Reading Time: 11 minutesUZMA BEG presents some truly colourful Holi stories
Rang di Basanti!
It was 1997. We were all young and single, living the carefree life of bachelors, always interested in some girl or the other. Whether we got any of those girls or not is a separate story altogether…but interested we were!! Sydney was buzzing with the spirit of Holi among the Indian community. One of us had a huge crush on a girl but had no guts to tell her. So a plan was hatched. Flowers would be given to that girl from her hero on Holi but since The Hero was flat out of courage, a courier would be hired to do so on his behalf. Then The Hero decided he didn’t even have the courage to send flowers via a courier so an alternate plan was hatched. The flowers would now be given to a whole load of other female friends before ending up with the desired girl! However since the budget was low and the other girls were of no interest to The Hero the flowers would be retrieved from them and passed on.
We drove to the first house, the courier rang the bell and announced there was a delivery of flowers for the daughter of so-and-so. The girl in question was summoned and delighted to receive a huge bouquet of gorgeous flowers. The girl was then told to come around to the back of the car to help the courier carry an even bigger bouquet which couldn’t be carried single-handedly. By now the girl was on planet ecstasy!! She couldn’t believe someone in Sydney was so crazy about her. She rushed to the back of the car, the courier conveniently stepped aside…and there we were, waiting with colour filled balloons, colour squirt guns and buckets of freezing cold water!!
The expression on her face was priceless when she was almost drowned in freezing cold water and every imaginable colour smeared all over her by 3 guys yelling and screaming like Red Indians!! She was forced to join the team of pranksters and off we went to attack our next victim. Armed with all the Holi ammunition, the modus operandi was the same but the next victim a lot tougher to crack than the previous innocent one. She accepted the initial bouquet of flowers with a big smile but had to be physically dragged to the car for the grand finale…the soaking!!!
High on luck and awe for our own evil genius minds, we took down victim after victim forcing them to join our gang, till the time came to attack the girl who was the cause of all this…The Heroine!
The Hero got really wobbly in the legs as soon as she came out of her house and was given THE TREATMENT. The disgusting part and the Ohs and Oh Nos over, it was time to retrieve the bouquet from the last victim and hand it over with some kind of filmi dialogue to The Heroine. The clock was ticking and we were all getting fed-up with impatience but The Hero wouldn’t budge. He had made up his mind that he was an eternal loser and nothing and no one could take that title away from him. After what seemed like an eternity of coaxing him to go for it…The Hero gave the bouquet of flowers to The Heroine’s mother!
We have not mentioned the names of any of the girls in this story for fear that they will physically kill us if we do so since they are all respectably married ladies residing in Sydney and for fear of what may happen to us this Holi if we named them. Oh! Also because we are all married too and terrified of our respective spouses!!!
The Hero too shall remain nameless because he has found a different heroine and is living happily ever after.
As told by Deepak, Rahul and Raman.
Bhang and Bhang-ra
The last time I played Holi in India was nearly seventeen years ago. My earliest memory of playing Holi stretches back to my early childhood years, on the lawns of a family friend’s home in Kolkata. It was mainly adults since I must have been about 5 or 6 years old. There was a small tank of water, shaped like a fish, which was very imaginatively called the “fish-pond”. The fish pond was filled with water and spiked with bhang. Initially, the parents and aunts and uncles formed 2 teams and were spraying each other with coloured water from a garden hose. Finally, things took a turn for the sublime when people started throwing each other into the bhang fish-pond. I can’t remember the effects of this because I probably did not recognize the after-effects of bhang. The one thing that I do remember was people breaking into bhang-ra.
From grade 2 – grade 5, Holi was a much-awaited event because I would go and play with my school friends on the roof of their multistorey building. Although the building had just 8 floors, it was the highest in the distant landscape and was undoubtedly filled with many stories. The entire building community – grandfathers, aunts, uncles, kids – would all assemble on the roof and we would go stark-raving bonkers for a few hours. We would hide behind the water tank and empty a bucket full of gulaal-ed water on any hapless soul that entered our territory. Followed, of course, by patting people on the back with a water balloon. Of course, there were the few edgy fellows who would throw water balloons at scooters passing by on the road 8 floors below and then hide. Luckily, their aim was as poor as that of a drunken woodpecker.
Later, I made friends with the kids in my neighbourhood. One of them was a Gujarati. This brought the added perk of celebrating Holi on 2 days because the Gujaratis celebrated the day before we celebrated Holi. My mother would force me to wear the same soiled clothes again because she refused to ruin another set of clothes just because I was adhering to local community traditions.
