The music is bringing back vivid, colorful memories of my childhood in Pune where I could hear music blaring over LOUDspeakers from the early morning hours to late at night. I’d stand in the balcony of our apartment with my sister and cousins and we’d fill up balloons with color water and drop them down on passersby. That was tame, believe me. In the opposite balcony, teenage boys would fill up buckets and pour out steady streams of red, yellow, green, and orange water! Below, people dressed in white shrieked in delight and emerged from the surprise bath with their hair, clothes, and faces completely soaked in all the colors of the rainbow. And, of course, there was the powder that, if you weren’t careful, would be smeared all over your face when you least expected it, getting into your nose, mouth, and ears. (Yes, bathing at the end of the day was always an ordeal!)
I’m not sure about Holi celebrations in the US, but in India, sales of the colored powder–which are mixed with starch and topia before perfumes and scents are added to give them a fragrance–are in the six-figure digits and grow at the rate of 15 percent per year, according to Reuters. In recent years, manufacturers have been responding to concerns about their safety (some contain lead) and expanding into the business of producing organic colors made out of fruits and vegetables.
During my college days, I helped organize a few Holi celebrations on campus. There was something immensely empowering about seeing a whole bunch of brown folks taking over one of the main quad lawns, playing loud Bollywood music (we even had a dhol player one year), dancing, and throwing colored powder all over each other. Sure, it attracted attention, but in those days (the mid 90s) when Indian students had less of a visible and active presence on the college campus, it was also an opportunity to share a unique cultural festival that transgresses religion with our peers and professors. By the end of the afternoon, the lawn would be packed with desis and non-desis alike and it was nearly impossible to recognize one another!
Although I don’t play much Holi these days (my celebration is limited to a few smears of color rubbed gently and affectionately on my cheeks by family members and vice-versa), I do miss the days of carefree abandon, masti, and rang. And to fill that gap, I turn to music which helps me relive my memories (until I figure out how to make new and better ones).
Even the Big B, who is not celebrating Holi in memory of the recent attacks on Mumbai, is aware of how closely the holiday is associated with “Rang Barse,” his signature dance and song from the film Silsila. Without it, this day is somehow not complete.
The Hindustan Times has a nice feature on musical Holi memories of various Bollywood music figures. What kinds of Holi memories do you have? Was it a festival you celebrated during your childhood or that you somehow celebrate today?