My relatives who live 10 hours from Delhi had called me up on Tuesday, inviting me over for Holi. I procrastinated till Thursday afternoon, and then tried getting tickets. Unfortunately, it was too late and I couldn't get any; and I was left to spend Holi alone, since both my roommates had also gone home.
When I was small, Holi used to be a yearly nightmare for me. I lived in a colony that was separated by a small distance from a large colony and every Holi a large crowd of people from the other colony would emerge on our grounds and would shout out the names of each and everyone in our colony to come out, with dire threats if any of us tried to stay inside. And everyone who ventured out was inundated with the collective enthu of fifty people. To reduce the overall effect, my entire family would venture out together. Except me, the rest of my family seemed to enjoy it, but it was quite an ordeal for me, and I remember crying on more than one occasion. Slowly, interests waned and as the young crowd left for higher studies and jobs elsewhere, Holi slowly became more of a polite 'gulaal lagao' affair; of middle-aged people sitting in the sun and talking of old times or their children.
In college, Holi was completely different. I don't think colour was much used; people were more interested in drenching each other, and tearing the clothes off (and on one occasion, photographing them thus!). It used to be riotous; one would run from one corridor to another making alliances and fighting with others to bring people out of their rooms; slowly floors and corridors were conquered at the end of which everybody in the hostel was completely drenched. It would end only when all the water in the tank finished, sometime before people could wash off the colour. People carried the colour for days and as I remember today, people would forget temporary differences and come together in this very, for want of a better word, "primal" celebration of youth, because that's what Holi always symbolised to me, a concession by the otherwise straitjacketed conservative society to the youth to go out and go wild.
As we grow older, with more responsibilities and fears and prejudices, one needs such occasions just to be free for once, just to let it go. In the morning, I watched people, of all ages, playing Holi with their near and dear ones and I felt good. Sometimes, the world seems so drab and lonely but then I guess some colour can just do the trick. Soon, I came down too, and put some gulaal, to 1/2 people I knew, and as a kid pointed his pichkari towards me, I shooed him away though later wishing he hadn't done so. It was good.
After some time, as I was going with a friend out for lunch, he looked at the people on the street, multicoloured, and dancing; and made some rude comments. I was feeling so good, I didn't even bother to rebut.
Happy Holi, everyone!