The gift of color and play



“So there’s this thing I want to do for Mother’s Day – I mean not on Mother’s Day itself – for my gift – Dina invited us to come too and…”

I went on to make the case for going to the Holi Festival with Dee’s family, describing my favorite holiday from back when I lived in India.  “And you throw colored powder and it makes a mess… oh, and there will be lots of Indian food…”  About two thirds of the way through my speech I realized that he was sold so I really didn’t need to play the Mother’s Day card or mention the food (the clencher!).   I thought the prospect of all that mess might turn him off of the idea but Sam was all in from run-on sentence one.

And really, how could this not sound fun?  Or at the very least interesting?   I remember the color everywhere and how it took days, literally, to wash it out of my hair that spring so many years ago.  I also remember the verb he used when Abhishek came banging down the door of flat that morning yelling, “Get up!  Its time to play Holi, Mel!  Chalo, chalo (let’s go)!!!” My name always sounded like, “Mil” when he said it.

Play Holi.  


To completely rip off Wikipedia, “The festival signifies the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, end of winter, and for many a festive day to meet others, play and laugh, forget and forgive, and repair broken relationships… Anyone and everyone is fair game, friend or stranger, rich or poor, man or woman, children and elders.”

The first dousing is always kind.  A swipe of color applied gently to your face, maybe by someone you know or maybe by a stranger. “Happy Holi!”

From there on out its war.  A love war.  Parents are constantly reminding their children, “not in the face, NOT in the face!” Eventually we give up because… its going to be in the face.  Its going to be everywhere.  You are love fighting with family and friends and complete strangers in between fits of giggles.






Somewhere in it you lose yourself.  Your inhibitions, your fears.  Even your face is lost beneath the color.  You look like everyone and no one.  You are every color and the colors shift with every new person you play with.   As you dance you notice the colored powder beneath your feet has mixed to become gray.  That every color becomes no color at all.


My mother in law kept saying, “this is such a happy event” and it was.  It is.   Its impossible not to smile and feel happy.  Its the very happiest day.


Not every day can be Holi.  But every day can involve play.  We forget about it as adults, among our responsibilities and expectations of professionalism and maturity.  Children invite us back to the very important activity of play.  Of losing yourself in fits and giggles.

It might mean letting the lawn grow long, putting the phone in a drawer, being late, skipping a scheduled activity or leaving that all-important online discussion.  Just don’t forget to play.  Play tag.  Play hide and go seek or Simon says.  Wrestle and tickle for no reason at all.  Lose yourself sometimes.  Find your Holi.

AND photo credits for this post where they are due: thank you, Sam Worthington, for the gift of these photos!  Thank you for the gift of play and color….





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