Holi Festival is an important day where Hindus celebrate the end of winter, new life, fresh beginnings, and blossoming love. It is also a time for the world to witness a stunning Indian spectacle of walking colours, human bonding, and an uninhibited expression of beautiful souls.
This morning, I woke up to the golden sunrays and gentle waves of Arambol, Goa, the stronghold of the last remaining hippies, the mecca of the new-age pilgrims from today’s generation, and the place I knew I always belonged to.
As I stepped out of my beach ‘bungalow’, dug my feet into the warm sand, sipping on my first hot chai of the day, it felt like a day like any other. Nothing much goes on, everyone’s just cruising along the waves of good vibes, time doesn’t really matter, or rather, nothing actually really matters.
Poof! A splash of colours exploded on my face, momentarily blinding me from my sea view, filling my every facial crevice up with pasty, weird tasting powder. My chai is now a liquid fusion of green, yellow, purple, blue, and every colour in the pantone chart, or whatever tone you can find in the supermarket just up the street.
Right, it’s Holi. There’s no chilling out on the beach, no yoga, no meditation, no taking-it-easy today.
It’s a fucking Holi war. And we have to arm ourselves.
The weapons store carried an impressive arsenal of lethal coloured powder. There’s Caustic Crimson, Blistering Blue, Fucks-up-everything Fuchsia, Pulverising Purple, and of course Yellow. Once you’ve equipped yourself with these, there’re also additional options of Atomic-powered Water Pistols, Full-power Face Soaker and the good ‘ol bucket of paint.
Our default, half-opened eyes are now large, empty voids of unexplainable, violent happiness, ready to take aim at the next unsuspecting innocent bystander fresh from the shower.
The first victim was someone on a scooter, probably on his way into the town centre to deal with some serious business. Boom. Splat. Take this in your face. “Oh, happy Holi!” The thing is, all kinds of colour abuse are accepted as long as you remember to follow up with a jovial “Happy Holi!”
After hurling rainbow abuse at the usual suspects at our breakfast table and force feeding them their blueish-green scrambled eggs, we downed a few bottles of liquid motivation, also known as Kingfisher, stretched our limbs, put on our “deranged warrior” facial expressions, and headed out to the frontlines – The Arambol Cross Junction.
“Watch out! On the balcony!” They were glaring at us from their vantage point, perched above the rest of us like preying vultures, ready to drench our bodies with a sickly purple mixture they have concocted in their huts. There was no escape, the narrow path to the battlefield is completely within their firing range. We had to make a run for it. But don’t worry, we will not leave any person behind. Let’s go!
As the purple shower rained on us, it stung my eyes and I was rushing forward with my eyes shut, at the same time shutting my senses from the bombardment of colours. From the distance, I could hear my comrades screaming their war cries. I turned around and saw that everyone was completely drenched in their own paint, devoid of pain, and ready for the next wave of onslaught. At this point, the colours had all blended themselves together on our skins and we looked like messy, greyish zombies on too much acid.
As we reached the cross junction, what stood ahead of us was a mess of mangled bodies pulsating to the hard psytrance beats from the giant speakers that miraculously appeared in the middle of the road, and bathing themselves in a tumult of colours, smiles, hugs, kisses and joy.
Everything was so colourful that we began to look like we’re all one. We couldn’t tell one face from another. It was maximum saturation. Cars and motorcycles were not spared our constant fire. Even inanimate objects were given a fresh coat of life.
At this point, I felt the true spirit of Arambol. You are judged on nothing except your ability to have fun.
If you were an uptight person who didn’t want any colour on you that day, you’d be sure to be infected, or assaulted, by our parade of fun. No one could escape being Arambolised. Maybe if you were there for a day or two, you wouldn’t quite feel the might of the omnipotent Arambol magic. But stay for a week or two, and you’d realise that you’d be stuck there for months.
POOF! Another 500 grams of Toxic Turquoise slammed into the side of my skull, slapping away my romantic Arambol daydream and instantly plunging me back into the thick of the battle.
The Holi Arambol Battle lasted 8 hours, until the skies finally responded to our beauty and decided to accentuate the action-packed painting with a calming, soothing orange. There were no human casualties, collateral damage included iPhones, cameras, clothes, friendships, and all uninformed desires of having an uneventful day.
The hordes of rainbow warriors retreated back to their bases, many of them lying exhausted on the beach, refusing to wash away their war paint. Evidence of the epic battle was sprinkled all around the beach as the sand lit up with the setting sun, with a multitude of coloured ammo turning the landscape into a psychedelic swirl of different tints.
That was Holi in Arambol. An explosion of powdered fun, and a celebration of our colourful souls. And for the next few weeks, I know that every time I shower, I will be reminded of this amazing day.