The kid woke up early today. He never wakes this early. He rubbed his eyes, said a little prayer, began his day. Mother & Father are still sleeping, so are Brother & Sisters. The red blanket on them looks a little wet, it must’ve rained. The footpath under the bridge was too crowded last night, so they had to make home in the open. He dusts off the dew of the early mornings and takes his bare feet to the streets. No point in waking Mother up now, he’s not hungry yet.
As he strolls, he sees the street drenched in colour and wetness. Red, Orange, Green, Wet. It must be Holi. Brother recently taught him about the festivals and last year was his first, what he now knows as, Holi. That was fun time. They had water pistols left over from the day’s sale and the manager-man let them keep it. They played around the broken drainage line where the fountain started. Some kids had nicked some colours from somewhere and their fountain was now colourful. It will be fun this year too! That made him happy.
Distant chants and drums he could hear, as he walked further. He saw something burning close by. Brother had told him about the burning of sticks and how it starts Holi. He approached the fire, crouched down, cupped his palms over the heat and rubbed them on his face. That felt good. He did that multiple times and sat there, his feet stretched against the fire.
The chants grew louder and louder. Brother had told him about the chants around the fire.
His feet were the same colour as the street, he noticed. The same three colours. Red, Orange, Green and wet too. He looked around for some pink. It was his favourite. Around the street, some on the footpath, people were sleeping. Maybe they too did not get the bridge.
The chants grew closer and he could see where they were coming from. The men , he counted 10 as he couldn’t count more, were growing bigger and bigger and they stopped when they were near his fire.
“Who are you? What is your name?” The man shouted like Mother shouts when food is ready. He thought about food and that made him hungry. He rubbed his tummy and gestured with his hands, as if he’s taking in a morsel of rice. The man grew angry and threw him by the wayside. Is this part of Holi? He was still new to the festival.
The men were covered in colour but had no water pistols, though they had other weapons. The swords, the knives, the torches. He wondered how were they going to fill them with water. He kept on walking the entire day. The whole day he saw more angry men, more colours, more sleeping people on the road, more fire.
By sun down, he raced back home, knowing that there would be a scolding and the food will be a little less, as he wasn’t there at the traffic signals today. He came to their place in the footpath to find his family. Still sleeping. Their red blankets had turned black now. He shook Mother urging for food, but she did not answer. He shook the rest of the family, they did not answer. He realised that they wouldn’t. He crawled up to Mother, held her in embrace. He closed his eyes. Fighting the tears, he slept, the sound of the riots as his lullaby.