“Memories of childhood were the dreams that stayed with you after you woke.”
– Julian Barnes
My childhood memories are like a drawer full of goodies. Every time I feel morose, I just slide my hand inside the drawer and a warm memory simply melts my heart. Each moment brings with it a mixed bag of emotions feeling like a roller coaster ride.
Spring arrived in Roorkee like a long awaited prince on a chariot of five horses. Bright red Gulmohar magnificently contrasting with warm yellow Amaltas flowers that even after leaving the tree created a floral pathway which made everyone feel special. The air brought a tinge of humidity from the Ganges canal making the feel absolutely special. The cuckoo bird brought home the letter from heaven that Holi was around the corner.
Holi is a community festival and marks the arrival of spring. But the people in Roorkee didn’t even wait for a festival to show that they were a well knit community. They were together through good times and not so good ones.
The holi celebrations in our colony initiated with the holika dahan in the large ground opposite the mandir. The spirit of the festival was impeccable. Kids did not wait for the morning for having fun with colors. It started as soon as the holika dahan was over. Elders stayed in the ground meeting and greeting each other while for us kids, the festival had already started. The night between the puja and celebration felt like eternity and we never had the patience.
The day of the festival started with everyone congregating in the same park where the holika puja took place the day before. There were folk songs being sung live that matched perfectly with the scintillating sound of the dholak and the chenna. The iconic “Rang barse” song or the trendsetting number “Holiya mein udde re gulal” never sounded better than in that setup. Movie songs based on holi as well as the other folk songs so majestically shifted everyone into an altogether different realm.
From there, everyone started visiting and greeting each other. The celebration in each house started with splashes of colored water on the guests from the rooftop and culminated in the most sumptuous feast of gujiyas, dahi vadas and other homemade sweets and savouries. Not to forget the fresh homemade thandai that was served to all.
Every aunty in the colony had a trademark dish in her kitty that almost defined her culinary skills. After what seemed like hours and hours of fun with colors and food, we were back home for a bath and getting into new clothes that was customary to the festival. What followed was a siesta that was a result of the sleepiness induced by hours of fun with gulal.
The evening again marked visiting friends across the town and a delightful second round of snacks and sweets.
To anyone who has ever been associated with this sleepy but intellectual town with oodles of empathy and a feeling of love for everyone, these memories are an attempt to walk them down the memory lane to the best times or at least one of the best times of their lives.
Wishing you all colors of joy, health, success and prosperity on Holi.