Last night there was the sound of dholaks. The preparations for Holi were on. I have not played Holi for years now.
My first memory is of filling a condom with water. My friend's parents were doctors so there was a huge stock of Nirodh, and when both were out we would take a few, go to the bathroom and sneak it up the tap to fill it. We did not know it had 'negative' connotations.
Then of course the night prior to the occasion we would all fill colour balloons and keep them ready in buckets.
Sattar was Mrs. M's driver, and he did everything but drive. He was the odd-job man for almost everyone in the building. He would sit with this Punjabi family, mostly the women, and chat for hours. And he doted on all kids.
There was no way I would have ever gone to the Mahim urs had it not been for Sattar. The Mahim urs was considered pretty downmarket and too miya type for the family. I went once and we did the joy rides and instead of candyfloss, here we got to eat the famed Mahim ka halwa that looks like ice cubes (not the club variety, the old barafwalla sort transported in gunny bags!).
For Holi, it was mandatory to pretend that we were afraid/shy. And then the others would knock at the door and throw gulal -- it just seemed a better idea to get out of the house and join in.
Of course, the elders in the family kept a watch from the balcony to see just how wet was okay. It is another matter that one was fortified with a few layers of clothing...
I am not sure when I decided to stop. Was it the loss of innocence that forced such a decision?
Once Sheila and I were taking our usual stroll through one of the lanes. A balloon filled with water and some dry cement shavings hit me real hard on the chest. That memory is so indelible because I clearly recall what I was wearing -- a peach-coloured cheese cotton blouse with embroidery near the neck.
I had lost my balance and Sheila had grasped me by the arm while looking up towards the buildings flanking the street to see who the culprit was.
We were in our teens and although we had tremendous lung power, I just felt ashamed. ashamed at the blotch that clung to the contours of parts of me I had then wanted to deny having. Like all 13-14-year-olds, the budding body brought with it a bit of trepidation. One would be entering a new world, but...
It was the 'buts' that ruled.
It was probably then that I started romanticising about most things, and Holi was no exception.
I read an article recently about the festival celebrated in Hindi films and how the mandatory scene often included a widow being besmirched. Such deja vu!
This was my fantasy. To be some woe-begone widow with a knight throwing red gulal that strategically landed in the parting of my hair. The only thing that kept this fantasy short-lived was that these widows were invariably 'pure'. In my mind, despite the knight, they seemed to choose to live alone and die alone.
What would happen to my other fantasy of not dying a virgin?
- - -
After the stunning appeal of black and white, as I talk about colours today, I am suitably amused when I read about the influence of these shades on us.
I do like certain things more in some colours...
I like yellow roses (only yellow roses), very light blue walls, dark blue curtains, mahogany panels, fawn-coloured work area, brown/tan shoes and bags, pink dupattas (very flattering to certain skin types), olive green beads to complement a lemon green dress, red semi-precious stones set in silver...and I have a red laptop case too (!), lavendar nail-polish and wine-coloured lipstick (not together, of course).
And I often choose the colours of my rainbow. It depends on whether I look at it in a sky that is clear or crowded with clouds or if I see its reflection in the water, or a mirror held against the light.
It is possible to see what one wishes to...
"Teri aankhoun ke siva duniya mein rakha kya hai
Yeh uthey subah chaley, yeh jhukey shaam dhaley
Mera jeena, mera marna, inheen palkon ke taley"