Fond Memories of Holi in India
by Reena Kurapati
I grew up in a small town called Jamshedpur, where Holi was a major festival. Because my family and I were/are Christians, we didn’t call it “our” festival, but we certainly participated in the celebration. It was a joy to be a part of it.
Holi celebrations can range from the worst pranks to the most honorable expressions of love and respect. And that is how it was around my family and friends.
Growing up around three consecutive older brothers, I witnessed these pranks up and close. We played a game where we tried to hide well so no one could mark us with color — either watercolor sprayed on us with a water gun or removable paint smeared by hand. Once someone catches you, you join the pranksters to go after others hiding. We played with colors all morning until lunchtime.
By lunchtime, everybody cleaned up, showered, put on white Kurtas, and greeted each other with powdered color. But this time, we would gently rub the color on the forehead and cheeks. This activity was much more peaceful and somber than the morning’s game.
If one greeted a parent, uncle/aunt, or grandparent, one would sprinkle a little color on their feet, touch them, and ask for a blessing. The elder would then bless the younger in return. (I just need to mention that we never engaged in this gesture, but other kids would sprinkle color on my parents’ feet in respect, and my parents would bless them in return.)
After this greeting, friends and family gathered for a special meal that included rice, lentils, vegetables, puri (fried flour tortillas), chicken curry, or jackfruit curry.
“Dahee wada” is a special Holi side dish. It’s a savory cake (like a crab cake) made of chickpeas flour, onions, and other ingredients. These cakes are then placed in a lightly tangy yogurt sauce with a dollop of sweetened tamarind chutney on top! Needless to say, it is very delicious.
Holi also has distinct cookies called “Thekua” and “Pua.”
We would have so many invites that we would be totally stuffed by the end of a few lunches.
The most distinct memory of Holi was going to my dad’s childhood friend’s house for dinner. We called him Chandra Bhushan uncle. We’d have to walk a long way to get there. But the food and the company were always worth the walk. They always welcomed us with much love and hospitality. For us, Holi always ended with the warmest and the most colorful hugs between friends. The hugs transcended all differences —economic status, religion, lifestyles, or choices.
We exchanged those warm Holi hugs once more in the year on Christmas Day, when all our Hindu friends would come over for dinner at our house. And so the friendships grew year after year around the bright colors of Holi in the spring and then around the bright lights of Christmas in winter.
Isn’t it ironic that differences could cultivate such great relationships and fond memories? When I go down the memory lane of my childhood in India, it all seems so natural and right.
Reena is originally from India. Now, she lives in the United States with her husband, Emmanuel, and they have adopted their two precious boys through our India program. We are so grateful to Reena for sharing her Holi memories with us!