Skill to rejoice

Originally published in Finnish 15th March, 2017

Imagine yourself walking along a dusty street on a blazing heat day. Autorickshaws are honking loudly, scooters passing you both on the right and left. Loudspeakers on the roadsides are playing music with full volume. People jump and dance all around you, painted throughout with all the colours of the rainbow. If you could imagine this wild scenery, you might reach the authentic Bangalore Holi atmosphere. Compared to the silent, sometimes even lifeless streets in Finnish cities, the contrast is quite steep indeed. Well, to be exact, this is not any normal day here in Bangalore either – it is Holi festival, and serious casual work can now be forgotten for a while. Holi unites all the travellers on the streets – everyone is in the “risk zone” to be drawn into play; if you stop to stare, the unwritten rules make you a player as well, and you might soon get a wet colour splash… maybe just you, or even your scooter or car. Right now, no-one is scolding or bobbing a finger, no-one is shaking their head. It is entirely appropriate for anyone to join the game. No matter if you are young or old, having a working day or holiday; it is acceptable for everyone to make themselves funny fools.

Messy, wet and entertaining – that is how Holi looks like in Bangalore. Originally, the different colours of Holi have symbolized Hindu saints. The time for this special event is determined by the Hindu lunar calendar. According to the myth, a bad daemon, Holika was burned in the fire, thus the evil was defeated. Especially in the northern parts of India, even today, sacred fire is an essential part of this festival. Here in Bangalore, Holi is not characteristically any religious event. Almost without exception it is celebrated in all schools and institutes. In the school of our younger son, even the principal, during this special occasion, leaves his office desk and quits the duties for some hours to join the Holi play. With a smiling face he accepts the challenge, and runs around the wet school garden dodging the colour bombs thrown by the students. In our home community, this Holi, we agreed not to mix the colours with water. The ecological plant-based colour powder stains your skin and clothes, it cannot be avoided.

In India, there is no celebration without gourmet food. Holi is the most appropriate time to taste thandai, a cool cardamom drink, and take a bite of samosa, a baking filled with vegetables and fried golden brown in oil. Playing and enjoying the moment together with friends, neighbours and even unknown people, makes life joyful. The Indian citizens have this special skill to rejoice!