Memories of Holi in my childhood days are not much except that I played Holi and came back, bathed for hours and slept in the afternoon. For the next 4 or 5 days, there would be traces of mix of a few colors like green, pink, red that would just refuse to go despite violent scrubbing. The wicked thrill of hurling water balloons at unsuspecting souls and hiding behind any hide-able place was completely seventh heaven masti. This balloon bombing exercise was usually followed by a ritual of gaali garoch (abuses) by the victim. Abuse vocabulary would get enriched but of course it was nothing compared to the learnings at college. Typical victim response would be, kameeney dum hain tho saamney aa. Amazing, most Indian languages have a one to one correspondence with this sentence, dil irundha nindhu paaru edhirey? (in Tamil, even part of the title song from Madurai) … ha ha, of course, the young and naughty kids did not obviously have any dil or dum but that streak of pure naughtiness!
As I went off to college I began experiencing the wilder taste of holi: like the mass dipping exercise. Dipping would happen in a tank, also called shit tank. Yes, agreed, the name was ugly but reason for the name was something else – water from the tank was used for well, other purposes. Some of the phony nameologists like Priyamvadanandacharya would suggest the name change to sshhit tank and prophesy that only then; those mini reservoirs would always be filled with water – huh!
I surprised myself two days ago – I missed playing Holi after all those years a lot. In college, my most memorable Holi was in my 2nd year. The morning started off with a generous dose of bhaang followed by sweets. I was offered a glass of what looked like innocent cold milk mixed with green paste. Other hall mates (at kgp, hostels were called halls of residences, hence hall = hostel) joined and we had a few glasses and laughed at the weaklings who would behave irrationally after 2-3 glasses, hee hee, nothing was happening to us, the stronger people. After a few rounds of bhang, pakoras and some sweets, I remember the increasingly drastic decline of logical content from the environment. Somebody would laugh for no reason for a while, then crib about something and begin to cry and the cycle would continue. One particular chubby character (name is MS) was the highlight of the morning. What he did was:
Step 1: MS: Reee, Ranga reee, girlfriend nahin hain yaar. Booo hooo boo hooo …..
Step 2 to Step N: Repeat above statement and cry.
Step N + 1: MS: Reee, Ranga reee, girlfriend nahin hain yaar, ha ha ha ha ha ……
Step N + 2 to Step 2N: Repeat above statement and laugh.
Of course, by then, my reactions were equally blistering barnacled or thundering typhooned like good old Captain Haddock.
Similar random side effects were observed on all the revelers. A group of about 100 guys assembled in front of the hall, some even playing the dholaks. Consumption level of bhaang was normal – a PJ (pathetic or poor joke) by some nerd. He wanted to say how the consumption followed a normal distribution. A cycle rickshaw with huge speakers and playing popular Holi songs appeared in front of the hostel gate. We began to follow the rickshaw and our hostel procession merged with similar march parties from other hostels. Some of us were sent into frenzy when few inhabitants from ‘that hall’ appeared, yeah that hostel which housed the Piya Milan Tree. I don’t remember what happened, but we were confident that face identification was impossible with multi-colors dripping from our faces. Some whistled, others ignored and most didn’t know what was happening. MS looked at the unidentifiable girls, stopped to wish them happy Holi and after a few moments he realized he was standing still. Then he ran forward to keep pace with us and caught me again, “Reee Ranga and Rajneesh (RT), where are we going? Ha ha ha …. ” That was when we realized, we had no clue. We saw our Hall president (aka Laddu) nearby and he informed us that we were going to the Director’s house. IIT Director ka ghar? Is state mein, kyun bhai?? Anyways, we were too lazy or confused to turn back. After what seemed like many hours later (in reality it was jushtu 15-20 minutes), I found myself, like many others, running behind our dear Director and applying gulaal on his semi bald head. Then we screamed, ‘Happy Holi, Holy Hain’! What an excuse and what an opportunity to touch his bald head and feel so tempted to tap it! Today it seems like a cheap thrill, but oh my, he was such a sport! I cannot even imagine greeting a bunch of hooligans like that crowd, but he seemed to really like the students and was patiently distributing sweets! MS, RT and I were suddenly aware that our Diro was a polygamist. RT, MS and I then realized that it was us who were seeing 2 Directors and his 2 wives, we thought were twin sisters! Our seniors, JH, JP and IC were in total agreement but they wanted to show off their bhaang handling maturity by laughing at us – and were giggling – like little girls, I say!
Next, the crowd disintegrated and went to the respective hall wardens’ homes. Of course, some of my hostel mates ended up in another hostel warden’s house and came back angry that we ditched them. Nobody had any idea what was happening except that we were getting hungrier every second.
After returning to the hostel, 4 of us went to JP’s room and played bridge. Mess worker G came up and served us some more ice cold bhang. By the time I began to understand the rules of Bridge, we gave up. JH, one of the 4 in the room, started giving funda that uttering dichiki dichiki … and swaying head slowly would make us feel so much better. We threw the cards down and went into a dichiki dichiki mode, while listening to Rang barse and other evergreen holi numbers.
After a couple of hours, some of us were walking back to hostel after a heavy meal of parathas and sweets. In between what happened was a haze and the looong walk was full of philosophical talk and ultimate sentimental discussions (aarbit senti) about how much we would miss hostel life in our lives some years down the line. Hmmm …. realizing now that it wasn’t so arbitrary after all.
The funny thing about bhang was it took many of us on a sinusoidal wave mode. Happy, sad, normal for long time, then back to happy, sad etc. The next day morning, some of the muggus (muggu = academic oriented soul that mugs) rushed to class in a sober manner. 2 guys were late and stood outside class waiting for the professor (prof) to notice so that they could say the customary, “Excuse me, may I come in, sir?” To the mega amusement to some and utter shock to the rest in the class, one of the late dudes began to laugh hysterically. Before the prof could lay his eyes on them, fortunately, they fled from the scene.
That Holi (or Dol Jatra as it is called in Bengal) is etched in my memory. [Apart from the Holi during my B-school days, about which, I will write some other day]. For me yesterday was the 16th anniversary of that Holi. I am looking forward to a Holi like that some day soon. For now, I know, the wait is going to last for at least one more year!