents to buy,promising them that they would last several Holi-days) and gang fights.Might was right,in true god father tradition.If you were in the teen and college gang,Holi was the day that colours would play cupid for you(with a little help from the water balloons,too.I was a miserable shooter and ended up hitting street dogs than Greek gods in my colony).
There’s no place like the army,when it comes to celebrating festivals.It’s definitely one of the most secular organizations that exist in today’s fragmented world.Your religion,state,language,sect ceases to exist once you are in the army.It’s one big family,whether you like it or not.Holi’s are arranged par excellence.The officers play colour with the ranks first and then assemble in the mess(the time you have to report with your family is decided by the seniority and rank…so if you are the junior most in the regiment..you report first)There’s something for everyone…..soft drinks,hard liquor(no fauji party is complete without HL),bhang in the drinks..in your pakodas…biryani.For the truly spirited there ‘s a mud pool,accompanied with a shower.It’s a vicious cycle,at whichever point you wish to jump in,you end up feeling sozzled(in mind,body and soul) in the end. It’s a rare leveler of sorts.
It’s not ‘holi’ today,but we have been given a holiday and asked to celebrate.Unfortunately,its one of those festivals that happens only when you are in a gang of like minded…or should I say like coloured people.So,while I’ll be in school,telling children like an old grandmother ,tales from my erstwhile Holi-days,I’ll hope that the rest of you shall be drenched in colours.Just grab a packet of gulal and head out.Don’t worry about formalities and ask people whether they want to play or not and if you happen to be at the receiving end,well just follow Bapu’s advice…
extend the cheek and be a sport.
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