It is unfortunate that Holi is not played abroad like it is in India. The fun and abandon, the “who cares where you’re from” spirit, and the infusion of colour – these remain with me as fundamental to the tradition of Holi. It’s a day of letting go, and coming back to your community – regardless of region, religion or ramification.
As told by Chetan Roy
Ragged to my chuddies
I was doing my undergrad from NMU University in Maharashtra in 1997. We were the first year goons who were going through perpetual ragging by the seniors … which at the time seemed never-ending but in reality was supposed to last a year.
I distinctly remember it was the festival of Holi. Being a newcomer to the university I was blissfully unaware of any traditions specific to the University with regard to the various festivals celebrated in India. It was a beautiful cloudy day. Romance was in the air. The boys’ and girls’ hostels were 30 metres apart from each other, making it imperative to walk past the girls’ hostel to reach the chai ka dhaba. Dressed in white clothes in anticipation of any colour thrown my way I must say I looked quite handsome walking past the girls’ hostel to get my regular dose of chai.
Of course, I was completely in line with ‘the rules’. We were always supposed to walk with our heads down and never ever look up or make any sort of eye contact with anyone least of all seniors. It was called the third button rule – we were meant to walk around staring at the third button on our shirts which is exactly what I was doing when the attack came!
Five seniors jumped me right in front of the girls’ hostel and to my utmost horror tore all my lovely white clothes off!! I was standing NAKED in front of a whole crowd of girls who were gaping and giggling at me. In a complete state of shock and utter humiliation I looked down to see if there was anything covering my modesty! Thank god – my underwear was still on. With this new revelation I realized that all was not lost and I could still make a dash for dignity. So I ran like I had never run before, my destination the boys’ hostel, to regain my lost pride.
I couldn’t believe I was rushing around in my underwear on Holi, in a university full of pretty girls, not knowing that the tradition was to tear off all form of clothing off the first year students on this festival!!!
As told by Rajneesh Kapoor
Pigs can fly on Holi … they can swim too!
This incident happened quite a few years ago in Mumbai. The occasion was Holi and there were loads of participants from the immediate family and friends. Everyone was eager to go the extra mile in the spirit of Holi. My chacha (paternal uncle) decided to break all records of bhang consumption. During all the colour smearing we realized that Chachu was all hands where the ladies were concerned, in fact too many hands … if you know what I mean! My father got quite concerned by his behaviour because the ladies’ husbands and brothers were showing growing concern and maybe a little temper as well!! Dad decided to force my chacha to retreat to the house. I guess that was a daunting task only dad could have accomplished! Chacha wasn’t going in without a fight … he was having too much fun with the ladies!!
Once inside, my dad and other uncles managed to put him on the bed. He was behaving in the most peculiar way. At first he started acting as if he was swimming in water! Then he said his bed was flying! Five minutes later he started yelling that he was flying…and pleaded for us to hold him down lest he went through the roof! This odd behaviour continued for quite a while … chacha seemed filled with some strange kind of energy and strength to FLY!!!
Finally it was decided he should be taken to the hospital. At the hospital there was more flying and swimming! I remember being very young but not young enough to not care. I was embarrassed to death. An elderly lady even suggested that he might be possessed by demons. Someone said he might be having an epileptic fit and a shoe should be put to his nose. Suggestions were flying from every direction when Chacha made a dash for the door and literally FLEW out on the street.
Out on the street without the family to protect him, he got arrested. He was charged for being under the influence of narcotics and indecent exposure!
As told by Gaurav Chopra
A Holi dip in the Ganges
I can never forget the Holi of 1996. I was newly married and revelling in the new found freedom from my parents. My husband Bonnie was an exciting guy who was up for just about anything in the spirit of fun! Both Bonnie and I along with a huge gang of friends decided to venture off to Rishikesh in U.P. We had a riot on Holi…threw a lot of colour on each other, played pranks and consumed dangerous doses of bhang.
Someone suggested how awesome it would be to go River Rafting in the Ganges. Everyone agreed it was a great idea. Off we all went dancing and singing, falling all over each other in giggly fits to organise our river rafting trip. The raft organised, we all jumped on it and off we went on this crazy adventure which at the time seemed so cool in our minds! Half of us were wearing life jackets and the other half hadn’t even bothered to do that!
At some point the raft over turned and we all found ourselves in cold water. Some of us didn’t even know how to swim! Thankfully those who couldn’t swim were wearing life jackets. The few who were wearing life jackets got very busy saving those who weren’t PLUS those who couldn’t swim! The bhang wore off in a matter of minutes. Realisation dawned that we were in River Ganges fighting for our lives!
