Holi, the Nostalgia of Our Youth & the Privilege of Our Joy
I love how the air smells in my country during festivals. I love how time seems to stop.
In these moments, I can't help but reminisce over memories gone by with the ones we've recently lost: my dad, my uncle and my granny.
I remember sitting on my dad's lap as a little girl, playing with my three brothers on our open-top terrace in Bangalore.
My uncle used to bring us little chicks from the street to play with. I used to be scared of them but he would hold my hand and show me that their little beaks don't hurt.
The sun would be scorching. My brothers and I would stay out playing basketball til our knees got weak, then run to the corner shop below to grab four cold, glass bottles of Maaza, the world's still-reigning king of mango juices.
My grandma would call us in from the veranda and line us up on the dinner table-no rules, no chairs-just sat on top of the dinner table like four little gluttonous thieves. She would go down the line feeding us one by one. For years, we ate from the same one bowl and the same two hands.
We would help light dipas and ring the little temple bell as my mum and aunty led our pujas. We used to compete to see who could ring it fastest. The boys always let me win.
After we'd touched the feet of our elders and taken their blessings, we'd pass out on their stomachs all afternoon, comatosed on lemon rice, almond milk and kilos of sweets.
And when the sun went down, it was the big finale. My dad and uncle would take us to let fireworks off from the rooftop. Their sparks joined the dozens of others that would be going off around us from every roof of the city.
The ground shook with excitement.
A magical decade.
These are memories of our childhood that still make my heart swell.
Every time I get off the flight and breathe in the essence of this land, I feel a wave of nostalgia deep in my bones.
And I remember what it felt like to be young, carefree and hopeful, with big dreams and no reason to believe they wouldn't all come true.
A few years ago, I took my best friend, Meg, to a holi event in a club in Sheffield where we went to University together.
It was in an underground basement and we danced our little hearts out to Bollywood music til close.
We threw bowls of colour at each other, at friends, at strangers.
We piggy-backed down the street giddy with laughter and bellies full of classic British post-night-out chippy.
That was one of the first times I had shared my traditions with someone outside of my Indian community and it had been met with such love and enthusiasm.
Holi, or any Indian festival, to me, is more than the religion it comes from.
It binds people, cultures and strangers together.
It's about celebrating the colours of our life, the shades of our skin, the seasons we each go through, and witnessing and lifting one another through them all.
I feel the privilege of it all today.
That we can take to our streets with such ease and joy, whilst elsewhere, there are streets which have never known peace, scattered with children who call them their home.
It's not lost on me how lucky we are to shower in paint, art and music whilst, for someone else, somewhere else in the world, the skies rain with shrapnel and clouds carry bombs.
I don't take for granted that I sleep blanketed at night in warmth and security, whilst a woman just like me, with the same hopes, dreams and desires for her life sits in a refugee camp, daring not to think what tomorrow looks like.
Holi is a festival of love, unity and hope.
A festival where colour does not define you.
It simply serves as a reminder that we all bleed the same red.