The morning news reminded me, today is Holi. I knew its coming, but never realized that it will sneak up like this. Looked out of my window, strained my ears, do I hear any dhol, a scream? Nopes, its only those cockadoodledooos coming in from the group of cocks and hens below!
“Son wake up, it’s the time for Puja, wont you put ‘Abir’ to the deities?” it used to be the morning of Holi. Ammii waking up two of us, me and Bro. Get up, get fresh and put gulal on Ma Kali’s feet, then touch feet of Parents with gulal, and then they will put some on our head. Ammi, with her tika and Babai with two fingers on both the cheeks. And we started preparing for the expedition, preparing our resources.
Called up Ammi, spoke to them and left for office. On every corner of the road, I was trying to search for people, faces, with color other than the usual skin color; no they were not there. Suddenly the radio city had the scream – “Faguaaaa!”
Sinha Uncle used to have that earth shattering scream, and we knew the time to go out is nearing. Soon we will have screams on the streets. “Kibe – Niche ay” (come down!), the group is here. Will grab my packet of abir, and obviously all other dangerous stuffs will be tucked in some secret corners of pockets. The half torn jeans and the White kurta…
The auto stopped by a hand pump. There were a few ladies queued up for water, and a bunch of children, playing with a bucket full of water. They used their mugs to throw water at each other.
All abir / gulal either finished or wet beyond normal use. Its time for the water to come out. Its time we provoke Shubhankar, the shortest one to take revenge. Go and splash some water from your top floor verandah. And when he did, obviously, his elder brother has to be strategically placed to get the maximum water. Soon both the brothers will fight and two buckets will be down. Some will have patience to mix the color, some just plain water. But my fun was to use the dry color on hair, they stick and then more water pour more color it will spread, even when you go back and try washing them with shampoo. Oh then the hands will start paining from over pumping the hand pump, so all will run towards the nearest pond, heave ho, water, muck, planktons – everything has color – good or bad.
I passed through the musical instrument shop. Is that a dhol hanging there? Amazing, the FM also played the song right on time… Rang Barse…
With Holi nearing the end, a bit exhausted bodies will gather near the Somenath Bhai’s ironing shack. Ananda, has brought down his dhol, the beats start, and obviously it has to be me to start – “Kine mari pichkari tori, bhigi angiya – rang rasiya, rang rasiya – ho!” The chorus will start. Soon it will become a chorus cacophony. Deepak will start his trademark, “Taiyab Ali pyar ka dushman – hyai hyai!”
Lunch time and I was standing on the street, a cigarette between the fingers, a blank look on the street in front, deciding on what to eat today…
“hey wont you come in for some sweets this time?” That Jethima (taiji) calling – she is childless, but every holi, she will religiously make sweets for all of us. And then there are so many other house to raid. One by one we started raiding the houses, and after the customary pranam, a round of sweets, gujiya, rasgulla, payesh, pithe, malpua. Obviously we also had to go to our place. And out came some white batasha; everyone checked them; no – nothing so white can have nething. Last year the gujiyas had bhang inside (obviously Ammi didn’t knew, she was only happy that I was cooking). This time the white sugar batashas had dry magenta colors poured in through small holes. Managed to pain three mouths magenta; the glasses turned magenta too, that was the only problem.
The school children were coming back home – all clean and orderly. No paints, no colored face, no pichkari in hand. Nothing to fear.
We were already in the state when we have become uncle of the neighborhood children, yet we called their father uncle too. The children couldn’t reach our face. So its either the pichkaris from behind, or a request,
“Uncle can we put some color on you?”
“Where will you put dear? We are already full!”
“No, there is some white left on your kurta in the back!” – and two small hands will get printed on that space.
In comes a balloon and the guy flies. Sudip calls – “hey if you wan to play come in front!” – phchak – another one burst on his neck. Furious Sudip runs towards them, and before their smaller feet can take them away, the 6’1” structure reaches and squats on their bag of balloons, all of them gone. The are sad, I scold Sudip. I take out the silver paint box and give it to them. Soon a horde of small silver hands swamps Sudip and his legs get painted silver.
Looking at the group of guys on bikes. Are they going for Holi? Or just towards the Mall? Do you do malling on holi – or should the group move towards the Thandai Shop?
Colors finished, sweets devoured, throats turned hoarse, all carefully protected cigarettes ashed, the bikes come out. The collection of 6 two wheelers with 13 passengers starts moving – destination Camac Street or Theater road, the “Thandai Mela” of the marwaris or the shops selling sweets. Couple of glass each – that’s enough after giving it a few minutes to kick the bikers start coming back. The road get cleared by the collective sirens. When we reach back we find Ananda already out. Standing in the middle of the road, with a whitewash brush in one hand and a distemper bucket full of water in other. Mission to put a cross on them and shout the number crossed – 86! Looked at the colors on the street and the walls and the stairs; by the time we will manage to clear them it will the time to get the colors out again!
I was on my way back. Still searching for the color. Oh, hey the two girls on the scooty beside me are painted… from head to toe. So after all the girls of the city knows to enjoy too!
But she didn’t. She never liked them, neither her parents. We sneaked up to their roof, and emptied all of our paint stock in their water tank. Its shared by 5 flats, so what? They all have to play holi till the water is emptied. She played with me only once. The first holi after our marriage – the last one in Kolkata, and the only one with her that we enjoyed. The photos of our unrecognizable faces are obviously there. If u look a hard, you might also find the dress we wore that year. But apart from that, the girls of all the phases had to counted, one by one, and painted. And when our group is near, they knew its safe, and they will dance inside our ring, just like they do during Durga Puja Bhashan. She used to be jealous, but obviously I would narrate every details of them; I want her to be jealous. I want her to know how to enjoy. But did she? Did she learn? Will I have the colors? I even took colors with me the day before. Thought will give her a little when I dropped her near the alley behind their house. I did, and she concealed it in, and showed me the day after. Does she still have them? I still have a packet of abir at home…