As people queued up to sprinkle colour on BJP’s L K Advani, he recalled a news paper article written several years ago which had mentioned his house as being among the few in Delhi where Holi was celebrated in its fun and fervor. He then lived in an MP’s flat in Pandara Park.
It was a flat in which he and his wife, Kamla, had lived in for many years. It was one which many of us frequented, often at tea time to be fed by his generous wife while he gave us quotable quotes. Yes, two things were never in short supply at the Advani household: eats and quotes. We, as hungry reporters, needed both. Mr Advani spoke in measured tones: as he does even now. His wife, meanwhile, would add a few asides to which Mr Advani would smile slowly. He still does.
When it comes to his family, Mr Advani is totally subservient to it in emotion. Kamlajee, as she was then referred to and still is, remains the pivotal force. She is actually a fun person.
I do not know about the Pandara Park Holi or any of the others Mr Advani referred to. Neither am I familiar with what the frenzied media present at the Advani household this year called the “BJP ki holi”. They could not be more off the mark. Far from it being a political celebration of what I call a hysterical festival, Holi at Advanis was an event which brought together their friends and long time associates. It was one which had people from different parts of the city, some maybe from the neighboring state of Haryana. They came in large numbers through the day. And they sprinkled colour on Mr Advani.
Yes sprinkled because he was the only one who escaped the colour riot. At least by comparison. He sat on a chair, around which people gathered and applied tikka on his forehead. The more familiar dared a little colour on his cheeks but that it where it ended. Ofcourse it was a no holds barred situation for his wife, who was the only one who drenched him. She mercifully used a pichkari, given that the rule of the game was buckets.
Order and sobriety began and ended around the chair Mr Advani occupied in the middle of what till then was a manicured lawn. Beyond it, there were people let loose who alternated between emptying buckets on each other and dancing to Holi songs. Mr Advani’s daughter Pratibha, also fun like her mother, ensured that no one went unscathed.
The person in-charge seemed to be Krishna Kanhai from Brindavan. His job: to ensure that no one’s clothes or skin remained their original: “Too white” they would mumble, every time someone walked in, dressed in a spotless, starched kurta. BJP’s Rajnath Singh, walked in with a who- can- touch- me kind of a confidence. He wore silk. Till he coloured Mr Advani, there was discipline within the ranks. The ritual over, his kurta changed colour as fast as his well-oiled pate. He forced a smile, given that it does not come to him easily even in normal times.
Well known dancer Sonal Mansingh was also there. I noticed that she did not reach out to colour Mr Advani. She simply sprinkled gulal on his feet: a tradition symbolic of reverence. In my years of growing up, I learnt not to reach out to elders beyond their feet. It was not something my family taught me, given that Punjabis forbid feet- touching by daughters. I learnt this from friends, like I learnt lot else.
Krishna Kanhai, ofcourse, took the lead in dunking people in the pool. He did successfully Ananth Kumar, former minister, who ran for his life, promising to return after half hour. He never did.
I have known Krishna’s father Kanhai Chitrakar. When I met him in Brindavan he had a very small shop near the famous Bankebehari temple. He was then known as a painter who painted Lord Krishna using gems and semi precious stones. I recall him trying to pull out a few from the make shift shelf in his shop. A modest man, he had told me that his customers were well to do marwaris, devotees of the Lord God who often bought his paintings. In later years, the family prospered thanks to his enterprising son, Krishna, who apart from painting the Gods, zeroed in on Delhi and hob nobbed with the people in the country’s political capital. Back home, the kanhais have a motel, an art gallery and a multistoried house. The art gallery has become a tourist attraction.
This holi, Krishna danced and dunked.
By the end of it, everyone looked purple: that being the dominant colour. Pratibha’s well chiseled features changed colour from magenta to green and yellow. At one point in time, the colour blend with the silk in her hair to which a friend remarked: “Even if you shell out 10,000 rupees, a hair stylist cannot give you this look”. She was right. Pratibha carried off the colours well.
By the afternoon, exhaustion overtook enthusiasm. Then reality struck. One single question troubled everyone: Yeh rang kaise utarega? How will this colour fade? An academic question and one which came a bit late in the day, given that everyone had literally let their hair down.
Festivals take me back to my parents….we as a family never played Holi. Diwali was the neat, clean sensible festival.
I have few memories now, except of the year when I lost my parents to the Gods: both within three months of each other. That was a no festival year for the family, though for us, my brother and I, celebrations had eternally ended. That year we were told by the elders to mourn: keep the house dark on Diwali. It was no point telling them that dates do not mark grief.
That year taught me an important lesson: to count one’s blessings and celebrate life with its festivals when Destiny allows you to. For once it strikes, you yearn and regret missing out on happiness when it came knocking at your door…..