It has been a long time, over a year since I wrote my last article here. But today is as good as any to re-start the journey.
As a kid I loved the festival of Holi, or technically speaking Dhuleti – the day of colours. I love it even now, but it is no longer the 4 hour paintball-battle royale-esque festival it used to be as kids. Before I went to study at a residential school when I was 11, I spent my Holi-day at my grand parents’ bungalow.
Every year, I would stay up at night preparing colour filled balloons, hundreds of them. Although, I didn’t know how to tie them up, so dad would be up with me helping. The colour shopping would have begun a week in advance, and by the eve of Colour day, I’d have mentally prepared my battle plan.
On Judgment day, first thing I would do is fill up my loose pockets with balloons, second – pick up my pre-loaded Pichakari – handheld water cannon and fill the upper pocket of my shirt with powdered colour packets. Armed up and ready, I’d wait. Wait for the neighbourhood kids to storm into my house. They’d enter from the small gate and I’d ambush them with my armoury. Soon after it would be a war of colours as we try to one-up the other’s ability to paint us.
Once we are done at my place, the gang goes to the next house. This continued till about 12:00 PM. Then we call it a day and go to our respective homes, where we shower and eat. But there was always one pre-colour ritual that we followed at my house. I am sure most of us have experienced this.
The Vaseline/Coconut Oil Massage
On the day of Dhuleti, at 8 AM sharp, my grandma will rub Vaseline or Coconut oil all over my body – it allows the colour to come off easily after the playing with colours gag is over. But I hated it. If the colours come off, I won’t have anything to show for at school the next day if there are no colours on my body. The stubborn colours are the equivalent of battle scars for single digit old kids.
Kids in my school, I am sure even today, used to come with coloured hands and faces and be proud about it. Some colours stick hard, won’t come off for a week. And those were our proud battle scars. The proof that we played with colours for hours and we had fun. We didn’t have PUBG Chicken dinners back then, all we had were Holi colours on our faces to exert superiority over another.
And that Vaseline jelly on my body always worked. Not even a dot of any colour would stick on my beautiful baby skin. I had a fair complexion, and like any patriarchal household that a middle class family would have setup, I was adored for my skin colour tending towards white. Fortunately those views are behind us in our family now. But not when I was 5-10 years old.
The vaseline was a protecting agent that would help my skin maintain its colour, or so they thought. It didn’t allow the colours to stick and make me look detestable for the rest of the week. That also meant that no one in my class believed I thoroughly played Holi. And that, was a blot on my personality. But, as a kid, you are at your parents’ mercy.
Loud Speakers and Holi in 2019
20 years later today, I woke up at 10:15 AM from the annoying sounds of loud speakers playing Desi Pop Music – or songs from Bollywood movies as I see them. In our gated community, we were told not to bring our own colours as they had arranged for Gulal – a presumably safe colour that also cleans off easily. But there are always those who bend, nah break the rule.
I woke up after a small fight with my brain, brushed my teeth, changed into my Finally Jobless T-shirt and headed down. My pre-teen buddies started off by throwing balloons at me which by the way did not burst because they were not very tightly filled. Ah kids, they don’t know anything I thought to myself and chuckled. Suddenly, my cheeks felt two wet hands on them reaching out from behind my back – The festival was officially ON for me. My face was blue in an instant.
But the joy lived short. I realised I was still wearing my watch which now looked powdered blue. I rushed up to my apartment, left my watch inside and was back in the Holi party within a few minutes. The colouring began at 10:00 AM, I was down at 11:00 AM. Everyone except me now looked like a horror movie ghost which probably ran through a rainbow and mud. Naturally, I caught attention of those who were tired of colouring the same faces over and over again.
In a matter of seconds, I had Yellow, Green, Red, Pink, Purple and orange colour on my face, my white T shirt and my shorts. Then out of nowhere I was water gunned with a hose. Now I stood drenched but with a clean face. Within seconds, the kids took over.
I don’t know about the adults but the kids, they love me. I am that 30 year old bro, who turns 10 when I am with kids.
Before I could even get my hands on the pink, green or yellow gulal that lay in the corner in big bags, I was bombarded yet another time. Now I looked like a rainbow faced creeper.
The battle of colours lasted an hour, for me. Soon enough the loud speaker was playing Garba songs and like a proud Gujju that I am, I joined the circle of people doing garba. I quipped to my old neighbour, that if we celebrated Eid and Christmas, we’d probably do garba even then.
After a while I came back home, rushed to the bathroom, stood under the shower and it hit me. I did not apply Vaseline or coconut oil before I went downstairs.
After one hour of intense shampooing, oiling, soaping, I stood defeated in front of the newly fitted mirror in my bathroom. My face has hints of red, green and yellow on it. My ears are completely coloured in yellow and green and my back is blue – no its not cold, it is blue because of Holi colours.
I have my battle scars, finally. But who do I show them to?
I don’t have to be superior to anyone anymore. I don’t have to go to school tomorrow. I’d be dreading if I had a meeting but thankfully nothing on my calendar that requires a video call or my physical presence. Or may be I could make a video for Coin Crunch with my coloured face. There is a whole day ahead, but I am more excited to continue the Finally Jobless journey now.
I sit here writing this article, missing my grandmother for soaking me up in petroleum jelly to protect my skin. My mom who is out of town right now would have reminded me, but I wouldn’t have listened. But at-least I can take solace in one thing. I won’t be alone today, there will be many I will see taking pride for their own Holi Battle Scars.