It was teal. I remember he taught me that shade.
He also taught me the difference between red, crimson, scarlet, moonshine, buckwheat, porridge, fawn, and husk.
He taught me that we could play Holi with crushed Mari biscuits and rub pieces of satin and khadi and cotton and velvet to get a sense of texture.
When Holi ended, I would be scrubbing myself clean in the bathroom while he warmed milk (without spilling) for my bedtime.
I remember the time I’d attended my first Kala Ghoda festival. With the scarce pocket money, I’d bought him some colourful wads of cotton that came in teeny sachets with ‘Om’ and ‘Shivam’ and things like that written on them. I had also got both of us, squares of an interesting canvas that caused colours to change when applied.
The next day, I left for college. When I returned, I noticed that his lunch of chapatti, milk, and mashed bananas was left untouched. He had painted all the squares of canvas with a single shade of yellow. He’d soaked every piece of the fancy cotton in yellow and simply covered the whole canvas with it.
I had yelled at him. He had asked me if I would have preferred a different colour. I immediately felt bad and cooked him an omelette. I remember crying as I broke the egg and watched the rich yellow yolk ooze out.
Holi became routine for us later. For me, at least. I went out for biryani parties with my friends while he sat by the window and listened to the crowd cheer down below. Slowly, the kids in my building grew up and moved away. No one liked Holi anymore. Except for him. He missed it. One day, he had filled up a water balloon and burst it on himself just for fun.
When I left home and I left him, he had asked me to return for Holi the following year. I hadn’t.
Today he’s no more.
I am taking his poem to the institute where my grandfather wanted the poem to be submitted as some kind of legacy.
I love Holi because…
“It’s not celebration,
This rubbing of colours and splashing of waters.
It’s not celebration,
This closeness of strangers, this intoxicated familiarity.
It’s the forgiveness and acceptance a blind man wants
For unseeing the world and being invisible for it.”
They put up the poem in Braille in a beautiful frame. Bluish-green it was. Or maybe it was teal.