Tuesday 14 March 2017

Holi springs colour

Photo Courtesy: Google Images
Flowers of Jungle flame aka Tesu ke phool

I love colour. Therefore, I love Holi. It's my favourite festival. As a child, drenched in the innocence of small town India, I played Holi with abandon, gulaal (colour) and dhamaal (utter madness).

Gujjia (stuffed and sweet pastry) and pichkaaris (water pistols) and Tesu ke phool (flowers of Jungle flame) occupied my thoughts and senses for days leading  up to Holi.

My sister, brother and I, along with half a dozen kids from our neighbourhood, would fill water balloons -- their rubbery necks stretched around the spout of a tap attached to a tank or any tap that was free to use. It didn't matter whose house we were in. Almost organically, a band of bandits would form. I remember, as a seven year old, I would hang out with teenagers and toddlers and our jhund (band) of mismatched heights and ages would behave like one organism, safe in numbers, with only one goal in mind: to play Holi. Angry aunties whose water supply would be in serious danger of running dry couldn't dampen our enthusiastic balloon filling quest one bit. The entire mohalla (neighbourhood) tuned into a giant aangan (courtyard) filled with multi-coloured faces, white kurta pyjamas and shrieking kids.

70's turned into 80's in Dehradun. Economic progress came wrapped up in plastic. Metal pichkaaris which worked perfectly well were replaced by plastic ones which looked better than they worked. The effect was never the same. The plastic water pistols squirted a frustratingly feeble trickle compared to the roaring jet of the metal ones. The shiny plastic button that one had to press hard to release the jet of water would break within the first hour of purchase. We would then use the fiddly things as mere holders of coloured water and unscrew the top or the bottom to tip the water over friends/foes to play Holi.

The novelty of these toys would wear out quite quickly and in the excitement of all the colour that had yet to be smothered, the poor plastic pistols would lie orphaned and abandoned in some neighbour's garden or worse, in a naali (open drain) somewhere. Until, of course, the mothers and fathers yelled at the children to go look for such an expensive purchase. They would, sometimes softly and often hysterically loudly, explain to you in front of the entire mohalla (neighbourhood) that it was your fault this cheap contraption had been bought in the first place and that it was you who had pestered them to get it by saying your Holi would be incomplete without it. Before long, the neighbourhood would split into us (the children) and them (the parents). Long after we, the children, had forgotten the yelling, heads of parents would be seen shaking to each other to the tune of, "Yeh aajkal ke bachhe...paise ki kadra nahin jaante." Kids these days don't know the value of money.

Collective and public telling off would be followed by 'discipline' in the privacy of homes, after dinner and before bedtime, when the probability of a neighbour dropping in unannounced was almost zero: a bit of ear twisting or a serious sounding threat to never buy you another toy for as long as you live or a stinging slap or anything that was seen as appropriate punishment by the respective parent. It all depended on how strict or kind your parents were.

Don't worry, neither the children nor the parents will remember this next year and the entire episode described above will get repeated, only the plastic pistols will change as those would've been bought new, you see.

Back to the actual Holi -- so when all the blubbery balloon missiles had been used up and almost all the powder colour lay plastered on us or the streets, and none of the pichkaaris co-operated anymorewe'd  resort to the 'balti ka paani'...the murky water in the communal bucket where everyone and their khandaan (extended family) had mixed their colour to fill up their pichkaaris and gubbare (water balloons).

We knew instinctively that once this 'balti ka paani' was over, our mothers would call us  back in to get cleaned up and become human again. In other words, Holi would be shown its 'THE END' slide as soon as the 'balti ka paani'  finished. Magically, the bucket never emptied.

"Bunty, enough! Come in NOW!" some neighbour would call out to her son/daughter.

"Abhi balti ka paani khatam nahin hua Mummy!" The bucket is not yet empty Mum!

Dehradun lost its innocence almost as soon as I turned twelve. Suddenly. Holi came with its own instruction manual. Do this, Don't do this. Go there, but not there. Don't mix with those people. Avoid boys at all costs if they were not from your family or neighbourhood.

