It was Holi. The fact hit me with a mild thump as I hurried out from the wash basin with a tooth brush in my mouth, getting ready to feast on humble maggi at the mess. The way to the mess could be festered with let wild youth in a cloud of colour and powder. There was always going to be a chance that one of these clouds would rain on your breakfast parade, but the obstacles merely made the mission more challenging. Stepping out from my room, key in hand, I was witness to a fat fellow wrestling down a thin one and proceeding to cover him in colours worth his weight in the quadi. Shaking my head in disapproval I descended the stairs. Stepping on to the pathway, I perceived Skrotr coming my way, back after breakfast. He was wearing a blue, initially hip but now familiarly familiar shirt that claimed he was not a mess.
“Yo mofo!”, he acknowledged.
Back from the mess and full of hot maggi, I walked back into hostel. The quadi had become more populous. At the edge a familiar figure hulked over the goal posts, covered in psychedelic colours. It was Skrotr. Packs of similarly coloured enthusiasts shimmered and swirled in the sun, like an advertisement for epilepsy. Skrotr, surveying the killing fields, saw me walking past and grimaced, his body caked in colour with which his deep red shorts blended inconspicuously. This familiar piece of garment was made in the style of the shorts Fernando Torres wore when he was actually good and played for Liverpool under Rafa Benitez. I quickened my pace away from this incarnadine form and to the wing.
I ambled on to Polly’s room for the daily gossip and discoursed on the mundane.
“Aren’t you going downstairs for Holi?”, I asked.
“No dude. I have plenty of work to do. I must get started on something”.
“You may go down to Maakade’s wing for some time”.
“No man. If I go downstairs three or four hours will be spent on Holi”.
I left him to his devices and turned to my troubles.
Sat on by academic pressure which puts on weight by the day, I tapped aimlessly at the key board until I decided to consult someone else. A minute later, I was talking to Mohan when Skrotr suddenly came up to wing.
“Put some da. It’s only rice flour”, he pleaded as I hid my face beneath my arms and shuffled away from his advancing arms. Mohan hid behind the door.
“Just a bit on the cheeks”, he insisted. Stretching beneath my arms, he managed to wipe some on my face.
“Oho!”, boomed another voice behind me.
It was Polly. The man I had bid adieu to not more than twenty minutes ago now walked like a bearded rainbow. Amid the resonance of musical efforts of Messrs. Baker, Clapton and Bruce in my head, I stared at him incredulously.
“Hey, let’s put some colour on this guy’s face!”, he rallied, advancing menacingly towards me.
The shock of having just seen a man, so resolute in his academic commitments some time ago, now standing before me looking like Van Gogh’s waste cloth made me immobile. Taking advantage, he smeared some of the colour from his arms to my face, until I woke up to the fact.
“Come dude. We can play Holi!”, he entreated, bouncing along back to the madding crowd.
The lark was upon the wing and the snail was on the thorn. Unseen in the background, Fate was slipping the lead into the boxing glove. An old hamartia rose up to shove me off the straight and the narrow. As steadfast as I was in my rejection of Holi and in the pursuit of academic mediocrity, I found it difficult to turn down an invitation to intoxicants in a familiar den. I decided to take the recently turned hedonist, Polly, with me on this quest for mind altering substances.
The quadi was now full with blobs of colour, no longer recognizable in the distance. Downstairs, Polly was sitting on the parapet, wearing colour powder as much as he was wearing a shirt and shorts.
“You want to come with me to drink some thandai?”, I screamed.
“Yeah! Let’s go. You want to go to the gate before that?”.
I quickly descended the steps. Polly, having almost reached the entrance, had walked into a large group which looked like a colour fountain waiting to happen. I walked along the path, hoping Polly could extricate himself from the mob. Suddenly a group of five split away from the mother. In the middle, recognizable only by his trademark hair ,was Polly, on whom the multiplying villanies of Holi had seemed to have swarmed. Flanking him on either side were four other familiar bodies, intent on doubly redoubling the dashes of colour they had received. Like a family of zombies who have spotted their lunch in the last remaining human in the area, they advanced upon me. Their faces were coloured a dark saturnine which suggested a taste for the more sinister forms of crime. Drooling and growling they raced towards me, covering me in an avalanche of colours from head to toe, back and front. Initiated into this primitive, aggressive, testosterone charged cult, they slapped me on the back and escorted me out of the hostel.
We reached the hostel where the thandai was waiting for us. There were at least a hundred people in front of the hostel, a humanoid colour spectrum bouncing to dance music. All the popular numbers were blared out from speakers, as this crazed mass of populace driven over the edge by adrenalin, testosterone and bhang, recited the lines in a fingernails down a blackboard sonic ramble. A giant hose was showering three score, who in turn splashed the water on those around them. The whole scene was encircled by a puddle of a moat, decked in the colours of the day. A bunch of exchange students were standing at the perimeter, unable to make full sense of what just hit them or the incredible exuberance of the dancing, bathing crowd in front of them.
We filled a small bottle with thandai and retired to our lair. The need to get away and above was imminent.
Three hours later, I was standing in Guru, the colours of my misadventures having dried upon my skin.
"A bar of soap, sir".
The man behind the counter looked at me in part disapproval and part disdain. I felt as if I had stepped out into a torrent on the assumption that I had an umbrella, only to slip my hand into the bag and clutch at air. I quickly stepped out of there, my head mellow and light, my body aflame in colours and a growing fire in my belly.
A morning well spent.