Col­ors of Hap­pi­ness

Storizen Magazine - - Contents - BY ASH­WATI MENON

Nan­dini smiled broadly to her­self in hap­pi­ness.

She was look­ing for­ward to the week­end when she would get to cel­e­brate Holi with her friends. And this year it was go­ing to be spe­cial. All her child­hood friends were com­ing from dif­fer­ent ci­ties and it was a decade since she had met them all. She had never thought that she could ever live with­out them but then life had taken its toll and all friends had gone in as many dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions as pos­si­ble.

Nan­dini was gaz­ing at the land­scape as her bus trudged its way to her small home­town. She re­mem­bered how ev­ery Holi her grand­mother would tell Shiv, my brother and I the same story. The story had never changed in all these years – of Prahlad and Hi­ranyakashyap – how Lord Vishnu had taken the avatar of Narasimha; how Ho­lika had been burnt alive on the pyre. The same story with the same char­ac­ters had not once bored her or de­terred her from be­liev­ing that good things hap­pen to peo­ple who have good in­ten­tions at heart.

As she dis­em­barked from the bus, she saw the streets lined up with stalls and makeshift shops that sold pichkari and the col­ors. She couldn’t help but smile even broader. She bounded into an auto rick­shaw and went rid­ing all the way up to the street where her home was lo­cated. She smiled. There was a huge “pan­dal” in the front and huge ves­sels were ly­ing there.

Bhaang for to­mor­row! She gleamed.

“My rock star is here!” yelled a voice from in­side. Her fa­ther came bound­ing out­side. He threw open the gate and ran all the way to where she was stand­ing. All dig­nity lost, she threw her bag and broke into a run and lunged on to her fa­ther. Nan­dini’s mother and grand­mother came out hap­pily. They looked at each other and smiled. Ev­ery time Nan­dini was home from Pune, her home was al­ways had ex­tra cel­e­bra­tions. Ever since she had moved to Pune to work, the home was two deci­bels silent. With no one to jab­ber non-stop or lack of noise due to no fights

be­tween Shiv and Nan­dini; things had gone re­ally silent. Shiv mostly hung out with his friends in the even­ing and rarely any of his friends vis­ited at home. But when Nan­dini was com­ing, Shiv would stay in at home and make a ruckus and in­vite all his friends home. It was al­ways short trips and though Shiv never ac­cepted, he re­ally missed his kid sis­ter and wanted to make most of the time they had to­gether.

Shiv bounded out of the gar­den, “Oi Gutkha you are home!”

Nan­dini stopped smil­ing and scowled at her brother. She hated when Shiv called her Gutkha. She didn’t like the name. She looked around, found few peb­bles and grabbed them. She then broke into a run af­ter her brother and threw the stones at him. Shiv laughed his head off ma­ni­a­cally. All the el­ders smiled as the chil­dren ran around.

***

Fi­nally, the fam­ily set­tled down as many cups of tea and snacks were made and the chil­dren and the el­ders chomped away.

“When are your friends com­ing?” asked Shiv.

“By even­ing”, chirped Nan­dini, “To think we were away for al­most a decade.”

“Yeah, we know you four”, nod­ded the Grand­mother.

Af­ter lunch, Shiv and Nan­dini sat with grand­mother as she started on the story of young Prahlad. Nan­dini cud­dled with Shiv and they both sat lis­ten­ing raptly to her. The story or the nar­ra­tion hadn’t changed in many years. Nan­dini liked it this way.

Some things should never change. They lose their mean­ing in life.

As the story drew to a close, Nan­dini closed her eyes and de­cided to take a nap. There was time un­til Anoushka, Kar­tik, and Rishi ar­rived – her child­hood friends. She had a pleas­ant smile on her face; the one that of a con­tented hu­man. She couldn’t ask for more. She had a per­fect life.

And when even­ing ar­rived, it was may­hem. All four got into a group hug and all spoke to­gether, ran around in cir­cles – it was the per­fect ca­coph­ony. The par­ents looked and smiled as the chil­dren yapped around like mad things. It was go­ing to be a dif­fi­cult time try­ing to get them to set­tle. It had been eight and a half years now. To know that they still shared the same love and friend­ship was good enough for the fam­ily. No­body could sep­a­rate them.

“Let’s go buy col­ors and wa­ter-bombs”, sug­gested Kar­tik.

Ev­ery­body liked the idea and as they set to wear shoes to set out, Nan­dini’s dad came to them and handed each a 500 Hun­dred ru­pee note, smil­ing. “Dad, we earn now. You don’t have to bur­den your­selves with our mer­ry­mak­ing”, said Nan­dini, smil­ing back.

