When she was 7
Moni had got ready in an old worn out frock, the one that she invariably slipped into after returning from school every day until one day Maa said, “You are wearing the white and black polka dot dress one last time on Holi, after which it will be discarded.”
The pain of parting with her favourite dress had not deterred her spirits though. There were too many things to look forward to that day. She had convinced Papa to buy her the biggest pichkari in the shop which was a 3 piece water-gun. Moni had been practising by filling it up with water and aiming at random objects in the house all week, much to everybody’s annoyance.
Finally, all the practising was to pay off. It was Holi!! Visitors had started pouring in. As she started flaunting her gun pichkari, aiming for her favourite cousin Sid Bhaiya, she was surprised that none of the other cousins had pichkaris. She was hoping to become a star by having the most fancy pichkari, not by being the only who had one!
Where is your pichkari, Bhaiya?
Pichkari? Small kids play with pichkari. I am playing with the growns-ups this time!
I am coming, Bhaiya, wait! I don’t play with pichkaris either! She dumped the gun and followed her cousin.
There were so many random people playing Holi at her house today! Seemed the whole town was here. The domestic helper Shambhu was filling up buckets from the handpump and adding colors to it. The eldest cousins were drenching each other directly from the pipes. Some silly kids were throwing water balloons at strangers from the roofs. By the end of the day, Moni looked at herself in the mirror, satisfied – She was a mix of red, green, yellow and blue from head to toe.
While the teachers narrated the legend of Hiranyakashyap, Holika and Prahlad to the students in school, the children seemed to be interested in creating legends of their own. The day after Holi in school used to be a testimony of who had more fun. Even though mothers struggled to scrub off colors off their children, some color still remained – behind the ears, on the neck, elbow.
Moni always took pride in being colorful till a week after Holi and the only girl in class who gave her competition was Aditi. But this time Aditi had played too much Holi and had fever. Moni was by far the dirtiest child in class, and the teacher wrote a note in her diary – asking her mother to have her cleaned up properly.
Moni did not give much thought to the moral of the story that she was taught year after year. Prahlad, the principled and righteous man that he was, would survive, and all attempts to destroy him by the evil king, Hiranyakashyap and Holika would become futile. Obviously, the victory of good would prevail over evil. It made sense, and it should be that way. She religiously believed what was taught in school..
Festivals were a time of immense excitement and happiness..
When she was 14
It was 11 am and visitors had started pouring in. Moni was annoyed. She did not understand why people still celebrate these silly festivals. She looked at herself in the mirror. This was the third pimple in five days. Her mother was calling her, the Holi special delicacies she prepared every year were ready. Moni had been thinking about food all morning. Not because she wanted to have it all, but because she could not! She was on a diet. She has been putting on weight consistently and had not been able to reduce any of it. Plus the pimples. Aghh! She must be the ugliest teenager in the world!
As she politely greeted the guests, a very excited Sharma aunty reached out to put abeer on her cheek.
Aunty, sorry I am allergic to colors, it’s not good for my skin, she held Sharma Aunty’s hand.
Just one dot Beta, nothing will happen!
Moni went to the washroom immediately to wash off the color.
Hope I don’t get any more pimples..
Festivals were a time she preferred to hide herself…
When she was 21
Moni updated her status on a social networking site on Ganesh Chaturthi:
Join me in the campaign for biodegradable idols for an environment friendly Eco Ganesha 2010!
Her status on Diwali read:
Say no to crackers. Let us come together to celebrate a pollution free Diwali this year!
And finally today:
Happy Holi to all my friends! Save water this Holi. Let nature keep playing its Holi forever on our earth.
Festivals should not give an excuse to people to behave irresponsibly.
Festivals were a time when Moni had a mission and a cause to support..
When she was 28
Moni checked her office calendar and booked tickets to go home for Holi. What did Holi mean to her?
A holiday! Getting a week off from work. Staying with mom and dad care free. Sleeping through the morning. Not having to get up to go to work. Not even to answer the door for the maid! And to go back to sleep during the afternoon. Maa would cook her favourite dishes.
One week away from away from takeaway foods, the daily responsibilities, the stress of work. From people not so genuine and true, from everything about the grown-up life as she knew it.
Festivals had a different meaning altogether now. It was a time spent and cherished with family. Being home was all that mattered. And to reflect on life since last Holi..
She thought of the story about the legend of Holi that she had heard all her life. The victory of good over evil. Did that really happen? Did good things always happen to good people? Did bad people necessarily suffer for their bad deeds? The reality and unfairness of life made her wonder otherwise…
The festivities remained the same. But the way she looked at them had changed over the years. So did her priorities and the meaning she sought from life..
But today, she wanted to be the 7 year old again, who believed in being good and the goodness of life no matter what. Unaffected by what was going around her – happy in her spirit.
She once again started believing that that the colors of this festival would indeed bring her a lot of happiness and joy.
And so it did…