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Holi that was: Colour me a shocking magenta!

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

When Holi came around in the still chilly spring days, we spent days — before and after—planning and plotting our antics for this beloved festival

During my school years, the day after Holi was just as important as the festival of colors itself. One of our many quirks was the competition to see whose hands were covered in the brightest, even darkest colors possible—a proud sign of Holi played well. Deep, shocking magenta and indigo blue were the usual winners each year.

On the day of Holi, usually, there was still a slight chill in the air, and we started the day by following instructions from the elders in the family to apply oil on our hands and legs (the unexposed bits too), especially hair, or the color won’t come off. Now, I am talking of the days when colors weren’t all natural and organic; and as teenagers, while we were aware of the risk of acne and pimples from using these non-organic Holi colors, on this one day of the year, these concerns became less important than daring to play the festival to the hilt.

Once we had done the needful, we ran around the neighborhood armed with our pichkaris. For us, the ones with the really high-pressure water guns were the lucky ones.

The fun-filled “war” would begin with us targeting as many friends as possible while also willingly offering ourselves as targets of their pichkaris loaded with pakka—the highly concentrated kind— colored water. Carried away by Holi fervor, we kids preferred these hard-to-remove colors over the gulaal that could be easily dusted off.

Hours of fun ended only when we got exhausted both from chasing one another as well as refilling those buckets of colored water. By noon, our energy levels faded away and we joined the adults who’d all be gathered in the park for a community lunch. A portable water tank with a tap was enough for us to clean our hands for a simple meal of puri and masala chhole. We’d be hungry and eat unabashedly. The adults would then go home for a shower and a much-needed nap, while we, the children and young adults, would get onto our secret mission.

Step one, for us, was to share all our wisdom on how to make the colors last longer. We then proceeded to rub our hands aggressively with just a few drops of water and drops of pakka liquid color. We let it blend and rest for a bit before washing it off. This ensured that it lasted for a few days. One of us sacrificed the ink of our favorite fountain pen or cartridge and, at the risk of a scolding from our parents, we added it to our hands as well. This continued until we were satisfied with the results.

The next morning, on the ride to school, we flaunted how well our Holi went—so much so that the color from our hands hadn’t come off—even when each of us knew how hard we had worked for that effect!

Looking back, I can’t help but smile at all the colors that made the festival special. That special day was filled with shades of fun—patterns formed by gulaal on the floor, the old pair of clothes spotted with orange-blue-red that we wore year after year, the spots of ink on our hands, and more. The Holi colors brighten my memories even today.

Disclaimer: Nostalgia is my biggest strength, inspiration. This is a place where we hit rewind. After all, there’s nothing better than getting a chance to rewind and rejoice.


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