In this hilarious Holi mix-up, even parents cannot recognize their children.
A cold finger drew a line on my face. I sprung up and sat on my bed.
“Wha? Wha? What?” I stuttered.
My brother Vinay stood there, baring all his teeth.
“Wake up, sleepyhead! Get ready. The others will be here soon,” I rocked back and forth as he shook me.
“Wh, why?” I mumbled, all confused.
“WHY? We’ve been waiting for this day for how long now…two weeks? and you want to know why?” He asked, the disbelief in his voice unmistakable.
And then it clicked! That’s it! Sleep left me like the wind from an untied balloon.
From then on, I ran. I ran to my cupboard and took out the old clothes ma, and I had set aside. The salwar was a bit small, stopping above my ankles. Okay, so I grew that much from last year, but I have to wear this set, or I’ll get into trouble. I ran to the bathroom turned the water on to fill the bucket. Luckily the heater was already on, and I didn’t have to wait for hot water.
When I came out, I could hear Vinay agree to something Ma said.
I ran down to eat breakfast. I snuck a gujjiya on the mountain of poha on my plate.
“Don’t forget to apply coconut oil, especially around your ears.”
“Come back by noon. Don’t be late!”
“Don’t forget to….”
Thank goodness Vinay is the oldest, and he has to listen to Ma’s lectures
Tup tup tup…I heard the sound of fists on the door and stuffed the gujjiya in my mouth. My brother and I ran to our room to grab the bag of gulal and balloons. But my mother stood there, her hands on her hips
“Put oil on your skin or no going out, you two.”
“Yes ma, let me tell the others,” said Vinay,
Then he opened the door slightly and peeked out. “Listen, we’ll apply oil and come outside. Just wait for us,” he said to the others.
Ma poured oil in our cupped hands and wouldn’t let us go until she was satisfied that every inch of skin was covered in coconut oil. I felt the three Ss—sticky, shiny and smelly!
When I saw the others, I knew that the coconut oil bottles were empty in their homes too!
But first things first! We put colours on our friend’s faces as gently as possible. Red, blue, yellow, orange, green…until there were just a few patches of our brown skin peeking out. But we can be gentle only for so long. The louder our giggles and shouts, the higher the rainbow of colours rose around us!
Did I forget to tell you? Today is Holi, my favoooooourite festival! Which other festival can you go about getting Clouds of colours to ring the bell for warmer weather?
“Ey ey…Come on yaar. Don’t use up everything now. We must save some to throw on others,” Anila reminded us.
“I got my pichkari. Have you got yours?”
I brandished my new water gun. “Oooooh, look …”
“Look at my pichkari,” she turned her back.
“Aaaaay, it’s a bag pichkari!” I squeezed the little backpack on Anila’s shoulders. It was full!
Out came all our water pistols one by one. Ritu had a small rocket pichkari, Srini’s was a water gun with the elephant trunk spout, James carried a big plastic pencil-shaped squirter, chandu’s was a spray bottle…mine wasn’t too bad either. I had pestered mama for my umbrella spray gun.
“Hey, Vinay, where’s yours?” James asked my brother.
My brother pulled out his big shiny brass water pistol and pulled the handle out. He aimed at a rock far away and pushed the lever.
Whooosh, went a spray, toppling the rock way over.
“Hoooooooo!” our voices rang together in delight.
All the others crowded around my brother, wanting to hold the monster. “Yeah, this is papa’s! he said I’m old enough for it now.” I realized that my brother was good at showing off.
“We have enough gulal and abir; we have our pichkaris. All we need now are the water balloons!” Ritu remarked.
So when Srini said that we should go to his house, we agreed immediately. No secret why, Srini lived on the second floor, and his flat had two balconies. Vinay helped Nidhi out of her wheelchair. She held his hand on one side and the railing on the other and climbed the stairs. “We have your bag of glulal and balloons, Nidhi,” James and I called out as we ran up the stairs. When we got to Srini’s house, there was a chair waiting for Nidhi, and the others were huddled around a bucket of water, filing balloons with the water pistols. Now all we had to do was hide and wait for our prey.
