Today we celebrate Holi, the festival of colours. Actually we don’t! Holi is not the festival of colours. The day after Holi, which is called Rangpanchami is the festival of colours. Holi has a mythological story associated with it.

When Hiranyakashyapu, a demon planned to burn his own son, who was a Vishnu devotee with the help of another demon Holika, it is said that Lord Vishnu saved his devotee from Holika & from that day forward the day is celebrated as Holi. Today on this day, bales of hay are burned along with dung cakes & other things. It is a symbol of the burning of evil tendencies in this universe. The day after this is celebrated as Rangpanchami. It is said that Lord Krishna played Rangapanchami with his friends & the gopikas of Gokul when he was a child. Rumour has it that even today in the Krishna temple at Vrindavan, people leave behind pots filled with colour in the temple gardens on this day & in the morning they find the colours spread all over the gardens.

While I no longer play holi for various reasons I cannot help but remember my childhood when I used to play in my building with my friends. Preparations began a few days earlier when we would go out & buy colours & pichkaris (water pistols). In our childhood children rarely played with pucca colours. The night before Rangpanchami we would fill balloons with water, sometimes coloured, sometimes plain. The balloons would be ready for the morning.

Rangpanchami was one day when no mother insisted that their children have a bath before going out to play. It was also the day when children happily wore the oldest clothes they had. I would quickly put on old clothes & rush down to meet my friends. We would apply colours on each other & throw water balloons. The balloons always used to hit us with a loud splat which would hurt us tomorrow, but today, it was great fun & all of us enjoyed.

The next part of the fun was when parents would throw buckets of water on us from our homes. It was too much fun to be drenched in the falling water. We would fight with each other to get the most of the falling water. Exhausted after hours of playing we would retreat to the building staircase & sing songs. A popular “holi” activity while doing this was to bite the remaining water balloons. Now you could not bite the balloon too much or else they will just burst. The nip has to be perfect so a steady trickle of water pours out. Apply a little pressure on the balloon & the balloon will act like a pichkari which you can aim at other’s faces. This tickles them & you can giggle like idiots. Such silly yet simple were the joys of my childhood.

Finally parents had to step in & drag the children back home for a thorough wash. The colours would come off after a lot of rubbing & the celebration would finally end. While some of my friends continued bombarding poor people on the street with water balloons this was strictly prohibited at my place. My grandpa said that throwing balloons at people on the streets is risky & can even injure someone.

Today I do not celebrate Holi. My friends have moved away as have I, we are no longer children, we are worried about colours harming our skin, we are worried about wasting water when millions are dying without water to drink. Today all that remains of Holi are memories & they are so colourful that they are just enough to last a lifetime.