This past Tuesday was Holi, the Hindu festival of colors, and it might as well have been a battle.
The festival traditionally involves throwing water balloons (and baggies of water) and then smearing colored powder on one another. I may not have been around for past years’ celebrations, but this year I think it’s fair to say that we took this festival to a whole new level. Just look at our prep work.
Leading up to Holi, the kids had been doing a bit of trash talking. “I get you, Sister!” “I get you with MANY balloons!” And that, combined with the constant miming of a water balloon to the face (and the occasional stray actual balloon) made all the volunteers want to be prepared.
So we plotted.
We were up before dawn, waiting to attack the poor kids who had been assigned to pick up milk from the volunteer house that morning. Members of each of the five children’s homes came. All of them left drenched from either water balloons or a simple bucket of water. And this was all before 7am.
After the dawn attack, we, the volunteers, armed ourselves and prepared to attack house by house, before the final group battle. We had strategized the night before, and the first couple assaults went smoothly.
And then we were ambushed.
While attacking the third house – which was proving to be a formidable opponent – the boys of the first house joined the fray and penned us in. We fought our way out, but there were casualties – such as a point blank water balloon to the face and the loss of a bucket, a key battle tool.
After regrouping and rearming at the volunteer house, we were ready for the final stand. Until this point, we hadn’t used any of our colored dye, and neither had the other houses. But that all changed.
The final battle took place in the playground of one of the houses. At times, it truly felt like a war. The kids came armed with dye, balloons, and deadly aim. And when all else failed, they stole our balloons and buckets. Sometimes right out of our hands. (They may be kids, but a lot of them are very strong.)
The nicer kids came up to me with color on their hands, and gently rubbed it on my face while saying, “Happy Holi, Sister!” The more enthusiastic ones went for the sneak attack, which often resulted in ingesting the colored powder. Throughout the course of the day I was spitting in pink, blue, yellow, and green.
By the time the battle was over – the balloons were gone, the water had run out, and we’d given as good as we’d gotten – no one had emerged unscathed. Just as it should be.
There’s nothing quite like attacking children to bond a group of volunteers. And there’s nothing quite like covering someone’s face in dye to bond you with your kids.
I don’t even mind that my hair is still slightly pink and purple.