I may have misplaced the details a bit. About who spoke what. After all, it’s hard to remember everything, but this is what roughly happened.

Pic credits: angiewindsor.blog.com 
A cloud of dust hovers in front of me, preparing to settle and then rise again as another car whizzes by. I think about other clouds like these.
Bright. Iridescent. Blue. Green. Yellow. 

Holi is two days away.



Five Holies ago, I was climbing out of the cocoon of high school discipline and the sheltered life therein. Eighteen years of childhood and teenage had passed me by. I was an adult now.

“Any plans tomorrow?” someone asked the class at random. Holi was a day away. Freshman year. Barely out of high school. Newbies. Nascent adults. 

Some response about bringing colors. Some volunteers. Another voice came up for a Holi party. Hmm, something was happening. Cool, I thought.

The next morning, I carefully oiled my hair. And donned an old brown kurta. Just in case. Plans are always tough to execute when too many opinions are involved. And so, the Holi celebration agenda was in a haze for the time being.

When the class broke for lunch, I had realized preparation wasn’t required. There was probably going to be nothing.

“Got the colors!” Anshum, the bespectacled joker of the group announced, brandishing a pouch that looked small and suspicious.
“How many in? We are going to play right now,” Amaan declared with a tone of finality in his voice.
“Now?” Medha asked, sheet in hand. “Can’t we play after class?”
“Come on, Medha! Just one class right?” I said to her, suddenly all excited and willing to play. Medha and I were already friends by then. Arushi and Apara were yet to join our bandwagon.
“Four classes!” Parul reminded everyone, opting out of the whole idea instantly.
“Oh come on, people!” 
I really was all for it. I wanted to go all out this time. After all, what else is college about?
Sakhi was ambivalent about it and looked unconvinced.
“I am in, you guys decide! I can come anytime.” It was Hanima. She was the one who gave me the confidence to go ahead with the plan. “What’s ED lab compared to Holi? I can easily go if you guys are willing.”
I was glad there were a few people who could survive on a little less of study for a day.
I was wrong, though.

Friday afternoons were usually reserved for Engineering Drawing lab classes and bunking a lab is equivalent to losing the attendance of four classes. And attendance, my friends, is the most important thing in the life of a student. An engineering student, at least.

With utmost regret I have to state that the guys were all ready but it was the fairer sex that was dilly-dallying. Except me, of course. Obviously ED probably had much to do with it. Although I quite enjoy sketching and have whipped up some Madhubani paintings in my teenage, the thought of drawing a well-measured top view and lateral view gave me the jitters.

“Final call, guys!” Lucky announced, as if announcing the final boarding call for passengers. “See the loyal ones at Sutta Point in fifteen.”

The order had been delivered. Now remained the question of loyalties. Parul had left even as the annunciation was on. Arushi and Apara followed suit. Now remained us four.

“Are you guys coming?” I asked them.
All of them looked like they had been asked to choose between death by hanging or electric chair.

“Come on, please? Let’s go get a life! It’s Holi after all!”
“I will surely come, baby.” That was Hanima. Just notice the enthusiasm she displayed. And hold this thought. I will come back to her later.

“Let’s first go to the washroom,” Medha suggested. For Medha, washroom was the go-to place for everything. You could cry it out, think it over and talk it out; in short, do everything in the hallowed restroom. Going together to the restroom is a ritual we have religiously followed through the four years of our graduation.  
While Medha was putting on her facial creams, my phone rang.

“Are you guys coming?” It was Praneet.
“Umm…yeah I guess.” I looked at the three girls before me, trying to gauge their reaction.
“Let’s go, baby!” Hanima said with great vigor. 
Emboldened by her support and pushed on by the forces waiting outside the gate, we hurried off, with the promises that they would follow.

What happened in the next half an hour, I can’t recall very clearly. All I know is that I found myself at the Sutta Point with a bunch of guys from our class, brand new friends of mine, Karandeep leading the pack. And Hanima? Well…only the Seven Heavens knew where she had disappeared off to after escorting me out of the gate.

