Holi at Shree Bhagawati Primary School
22.03.2016 - 22.03.2016 24 °C
The universe must be smiling upon my little adventure, because this year Holi fell on just my 3rd day at the school (March 22). For the first two days I was there, the children spoke about it often – it is clearly a favourite celebration for them. Although technically a public holiday, students and teachers were encouraged to come to school to celebrate together. No school uniforms, of course!
On the day, two sisters, Sarmila (Class 4) and Argita (younger) came to walk me to school at 10am. Little Argita was sent off to the shop along the way to buy some balloons and colour for them to play with once we arrived at school.
The boys were already well into the fun as I walked across the playground to the school office. Lots of colour on their faces and some on their clothes. Whooping and laughing.
The girls seemed a bit more restrained, but even they had already received some colourful ‘blessings’. Throughout the morning they continually washed the colour from their faces, but really, this just encouraged the application of more! I tried to delay the inevitable by saying I needed to leave my things in the school office first.
Shortly after, I went back out into the playground to see what was happening. At first I used my camera as a shield, but the children didn’t accept that for long and I was soon receiving blessings in hot pink, purple, red and yellow. Some kids also had green and blue.
For a while there was more activity going on just outside the school gate, where what I thought were some older kids were mixing with the students. When these older kids entered the school I was a little concerned – not that they were doing anything to be concerned about, just from a gatecrashing point of view – but I soon discovered these older ‘kids’ were actually parents of the students! They stayed with us and joined in the celebrations for most of the day.
Around 11am, JP, one of the Assistant Headmasters, formally opened the celebration by blessing everyone with a lighter shade of red. Then he threw the colour into the air and it was on for young and old. Quite a few children offered me some of their balloons so I could get the full experience.
Afterwards, the music system was wheeled out and turned up loud, the dusty playground was sprinkled with water, and we danced.
A group of boys was acting as DJ, and like deejays anywhere, they couldn’t agree on what they wanted to play, so there was a lot of skipping tracks and so on. Samir, one of my regular child-guardians, was very keen to get me dancing, although a little shy at first to join me, but it turned out that he was the best and most dedicated dancer in the school! We danced in the full sun for ages, then I escaped to the office for a while to get some shade. There I chatted with Prakash, who said he had told the kids to go easy on me. I hate to think what might have happened otherwise!
While I had my lunch in the library as usual, the children were also given a hot meal as part of their Holi celebration. This took quite some time and was done in shifts, as the school isn’t really geared up for mass catering.
Before the post-lunch, post-sun stupor could set in, we went back for more dancing. The smaller girls, in particular, were keen to hold my hands and dance with me – I wished I had more than 2 hands to share around, as they became quite possessive. Finally, after at least 3 ‘last dances’, it was time to go home.
The walk home was busier and more jolly than usual, with a large entourage of students taking the opportunity to hold my hands, carry my things and generally enjoy the novelty of being with me. By this time, we adults were practically the only ones with colour still on our faces. Arriving at home, Mrs Gurung shrieked with laughter when she saw my face. Being objective, I realise I did look like I was suffering from a skin condition… But the colour actually came off more easily than I expected.
Later that night, going through my photos on the laptop, the family sat and gazed at one of me for a while. Eventually Prakash remarked that with the colour on my face, I almost look Nepali.