For the first time, I was warned to look beyond the vibrant haze of Holi ke rang (colours) and take notice of the filth that may linger in the minds of humans dressed in pure white kurta pyjamas wearing colourful smiles.

Words like chhedd-chhadd (eve- teasing) and sexual harassment cropped up like weeds and took root, deep and damaging.

Back then, the burden of growing up was gifted exclusively to girls, innocently wrapped up in tameez (etiquette) and sanskaar (values)

 "Girls should play Holi sensibly beta... Mundya da ki hai (What of boys?)"

This rhetorical question bothered me! What of boys? Why were they never asked to be careful when they turned twelve? What made them different?

Hormones, tameez (etiquette) and riwaaz (traditions) muted the colours of Holi and for a good many years I played the censored version, called insanon wali Holi (the way humans play Holi). It wasn't bad but the rebel in me would look at all the gangs of boys hanging out on the chaurahas (intersections) without any curfews or restrictions and wonder why?

When I got married, my license to play 'jhallon wali Holi' (mad aka fun Holi) was renewed. My husband became my bodyguard and I'd go and play with abandon and dance like Amitabh Bachchan till my feet hurt and still carry on. My husband would hold his glass of thandai or beer and stand near me, not too close but close enough (he's not so keen on dancing). This way I'd be able to have my fun and not get hassled by eager or drunk revelers! Perfect!

The fact that I need a man (my husband) to feel safe among other men when playing Holi says a lot about this land of  Shakti and Kali and Rani Laxmibai and Sita and Meera and Durga.

Although I miss my bhachpan ki (childhood) Holi, to tell you the truth, these days I don't need balloons or colour or pichkaari or thandai to feel its abundant joy. Grateful to be alive, I like to relish the gift of a new day when I open my eyes in the morning to witness another day unfold, another flower bloom, another blade of grass kiss drops of dew, listen to birds sing a new tune or even an old one, watch the sky fold its cover of day and spread the sheets of night, speckled with stars. Everyday is a celebration of colour.

Every now and then, I do get sidetracked by the mundane busyness of the day to day ('functioning as a human' as my yoga teacher calls it) and then some unknown force makes me click on Sadhguru's video and I hear him say how one must smile when one gets up in the morning for it's a precious gift, this life we live.

"Notice the things that you are drawn to." says Anusha when we, her students, look up to her in wide eyed wonderment and some sprinkling of doubt on our quest to find who the real 'us' is.

I pay closer attention to my day. Paying attention brings up even more to be grateful for and even more to be joyful about. Holi no longer comes in a plastic packet of synthetic colour.

Spring sprinkles his colours and shows me the way. I follow with a smile.

Come and feast your eyes on the colours that a patch of green has yielded this spring. It doesn't get more blissful than this:)

Group shot:Onion, neem, cabbage, cualiflower, spinach, fenugreek, mulberry, basil and papaya
Ripe mulberry (almost ready to eat) Shehtoot
 Waiting their turn...the young ones.
Baingan ka phool aka Eggplant Flower
This shiny gem was made into a yummy baingan aaloo ki sabzi by my mother-in-law today.
Velvet and butter...the pretty pansies.
Blooming onion
Tomato flower
and tomatoes
Problem in paradise!
These two are not on talking terms: each waiting for the other to say 'sorry' first!
Yup..they're a couple.
I'm not sure what these flowers are called. I've always referred to them as local larkspurs.
I bought this sapling from a local nursery because I like the shape and colour of the leaves. 
Please enlighten me with its name, if you know this shrub.
Wabi Sabi
 Newly born neem leaves tickling the fluffy sky. 
Purple Basil in fragrant bloom
 Aparajita or Butterfly pea

Lit up and lighting up -- I love sunflowers:)

May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day. May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free. May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
— Thich Nhat Hanh

Thank you Archana for posting this beautiful quote.
One LAST offering: A ghazal written by Faiz 
sung by Tanya Wells.
Thanks Anu for sharing this gem.