We took our group of sevenish people to CC (Community Centre, NFC), the Mecca of all our outings, the place which was to become our haven in the coming years. And there, beneath the shade of the huge banyan, right in front of the McDonalds outlet that was to become the touchstone of our gatherings, the celebrations began. 

Anshum lunged at Shubh, coloring him all over. While Karandeep took a dig at Praneet, Lucky quickly made a call to Abhinav, gathering his forces. Battle cries were sounded and the lovebirds sitting sweetly beneath the banyan had to part as a fierce war ensued. Colors were shed and clothes ruined. I managed to get my hair dyed red and green and further red and also slapped on some colors on each of the warring factions but my motive had shifted now. I was awaiting someone else. I had only one thing on my mind. Yes, you got it right. Revenge.

It was Anshum who received the call. Yes, it was they, the traitors who had chosen to attend the lab class. We gestured to him to call them to the park. As the sounds of giggles and excited chatter grew nearer, we decided to maintain pin-drop silence. None of us uttered a word. 
“Yayyyy!!!” They came running towards us with a mission, revelry etched large on their faces. We, though, sat mute. Indifferent.

“You guys! What are you sitting for?” Hanima shouted. “I thought you would be playing!”

None of us uttered a syllable. We looked around at the trees as if the leafy creatures were telling us such interesting tales that we were deaf to their speech.

“Aashi! Why isn’t anybody saying anything? What did you all do all this while?” Medha and Sakhi came up to me and began asking.

“Aashi?” Hanima ran to me.

This was the precise moment I was waiting for. The person I was waiting for. The deserter. Yes, you are right. Hanima, who had left me stranded. I had something in store for her. I didn’t say a word as she came closer. Then I looked up and signaled almost imperceptibly to Abhinav behind her.

“What the-?”

A barrage of Coca Cola bottles were emptied on their heads and a volley of colors shot. Before they could make out anything, we were upon them. Shouts and screeches rent the air as both the armies fell on each other. Colors were daubed mercilessly on faces, arms, and most of all, hair. Clothes had never been more colorful. And I had Hanima in my grip now.

“Abhinav! Helllppp!” I screamed and he rushed in with a garden pipe helpfully lent by the caretaker of the park. We drenched her in a shower of black and grey colors, smattering her face with a fistful of gulaal.

“There!” I raised my fist in victory. But the oncoming party was already upon me. Pinning me to a nearby tree, Medha and Hanima took out a bunch of colors from God-knows-where and colored me blue, green, purple, red, black… 

Meanwhile, a vicious attack was on. Sakhi was tempestuous as her tresses dripped with Coca Cola. She concocted a deadly mixture of Pepsi and silver grease that she took out of her bag. A fierce battle ensued.  

And ended with a bang. And pangs. Hunger pangs. All of us, exhausted and awfully spent, traipsed to McDonalds for a burger.
The gang! Those were the days…

That day when I took an auto home, totally unrecognizable and frantic to reach before my mother dialed 100, (because my phone had had a rough day too, having been drenched and colored), I realized I had lost my drafter and my set of carefully drawn sheets to be produced in the semester practicals. I realized all this while rinsing my ears out, trying to ascertain if my hearing was still intact.


I ended up getting home, drenched, blackened, sooted, spending the next four days scrubbing my face off, draining my hair a minimum of twenty times and ending up with red, green and blue roots (no hair dye needed for a few months). The impressions left on my earlobes and underneath my fingernails told tales about our Holi exploits. I was ready to tell anyone who would listen about how I was colored and by what machination I managed to take revenge.

Yes, I lost my drafter and sheets and had to redraw those darned things again. I also missed my ED class. I had called myself a fool then. But today as I think back to my college days, to playing Holi on college streets, running around in parks being chased by disgruntled guards and restaurant owners, unleashing hosepipes on each other and devising schemes to color each and every person, come what may; I realize that I gained more than I lost. Well, memories for one. And yes, friends…
   
Holi does that to you. Makes friends out of classmates. Out of non-talking batchmates. It was the Holi of our first year that cemented our friendship. And created memories. Lingering memories. 


I’m pledging to #KhulKeKheloHoli this year by sharing my Holi memories at BlogAdda  in association with Parachute Advansed.

#KhulKeKheloHoli 

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