Painting the town red, and every other colour, celebrating Holi in Corner Brook

Ramjeet Kumar celebrates Holi at Grenfell campus in Corner Brook. Kumar came to Corner Brook from India in November 2022. (James Grudić - image credit)
Ramjeet Kumar celebrates Holi at Grenfell campus in Corner Brook. Kumar came to Corner Brook from India in November 2022. (James Grudić - image credit)
James Grudić
James Grudić

Last week saw the festival of Holi celebrated in the streets of Corner Brook for the first time.

The festivities took place at Memorial University's Grenfell campus March 8, and were open to the general public. Students and members of the general community mingled together to celebrate one of the most popular festivals in Hinduism, throwing multicoloured powdered pigments on each other under the March sun while music played over loudspeakers.

Ramjeet Kumar came to Corner Brook from India on a work permit in November of 2022, while his wife studies at Grenfell Campus. Fully caked in powdered paint, he didn't hesitate to express the significance Holi holds for him.

"Through this, we are connected to our roots," said Kumar.

The practise of smearing loved ones in multi-coloured paint is more than just good fun, explained Kumar. There is a deeper meaning.

"By putting colours, it means there is no difference of religion, caste, colour, or race," he said.

James Grudić/CBC
James Grudić/CBC

During Holi, people of all backgrounds and social standings are free to celebrate together. Everyone is fair game for playful splashing of colour and water. During the festivities, even the most devout followers of Hinduism are known to let loose.

"Everyone is equal when you put colour on others ... you can say it's a festival of equality."

Kumar is used to celebrating Holi in India where the March weather can reach 30 degrees Celsius, a far cry from Corner Brook where the temperatures are still freezing through the month. Dressed in complimentary white T-shirts, people eschewed the traditional water splashing.

James Grudić
James Grudić

Afterwards, there were Indian snacks, tea and coffee served in the atrium of the Forest Centre. The event was organized, planned and delivered by Grenfell Campus International Student Services.

Angela Gomez is the international students programmer. Originally from Colombia, she found herself celebrating Holi for the first time. From her role as a coordinator of events from many different cultures, Gomez said planning the Holi celebration was an opportunity for her to learn about another culture.

"I'm not sure if there are other things people do ... From what the students told me, this is okay," said Gomez.

Gomez cited the sizeable population of students from India as the reason to host a Holi celebration.

"I think it went pretty well, I think we had a good turnout, so I'm happy."

Tanay Bhushan Sarkar is from Bangladesh and a former student at Grenfell. He came back to the school to take part in Holi, something he didn't get to do while studying there.

"I'm very happy to see that this has started here also," Sarkar said.

Far from the country he grew up in, Sarkar said the celebration of a familiar festival brought him comfort.

"It seems to me that it's a home away from home," he said, laughing.

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