The air is fragrant with the sweet smell of flowers and everything around you is decked in myriad hues. And the beckoning gestures of marijuana are too tantalising to ignore. Holi and bhang are two sides of the same coin, inseparable in their proximity to each other, inexplicable in the way they are intertwined. From the days of Lord Shiva to the interiors of college hostels, bhang reigns supreme and unbridled on the day of Holi – and well, several days before and after, too!
Now, to the deeds that ensue inside the premises of college hostels on Holi. From the first-person point-of-view, hostels in Delhi celebrate Holi in ways that outsiders can hardly dream of. Rules will remain, but so will the will to transgress them. Fines will be imposed, but so will the charm of bhang! A girls’ hostel is a place about which people have imaginations, which when penned down, will resemble an entire epic. At times certain things do come close to the truth, but others will forever remain veiled in ignorance. Pandora’s hot, sexy box of mysteries will not be opened. Let there not be any light on many of those dark, mysterious facets of hostel life. Amen.
However, an iota – mind you, just an iota – of what occurs inside a girls’ hostel in the capital of the country might be revealed here. Just the memory of it makes me frantically crave for a rewind button. For Holi has never been the same ever since. Neither has been life, for that matter. Anyway. All sorts of digressions apart, Holi was an otherworldly affair back in those days!
During Holi, most of my hostel-mates were at their homes, playing with <i>pitchkaris</i> (most of them were from nearby states, and hence could manage a trip home during the Holi holidays), and the lesser fortunate ones had to console themselves by indulging in the revelries at their local guardians’ places.
Cut to the least fortunate ones. The likes of me, whose homes were about a thousand miles away from the Capital, and whose local guardians were just for the sake of nomenclature. While outsiders had a well-conceived notion about the miseries of such left-out people who had to spend a festival in the hostel, we were only too eager to snigger at their beliefs. Holi was never a tertiary festival; the splendour of Holi was never relegated to the background; other ‘cleaner’ festivals never emerged first-rate in the minds of the leftover hostellers!
Colours will definitely remain the most important part of Holi. But well, bhang is the most cherished part of it. Methods of procuring marijuana will find its place somewhere else, not here. It is too volatile, and might give people ‘wrong’ ideas!
Moving on to The Day. All our colours and cannabis in place, the festivities take off a bit late in the day. Getting up early on a holiday is nothing short of blasphemy, given the fact that they are too few and far between. My feet drag me to the lawns where colours are already being thrown and people are already unidentifiable. Donning the clothes that I’d made a mind to discard after the avalanche of colours that the day would make me face, I face the attackers. Before long, my face too, that I’d taken pains to wash just a while back, is a canvas of black, brown and silver. No, we never wasted our hard-procured money on innocuous colours. Only the most dangerous, the ones that would instantly transform a person into a ghost of sorts could find a place in our celebrations. With complete disregard for protests, we pull out, one by one; all those who had decided to give Holi a miss. The victims are attacked and we are all united in an un-resemble-able mess. The day progresses with amazing alacrity and soon it is time to usher the most important guest into the festivities – bhang.
The refrigerator in the hostel mess is ransacked and the survivors of the melee walk out with the hard-earned booty – the delicious, bhang-laced thandai. Bingeing kicks off and we drink as much as our stomachs are able to accommodate. The warden is celebrating Holi with her family, and the Matron is nowhere on the premises. And as far as the Hostel Union is concerned, they wouldn’t dare say ‘no’ to bhang!
We drink, we make merry, and we laugh. A certain somebody starts crying. And continues to cry. Bhang has hit her hard. We console her with whatever speeches our bhang-laced tongues are able to weave. Elaborate discussions on the futility of hostel deadlines and other such grave matters take place. Once the energy levels start dropping, we realise that we need to sleep. We walk back to our desolate rooms, the handful of people who are left in the hostel inhabit rooms that are separated by miles of deserted corridors. Slumber takes over instantly, and I sleep all through the evening, into the night.
Later, much later, when the moon is high up in the sky and an unusual silence enshrouds the city, I wake up. And realise that another year needs to go by before I can indulge in the phenomenon called ‘Holi’, and the elixir called ‘bhang’. The hangover will last for a while, that is true. But normality strikes hard the next day. With a swivelling head, I plunge into the mundane reality of lectures and assignments!