Sunny Somani in Bangalore, India

That's Holi for You

We've all seen kids color elephants red, color the sky pink, and color water yellow. Such iconoclastic color schemes are usually the results of lack of adequate colors or indifference to compliance with nature. But have you ever seen grown-up folks color each other red, blue, black, silver, green, and pink? Or pour colored water on everyone that happens to come his or her way? Or fire streams of colored water at friends, family, and neighbors? That's holi for you! It's a festival of colors that paints the whole of India in the last week of March. A festival where everyone gladly gets themselves colored, when kids fill balloons with colored water and practice their aims at all kinds of targets, when the whole family gets together and enjoys thandai (a drink composed of milk, almonds, saffron, etc.), and when most of India is out there in the streets, I'm comfortably decked up in my bathroom.

When I was 3 years old, I visited a relative of mine with my parents. The visit was on the same day as holi. Now, while I sat in grandpa's lap, my dad was out being colored beyond recognition. Being a firm devotee of my dad, I waged my first war of independence to try and get to his rescue, but enemy forces overpowered me and I helplessly watched red, pink, green, black, and what-have-you color the biosphere!

When Dad made his way out of the color circus, I celebrated by crying for the next three hours! Turns out, I was so shocked (probably by the fact that Dad's color scheme looked much like a drawing in my jumbo coloring book) that I had to be taken inside a room and wouldn't see anyone except Mom for quite a long time!

I took this event in my stride, but as a side effect, I kept away from holi for the next 17 years.

Every year on the eve of holi, my cousins would come down to my home and sleep in my room. "Why?" did you ask? It gives immense pleasure to people who play holi to color people who don't. Maybe it's their sense of egalitarianism, maybe they don't want others to miss out on the colorful part of life...

Not to be outdone, every year I'd wake up before everyone else, get a book, a towel, some food, and a nice pillow and set up camp in the bathroom. A bathroom's a wonderful creation of man. You're allowed to enjoy solitude, ponder on the events going on in the world, think about the last cricket match between Sussex and Middlesex, imagine intelligent life existing elsewhere in the universe, play Snake on your Nokia till you're able to beat your previous highest, and think up a strategy on how you'd approach your latest crush only to discard it five minutes later in favor of another strategy that'd also have a five-minute shelf life.

And, of course, it's home . My cousins could bang the door for all they were worth, and I'd peacefully count the seconds there before Mom would shoo all the color-terrorists away.

Things changed last year. Under popular demand, I buckled.

Well, I reckoned it wouldn't hurt anyone to try out holi once. I announced to one and all that I'd be home to play holi -- and not just with myself in the bathroom. How did everyone respond? Not a single soul turned up to color me, and I was left sleeping till it was almost noon. (Maybe I should have tried this trick earlier.)

My elder brother turned up to do the honors. And how! The thing about using colors is that you're supposed to oil yourself before you start so that it'd be easy to wash away the color when you have a bath. Bro, well, he finished off two cases of pink on me, and no points for guessing that he didn't allow me to oil myself.

Getting colored was no fun at all. It went in my eyes, making me look like a red-eyed maniac. It went in my mouth, making me go thoo thoo thoo for hours. And it pervaded my scalp, turning the dandruff on my head pink!

I'm done with holi. To hell with color and to hell with color fests. Back to the bathroom next year.

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