I spotted the first set of victims, two aunties. “I know them,” said Ajay. “They are always complaining about noise when we play on the ground that is not even near their house! I go first!” he said and waited for them to pass. When they were below the neighbour’s balcony, he hurled two balloons, and everyone fell flat on the floor.
“Who threw this, hey? I know you are there somewhere,” came the shouts. But we lay still. Throwing water balloons at aunties is a dangerous sport.
You’d think people would know not to parade under a balcony on Holi, but a whole load of them walked by that day. So we did what children were supposed to do! We became fast bowlers, slow bowlers, inswingers, outswingers, and spin bowlers. There were even a few bouncers that erupted as soon as they touched the ground, but that’s okay.
It was some time before Nidhi said what we’d all been thinking. “This is too easy, isn’t it? Let’s go down to the maidaan by the cheer.” Excitement rippled through us. We conveniently forgot Ma’s reminders.
The maidaan was the common ground for the buildings in our compound and the next society. Going there to play on holi was an open challenge to the kids in that compound.
Someone asked, “How much Gulaal do we have?”
We emptied all the colour packets and distributed them equally amongst ourselves. A couple of us ran to the bathroom and filled all our pichkaris. “Whatever you can’t carry, just put them in a bag and hang it on the handlebars,” Nidhi suggested. We patted ourselves and set off for the challenge.
The maidaan had a few kids here and there. Vinay stopped Nidhi’s wheelchair, and we stood around her, pretending to be interested in no one but ourselves. A couple of the other kids edged closer to us. We pretended to ignore them even as some of us watched them from under our lashes. I saw a girl wave to someone far away. That must have been the signal. One here, a pair there, kids started straggling in. In no time, they encircled us. It felt like we were in a chakravyuhha. But we had a plan. We edged closer to Nidhi and continued to throw a little bit of color on each other. When cold squirt hit James, it was time for the war! Out came our pichkaris, and the coloured water spurted out like a rocket launch. Vinay brandished his brass Pichkari while Nidhi’s strong arms landed the water balloons smack on our opponents. Whenever one of us was cornered, James and Anila grabbed Nidhi’s chair and pushed her into the gap. The other kids instinctively jumped back to make way for her…Were we winning? It is hard to say if you win or lose with Holi colours. But no one could tell us apart because only the whites of our eyes and our teeth remained un-coloured. We looked like identical- multicolored elves. We could have gone on for hours, but a hand landed on the shoulder of one of the kids. One by one we dropped our hands to look.
Oh! It was my mother! And did she look angry! My stomach sank like I’d swallowed rocks. In all our fun Vinay and I had forgotten the time! Before we could utter a word, she turned around and walked back, taking the girl with her.
I didn’t understand. And then the kids from the other compound ran frantically to their buildings leaving a cloud of dust behind.
“Vinay, shall we call out to her?” I spoke in a small voice.
“Go home. I’ll be there after I help Nidhi,” My brother consoled me.
I entered my home just as mama took the girl to the bathroom. “Shower! Now!” she pointed. I did not want to catch her eye. So I slipped behind a curtain.
Five minutes passed, then ten minutes. The bathroom door swung open, and the girl stepped out, wrapped in a towel. Ma looked pale! “Who are you? Where’s …?”
“Here,” I came forward. She looked swiftly from my multicolored face to the clean girl. A minute later, her mistake dawned on her, and her body shook with laughter. I ran to take a quick shower, and when I came out, ma and the girl were sitting with a plate of gujjiyas.
Tup tup tuptup tup! There was a pounding on the door for the second time today. Two women stood there with a gaggle of children from the other compound. Their eyes scanned the room until they landed on the two of us kids stuffing our mouth with gujjiyas.
“Would you like some gujjiyas?” Ma opened the door wider.
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