When I was younger and still living in India, I always heard visitors from abroad talk about how 'colorful' everything seemed in India. Such a statement didn't make much sense to me at that point, but after having lived abroad for more than a decade now, I can see, and appreciate, that sentiment. From the minute you land in India, your eyes are hit by all kinds of hues and colors, and suddenly everything feels so alive and active. Add an Indian wedding to the mix, and you are in rainbow heaven! My recent trip back home last month gave me the privilege to not only soak in the colors and extravaganza of an Indian wedding, but also bear witness to the most colorful of Indian festivals, Holi, that celebrates the arrival of spring. People apply special colors meant for this 'Festival of Colors', specifically 'gulal' or 'rose pink', on each others faces. Of course, the color palette can extend to include reds, yellows, purples, and sometimes even black!
As a kid, playing Holi meant preparing water-filled balloons the previous night, and using them the next morning to throw (read attack) on your friends and neighbors. This was the day you were best friends with your otherwise annoying siblings, as you ganged up on other families around you. It was in fun, of course! The more cautious folks used a water pistol, or 'pitchkari', to spray the others. First the kids would gang up against each other, then when the parents would trickle down later in the day, the kids would gang up against the adults. It was fun to see the typically solemn looking neighborhood 'uncles and aunties' chill out and have fun. Back then, most fathers would not be as playful around their children, and it was a rare treat for us to see our dad being 'fun'.
Unfortunately, as the years went by, so did our interest in the festival. I stopped playing Holi more than 10 years ago, and wasn't excited about it despite the fact that I was in India during this festival. But I didn't account for the excitement of my four-year old, who has never seen something like this in his life! He was hooked to the window sill of my childhood room, watching the kids in my old neighborhood toss color and spray water on each other below. He kept begging me to take him down. I picked up my camera as a shield against potential 'attackers' and took my Arjun down to the playground of color and joy. Arjun didn't have colors or water balloons, but within seconds, one of the girls gave her water pistol to him, and some of the kids carefully applied some color on his cheeks. I thought he might feel shy and run away, but instead, Arjun started squirting the pistol, with disastrous efforts, of course, and followed the kids around for a bit. He was immediately taken in, and watching his innocent, childlike excitement, along with the sounds of laughter around, I was warming up to the atmosphere around me. Where else would I get to see so much 'joie de vivre' on display!! I was completely reminded of my fun times as a kid, and even tried to be a 'fun' adult myself by applying some color on Arjun :)
Hopefully, I can find a way for us to enjoy Holi next year here in the US, because it's definitely one of the fun ways my son can connect to his roots and culture. And hopefully, it will also give him a chance to watch his parents being more fun!
Coming up next.....An Extravagant Indian Wedding....stay tuned.