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Holi… Now and Then

Whatever happened to the Holi of my childhood? Nothing is the same anymore.

Back then, the day was eventful starting with busy mornings occupied by prior preparations of ‘attack’ in the form of colored water buckets and balloons; we learnt most of our offensive and defensive war strategies from Holi. The preparation would end in a quick silent communication across balconies and all would gather around in the play ground to start the ‘game’; there were loud screams in the minutes that followed.

We learnt and applied desi beauty treatments of oil and curd that were used pre and post colors to ensure a clean and ‘glowing’ skin. Almost always, however, half of the school would turn up with red and purple faces the next day. This year, I didn’t get to see even a single Holi piece of art in the following days.

In Delhi, Holi was the day meant to say final goodbye to winters; cold water would be used for bath for the first time and geyser would be declared useless for the next 7-8 months. This year, we had an early morning bath, with lukewarm water. Even the sweets were lesser this year; neighbors now have stopped making their courtesy trips round the building and no one cares. All the regular color vendors on the street were replaced with just one who seemed to be having a boring and slow business day.

This year, all was quiet. No one in the vicinity even played ‘rang barse’ on loud volumes. I made a few rounds in balcony out of curiosity to see some festivities around me, but I was greeted with empty streets and silent playgrounds. This year, there were no loudspeakers across the street, no drummers, no noisy multicolored kids, no colors and no water.

And I was left wondering by the end of the day when and how we allowed Holi to get so boring. I guess primarily because our kids’ play group didn’t exist anymore with all of us grown up into another set of ‘silly’ adults who didn’t care about childish games anymore; our parents were anyways involved only as an audience even earlier. But what surprises me more is the trend of diminishing Holi celebration all around. We are now busy with TV or internet and enjoying one day off work.

This year, the Holi day was colorless, dry, quiet, uneventful and weary. I suspect its going to be quieter with each passing year. And I wonder if the festival would hold any meaning for our coming generations; I wonder if one more festival would end up being just another day on the holiday calendar of the year. I hope this was just a discrepancy in my neighourhood; I hope it’s not a widespread trend across the city or country. The TV news assures me its not. I hope the festival of fun retains its true elements. I hope if anything has to change, let it be the quality of bad colors or the number of drunken street fights. I hope the colors, the sweets and the harmless fun continues.

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