ByÂ Monisha Vemavarapu:
‘Holi’ very fondly brings back memories of my childhood years – with a bucket bigger than my 8 year old self, trying to chase and drown a tall, burly boy in colour. Of course, never did I manage that, but over the years my ways of celebration and their meanings have changed. Holi, Diwali, New Years or just birthdays. My varied set of friends that have become my family away from my own, indulge in my ideas as much as theirs. And having been away eight years now, each festival seems to be adding to our ‘new family’ album of stories.
Festivals bring communities together. And probably that’s a reason many of us return home to celebrate, or use it as an excuse to bring together our other friends also living away from home. We might not believe in these rituals or know the stories behind them, but over the years they become our excuse to subconsciously build newer communities.
I left home too, many years ago, to pursue my studies in a city away from home. In hindsight, never then did I know that I was heading towards creating and discovering so many stories to my life. And what has facilitated the creation of these stories is that coming to a different city to start my life afresh, getting rid of everything that I had picked up over the growing up 17 years of my life, gave me the chance to create a new foundation. So I lay the groundwork enjoying my freedom thoroughly. Meeting new people, discovering new places and learning from my many blunders. I travelled, and explored a varied set of cultures, bringing many diverse lifestyles together to become my community.
Even while my college years went by in the haste of waiting for them to end; I often wondered how different my life would have been, if I was still living at home. I saw the dual life of my friends who travelled from all over NCR, to reach the campus in what is still one of my favourite locations in the city, Haus Khas. But living with friends, who then were people I had only just met, was very challenging. I couldn’t spend time with a bunch of people and then choose who I could live with, but was thrown in with two other roommates in a dingy room in a hostel in Vasant Kunj. We lived together, adapted, and grew. We then moved into a house that accommodated more, some left, some stayed, some hovered.
I’ve now lived with many different people, and in different localities in my oh-so-cool South Delhi, but my sense of ‘community’ has never been stronger. And this is how I visualize my life to be many years later too. Not in the physical capacity of my community, but more so the mindset. It is an open house. We invite friends, their friends, and travellers, to come in. So we have newer experiences everyday sitting at home. It’s almost like Tele-Shopping or Online-Shopping, but here I’m purchasing the intangible – experiences. And also learning a little bit more through the stories of the people that come in, while thoroughly enjoying the conversations, chai, and endless nibbles that someone always offers to cook up.
And every time a festival is around the corner the first thought, of course, is that it is a holiday! And once the initial excitement of the prospect of doing nothing passes over, the planning begins. This year for Holi, I’d like to experiment with making gujiyas at home. There won’t be any more running around with water and colour drowning out the neighbours. Even none of the ‘Hello Aunty, Mummy ne mithai bheji hai’ ritual. Perhaps I’ll just finish reading the book from last week.
I think, in my mind I see traditional festivals dying out. I could invite people at home on a workday weekday, and that could as well be a festive celebration. And because I have no rituals it is the same as celebrating Holi only because the calendar says so. I’m still trying to understand what makes communities – the idea of living together not just with your own people with similar backgrounds, but in harmony with the diversity of our friends.
Meanwhile, Happy Holi!