“You can earn all the money that is there to earn. But I still pay for your Holi col­ors and wa­ter­bombs”, said Nan­dini’s dad.

All four laughed as they ac­cepted the money with thanks and grat­i­tude.

The mar­ket had ex­panded in so many years of de­vel­op­ment. It had be­come a huge place. Shops crammed and clut­tered into a sin­gle area and there were women and their young chil­dren play­ing in rags. Some of them were tiny tots and in­fants. The four walked around the mar­ket and for some weird rea­son, none of them were speak­ing with each other.

In many years that they had cel­e­brated Holi, they had never had seen what they saw today. The peo­ple who were sell­ing the col­ors and other ac­ces­sories for the cel­e­bra­tions were the ones who could barely af­ford a time’s meal.

They wore rags and their clothes were torn at odd places. The in­fants didn’t have enough to cover them­selves in the re­main­der of the win­ter that was leav­ing in few days nor did they have suf­fi­cient to eat and were bawl­ing due to hunger or pain – not sure. The el­ders were try­ing to sell vig­or­ously just so that they could make money.

“Is it just me or has the world al­ways had so much suf­fer­ing be­hind cel­e­bra­tions?” asked Anoushka, as she in­tently stared at a few months old baby ly­ing in a crib made out of cloth. The baby had curled her fists and was sleep­ing peace­fully.

“We just grew up, I be­lieve”, said Rishi as he looked away.

“Holi is only for peo­ple who can af­ford to have Holi”, said Kar­tik, thought­fully.

Nan­dini looked at her friends and smiled, “Are you think­ing what I am think­ing?”

***

The next day there was a huge stall in the town square where there was food be­ing pre­pared and four very en­thu­si­as­tic young­sters were run­ning around. A sign-board read, “We need vol­un­teers to serve those who serve us Holi!”

Many who had come af­ter play­ing Holi and pos­i­tively col­ored be­yond recog­ni­tion were en­thu­si­as­tic to join. The four had to send them away to take a bath first. As the food got pre­pared and the smell wafted in the air, many street urchins came look­ing and peek­ing meekly. Nan­dini and Anoushka were en­cour­ag­ing the kids to come in. Slowly, poor and un­der­priv­i­leged – all joined in. Nan­dini and Anoushka started play­ing Holi with them­selves on the street and a few of the kids joined them. For a change, it was re­ally pleased to have done some­thing to­tally dif­fer­ent on a day as aus­pi­cious as Holi.

A po­lice van came trudg­ing up to them and an In­spec­tor jumped out. Nan­dini was the first to run up to them.

“Good Af­ter­noon sir”.

“Do you know you need per­mis­sion to pull off some­thing like that? It’s a cor­po­ra­tion area”, said the In­spec­tor, frown­ing lightly.

“I am sorry sir; It was a quick plan. Plus, I thought that we just want to feed the un­fed and the poor – even if it is just for one day”, said Nan­dini, hon­estly.

“The good part is that your fa­ther heard you four mud­dle to­gether and mum­ble the plan and that is why he took per­mis­sion on your be­half”, said the In­spec­tor smil­ing at her, “Now, get me and my col­league a plate too, will you? We are hun­gry too.”

Nan­dini burst into a broad smile and she and Anoushka ran to the stall where the boys and the new vol­un­teers were vol­un­teer­ing. They quickly loaded three plates with food and went and of­fered to the po­lice.

All the three po­lice per­son­nel smiled as they ate the food served by the two.

Nan­dini felt happy. As a child, she had al­ways thought of “Gu­laal” as a happy color. But today, cel­e­brat­ing Holi along with the ones who brought Holi to her life, she knew that “Gu­laal” in­deed was the hap­pi­est color she had ever known. She could meet her friends and they all were of the same opin­ion as hers. By end of the day, they were all tired – to the core. But they were happy be­yond words.

“I know we have cel­e­brated the same fes­ti­val so many times in our lives to­gether. But we met af­ter such a long time and still made a huge dif­fer­ence. Thank You Guys, you are the most pre­cious pos­ses­sion I have”, mut­tered Nan­dini lazily.

“There goes our lit­tle emo­tional fool”, mum­bled Kar­tik.

Every­one burst out laugh­ing as she shoved him jovially. She was glad. And Nan­dini wanted to keep this mem­ory ex­actly like this in her mind for­ever.

Photo: Adam Whit­lock

Ash­wati Menon hails from Ker­ala but was born and brought up in Gu­jarat. The literary jour­ney started with an­tholo­gies "Se­crets of Soul" by Rigi Pub­li­ca­tion House and "Drenched Souls - Love in Mon­soon" by Gargi Pub­lish­ers. Un­der the same Pub­li­ca­tion...

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