When you see traffic jams in the middle of the day and congestions that you never want to be stuck in during the evening as they are nothing short of a nightmare…it all leads up to a predictable scenario associated with the National Capital Region and you know that there is a festival round the corner. It would be wise at such times is stay indoors and revel in the delights of a holiday or better still drive out of the city and get away from all the chaos.

With Holi approaching, you know that it’s time to tuck away ‘winter’ in all its forms and shades and say goodbye to those cold grey days. Spring is in the air and the festival brings with it unadulterated joy and laughter, music and dance, lots of fun and the beautiful hues of colour. It’s all about those bright coloured powders, known as ‘Gulal’ that are believed to signify energy, life and joy. This is also a time to indulge in intoxicating drinks and mouth-watering delicacies – don’t we all just love that!

Drive to any part of the country at this time and the hustle-bustle in the markets is infectious. The carts are overflowing with piles of coloured powder with the sellers all insisting they are ‘safe and herbal, including being completely biodegradable, compostable, non-toxic, allergy-free and everything under the sun’… But of course invariably we only get to see the effects the following day. Children can be seen pulling their reluctant parents towards stalls that sell squirts guns – I am astounded by the variety available now and quite technical to boot, water balloons, and other paraphernalia in the quest to ‘drench and colour.’

Holi does conjure up images of colour, gaiety, pure fun and frolic and like any Indian festival add a dash of razzle dazzle to our lives. We mustn’t forget that the festival also signifies the ultimate victory of good over evil and that power lies in truth. There are innumerable legends of course associated with Holi but in the end it all speaks the same language of truth and honesty prevailing and getting rid of evil. Ironically, this message is all the more pertinent in the times we live in where evil and dishonesty lurks in every corner.

Over the years, playing Holi has reduced slowly and steadily for me - there is no particular reason for this but over a time the thrill of playing has ebbed away. Though I do have very good childhood memories associated with the festival. Growing up in army cantonments, there was always a joint celebration with everyone meeting at a central place and the bonhomie and jousting made it all the more special. It was always a day’s event which started with playing Holi and then would be followed by music and dance and a lunch of ‘Beer and Biryani’ and eventually a game of ‘tambola’ till the time it dawned on the parents that the kids needed a desperate scrubbing!

It was all the more exciting for us children as everyone was particularly indulgent and the merry-making and boisterous activities all around generated good vibes and energy. Everyone would be greeted with dry colours which would slowly get messier with water added into it and then the coloured water balloons and squirt guns and buckets of concoctions that you wouldn’t really want to know the ingredients of as words like ‘paint/turpentine/potassium permanganate/boot polish resonated around… All this slowly and steadily leading to people being tossed into pools and drenched under fountains. I distinctly remember the dunking in mud pools as well!

During school and college life the Holi revelry was even messier and lively. I can never forget being bombarded with eggs and more smelly eggs and metallic paint that stuck for days and green and purple hair that would have given a zombie a run for his money. It also used to annoy us immensely that ‘Holi’ always took place right in the middle of our exams and there was nothing we could do about it but stare into our text books remorsefully especially when the dreaded Board exams loomed up on us. One of my most fun memories from college are those intoxicating moments of ‘bhaang pakoras and thandai’ that we experimented and indulged in. I can never forget the results as each one exhibited reactions that were extreme: from non-stop laughter to crying to sadness to general craziness and then slowly crawling back to sanity! Such moments have been recorded for posterity!

While I agree Holi brings us all together and society as one… Strengthening the secular fabric of our country and instilling in us the need to celebrate the spirit of bonhomie and brotherhood… We also need to sit and think about how not to waste and conserve water in these changing times. I understand the need to revitalise and strengthen ties but I also feel that in all this we shouldn’t forget about the environment and the global changes fast catching up on us. That would be the true spirit of the festival.

So whether it is called ‘Rang Panchami’ or ‘Yaosang’ or ‘Lathmar Holi’ or ‘Hola Mohalla’ – it doesn’t matter as the essence behind the festival remains the same.

“Let the colours of Holi spread the message of peace and happiness.”