Here in America, the desi community ends up celebrating Holi practically like a season, over 2-3 weeks- as there are the large scale community level celebrations organized by the temples or different associations over different weekend. Some more private celebrations arranged by group of friends include backyard parties involving water and colors, or evening time “Holi- Milan” parties. Another form of celebration involves Holi themed women’s night outs like our ladies’ Bunco group here in Dallas (pictures below). The sweet-stores sell gujiyas and other sweets, while a few women make it at home too.
So what’s different about celebrating Holi in America? I’m thinking in terms of what we do not miss as well as what we do.
Let’s talk about what we don’t miss first. Holi colors in des have evolved into dark muddy tones and metallic paints that are hard to get off post celebrations. Don’t miss that! Love the vibrant colorful hues that are imparted by using ‘gulals’ only here in America- the violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange , red patches- from one end to the other of the spectrum.
Back in India you can’t enjoy the glory of the festival without worrying about the negative elements in the society who use the festival as pretext to freely land their hand on a woman’s body. I doubt if there’s anyone among the female gender who has not been subjected to such violation. Here in America, you see no such disrespect.
So what do we miss? Holi is a festival of colors, but there’s a cultural essence to the festival as well. We talked about the ‘ched chaad’ aspect of the festival in the previous article, that’s even described in our scriptures. Radha- Krishna’s ‘ched- chaad’ has been written about in songs and enacted in Indian Classical dances. But there’s another aspect too. And that is the pranks that loved ones play on each other. Alright on friends and neighbors too. Okay, yes, on total strangers too. Surprising passer-bys with water balloons, tricking friends into drinking drinks tainted with ‘bhaang’, and so on. Again, these are described in our scriptures and narrated by various poets and song writers over the years, not to mention our Indian Film Industry portraying it in all its glory. Of course, it’s fun for the ‘pranker’ but truly it’s fun only if the ‘prankee’ is not hurt in any way. Here’s our favorite Holi picture from Udit Kulshrestha, where he is seen pouring a bucketful of colored water on his unsuspecting bhabhi (sister-in-law) who walks through the door onto the terrace (as shown above). I say favorite because it perfectly showcases the prank that evokes nostalgia in us, it captures the essence of the festival, triggers all those memories of Holi in the ‘galiyaan and chaubara’ (streets and street-corners).
WE WISH YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY HOLI!