Holi – The Festival Of Vibrant Colors
Holi is an Indian festival synonymous with colors and the spirit of Joie De vivre, a festival that transcends social barriers and everyone, rich and poor, young and old come together to celebrate the sheer joy of living.
This festival is one of the most important of the numerous festivals of India and is predominantly celebrated in the northern and western parts of the country.
If you thought that this post is all about Holi, then you are mistaken, it is more about how I got high on Holi, some years back. Of course the setting is the Holi festival and here are the gory details!
I woke up one fine morning in the western city of Ahmedabad to the loud and rhythmic beats of drums outside my house. I peeped out of my bedroom window through a gap in the curtains and saw a motley crowd outside, dancing and singing to the drum beats. I could barely recognize them as my friends as they were all covered in different colors, their faces smeared in Gulal, a colored powder which is used to smear each other during the Holi festival.
I quickly pulled the curtains closed tightly as the beats of the drum reached a crescendo and the crowd outside was clearly shouting for me to go out and join them. I looked around me, my family members just shrugged their shoulders, their gesture saying louder than words, “They are your friends, go out and face them!”
I looked around, and not seeing support from any quarter, I made my way outside.
Loud cheers and shrieks enveloped me and so did a deluge of colored water and soon I became one of them, totally unrecognizable, masked under layers of Gulal, clothes a myriad of colors.
I joined in the revelry as we danced and sang our way through the neighborhood, the size of the group swelling as we visited house after house. We were welcomed and treated to sweets and savories in many of these houses.
And here is where the plot thickens.
Our exuberant group was now at a house whose inhabitants I did not know, a young boy brought out a platter filled to the brim with delicious looking Laddus, an Indian sweet.
He passed around the sweets, I had one, it tasted heavenly and I had one more. Soon the platter was empty but for one lone Laddu. My hand of its own volition quickly moved forward and the the last of the laddus disappeared into the caverns of my mouth. I should have been forewarned by some of the glances of the people around me, but I failed to notice them, given the kind of mood we were all in.
And so onward we went from house to house, dancing, singing, clutching balloons filled with colored water and throwing them at each other.
I felt a strange liberation, a joy, an ecstasy I could not fathom. By nature, I am not the type who would dance or sing , throwing all inhibitions to the wind, on the streets of Ahmedabad, but that is exactly what I was doing with gay abandon.
For some unfathomable reason the spirit of Stevie Wonder seemed to have taken over me as I kept singing, “I just called to say I love you” at each and every house we went to and to each and every person we met on the way!
It was late in the afternoon and slowly our group, now subdued and tired, started dispersing. I too made my way home.
I rang the front door bell and my mom opened the door, “Is the revelry over?”, she asked.
I giggled and sang, “I just called to say I love you”
She looked quizzically at me, but I did not notice, I went right in, still singing, “I just called to say I love you”.
It must have been around midnight, we had finished our dinner and had retired to bed. I was in my room, still under the unyielding grasp of the spirit of Stevie Wonder. I seemed to have lost all sense of time. Suddenly I was wide awake and I got out of my bed, or rather I attempted to, because as I kept both my feet on the floor to get out of the bed, I felt no ground beneath me, I looked down and the floor was way, way down, I stretched my legs trying to reach it, but to no avail, it was as if by some strange magic, my bed was suspended on the ceiling and I could not reach the floor. Somehow I managed to stretch my legs gingerly and I climbed down from the ceiling onto the floor.
It was then that I realized what had woken me up at midnight, a strange burning sensation enveloped my head, waves and waves of heat were traversing through my brain. I walked or rather floated to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, took out a bottle of cold water and simply poured it over my head!
A strange and eerie silence exploded in my ears, suddenly, I felt as if the world had gone silent, I walked towards the front door and opened it, a blast of cold air hit me. In the distance I could see some trucks moving on the road, but strangely they were moving silently, I looked up at the trees, they were fluttering in the breeze, but again silently!
I closed the door and walked back in feeling strangely uncomfortable. I thought I would wake the others in the house and tell them that something was wrong with me. I walked to my parents room, knocked and opened the door.
I stared incredulously at an empty bed, I checked the other rooms with the same result.
Where had everyone gone!
I sank back into the sanctuary of my bed. Again, I felt weightless and was floating in the air. I saw my body lying in bed, while I was floating above it. One moment I was flying up, up and high and the next moment I was hurtling down a bottomless blackhole. It was a strange sensation, one part of my mind was thinking,” I am dying”, the other part of my mind was calmly saying to itself, “this is how death is, I will remember this experience, so that I can narrate it to others”!
After what seemed like an eternity, my disembodied mind, saw my body once again float down to the floor and make its way back to my parents’ room, clutching the wall, all the time, like Neil Armstrong moon-walking.
Lo & behold! I saw them now, they had been there all the time, it was my mind which was playing tricks on me.
I called out loudly to them, afraid that they were far away and my voice would not carry to them.
They got up, alarmed and concerned. They realized something was amiss by looking at me.
Soon the entire household was up, I lay on a bed, clasping my dad’s hand, afraid that if I left it, I would float away, with the other hand I gripped the bed with a vice like grip.
I really thought, I was dying.
Someone had called the family doctor, who soon arrived. He examined me, with a look of professional concern.
Apparently he was not able to conclude what was wrong with me and had a worried look on his face.
“From when is he like this”,? he asked.
“I guess, since he came back after the Holi revelries, he has been acting strangely”, replied my mother.
For some reason, these words erased the worry lines from the Doctor’s forehead, he smiled and said:
“Did he eat or drink anything from outside”?
“He ate three Bhang Laddus”, this statement came from one of my friends who stayed nearby and who was instrumental in getting the Doctor to our house.
These words seemed to have a magical effect on the Doctor, the concern and worry of a few moments back were gone, instead, he laughed and leaned back in his chair.
Bhang! he repeated the word and laughed. But soon he regained his professional composure and told my Mom, give him some lime juice or tamarind juice. This will flush out the Bhang. But mind you, he will have a hangover which may last a couple of days also.
He then addressed everyone and said: “Please be careful if and when you are partaking Bhang, do not partake of it from strangers, if it is too strong, there are chances it can have an adverse affect!. Thankfully, in this case it is not that strong”.
He picked up his bag, looked at me, smiled and humming under his breath, “I just called to say I love you”, he left the house.
I was back to normal in a day, but I can never forget that Holi day when a teetotaler like me was totally stoned and thought he had died!
Click here to read how Janet of Journalist On The Run enjoyed Holi, the festival of colors with kids from HOPE foundation in Kolkata.
Have you played Holi, the festival of colors or have been part of this festival? Did you like this article? If yes, then you might want to check out our posts on other vibrant festivals of India:
Would love to know your thoughts.