For more than three years now, I have been away from home during all the major festivals. I sorely miss the festivities in Ahmedabad, especially Navratri and Uttrayan. Diwali, which always used to be a quiet, foodie affair, doesn't even make its presence felt here in Kolkata. There, we had a good 20 day holiday in school and college, here it's only one day of Kali Puja.
On my way back home just now, I passed by holi pyres at almost all the crossroads. Most fires were dying down, one or two were still ablaze. I remembered the story of Prahlad and how he embraced the Holika chanting the name of God. How the ant changed to God himself and saved him.
We used to offer raw green mangoes in the flames, also coconuts and dhaani (popcorn) after the usual pradakshina. "Don't eat the mangoes before Holi, you will catch your throat," warned Indiraben everytime. And then, when the flames died out, I remember scouting for roasted coconuts with other kids once. I don't have very pleasant memories of the mad colour play, except for the very first time in our new colony. I must have been seven or eight then. But it's the evening fire a day before dhuleti that has always been very special.
Those dying fires in the middle of the night made me want to rush back home and listen from aaji the stories of victory of good over evil and all such things.