By some miracle, and other sober boatmen around, we were all taken safely back to shore. We all came out of the experience with minor injuries and a huge allergy to bhang.
As told by Shruti Malik
My best Holi has been with my sister Karina and friends from Chubby Cheeks Play Group in Mumbai, India. I remember that day we went to Lokhandvala Gardens to burn Holika. We had to wear not-so-new clothes and we walked in a group from our centre. There my friends and teachers made a circle around the fire and we sang and sang and got very tired. Karina was missing from that circle and when we went to look for her she was sitting right next to a big table full of different colours for Holi. Red, blue, green, yellow and so many more. They looked like little mountains decorated on a plate. We all took some colour in our hands and put some on each other and wished everyone happy Holi. Not Karina. She thought it was red chilli powder and so when someone would come to put colour on her she would run far away. She kept saying I don’t want to play with lal mirchi … you must put it in food, not on your face!
Our teachers gave us small pichkaris in which we filled water. I kept chasing the pigeons with that. We screamed “Holi Hai” and had a fun day. Too soon it was time to go home. By now even Karina was chasing her friends with her pichkari and she was covered with many colours but not red. That is one Holi I can never forget – I wish I can go back to India someday to celebrate it with my friends.
As told by Karan Vasudevan
Holi, Raj Kapoor style
My best memories of Holi are about a movie Holi Aayee Re, which has precious little to do with Holi. It was a cousin’s wedding at Deogarh in the state of Gujarat. Deogarh is surrounded by the dense forest of Daang and the local aborigines called Bhil.
At the wedding I hardly noticed a beautiful Bhil girl who spent many moments floating around me. My cousin had told her stories about me and she was almost looking forward to meet me – a fact my cousin later accounted in full. For the girl, it was love at first sight, I was told, but as a teenage boy I found the whole thing somewhat amusing and too hot to handle. Over the next few days, as the marriage events unfolded one after the other, we got acquainted and I missed no opportunity to impress her, as city boys would do, when they visit the country. The girl was often in a group and acted like a prima donna. In private moments though, she would just give up the pretence of being hard to get and work her charms on me, in the hope of landing herself a future partner, saving her poor family hoards of troubles later. My cousin, who was more cluey about matters of love then I was at the time, arranged for us to go to the only theatre in town. The family, of course, were told we were going to the temple. So while we were supposedly at aakhyan (spiritual discourse), we were actually at the movie Holi Aayee Re! The Bhil beauty was carefully seated next to me and as scenes of Holi went through the movie, I thought she was disappointed I was not feeling romantic enough. (I was more interested on the comedy in the film by Mehmood and Rajendra Nath).
Suffice it to say that I understood why a tiger cub does not know what to do with a quarry. This is clearly an area where I could do with lessons in real life. Enter Raj Kapoor. I had thought he was always a sad loser, until I saw a photo of him in ChitraLekha. Bare bodied in shorts, as he held Nargis in his arms, clad in her swimming costume, he appeared neither sad nor a loser. The occasion was Holi, the place was a specially made Hauj (an overground shallow pool) in front of the famous RK Studios, and Raj Kapoor’s quarry for the day included a bunch of his celebrity heroines including Nutan, Nargis, Vaijayanti, and Hema! The water was all red and orange and all the quarries dressed in white! One can imagine the riot of colour and frolic that followed, as he would carry and dump heroine after heroine in the pool in a Holi celebration that lasted for two days! Now that is when you sing with joy, Holi Aayee Re!
Over the years, I grew up to see many Holis. Our cities shut down for this festival. Crowds rush around with faces barely recognisable behinds streaks of green and purple, red and yellow. The dresses, which start with one colour, are quickly soaked in so many different colours, the tone turns to black before long. The addition of chemicals and oil paints has done more harm than good to Holi. When it ends, the oil paints are hard to remove and chemicals have done lasting damage to many beautiful faces. In another development, vehicles are stopped to collect free Holi donations and this happens at every major cross road, making it impossible to travel during Holi without a risk of yourself and your vehicle getting spray painted every now and then. This is not what Holi was meant to be! The scene of Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha in Rang Barse (film Silsila) was a good demonstration of what colours to use in Holi, if not who to play Holi with and why not to cross one’s limits. Delhi is particularly notorious for strangers inappropriately touching young girls on the occasion of Holi and this has not done Holi any good. It is time to bring back the old values into Holi – the riot of colour, the coloured water, the water pistols (pichkari), the Raj Kapoor style Hauj. Now that is fun. All said and done, I think we have lot to learn still from the master of this art, Raj Kapoor!
As told by Dilip Jadeja
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