By Aditya Dev Sood
These tents in pink and white are looking taut, expectant. What is it, ten, ten-thirty? Gaurang is over there setting up the DJ, Abhinav the bar, along with Kishan Chand, who is nailing down the table-cloths to the tent-house tables. I have to set up the chat-wallah-s, all along this back wall of the garden, far enough from the Holi playing action, but also away from the bar — we don't want to have to monitor the liquor too hard today.
Hari kulfi khaenge, sahib? The kulfi guy's brought the regular kesari kulfi, but also the one spiked with the green stuff. You should try one. Down the row we've got aloo-tikki-s on that enormous frying pan, and then the gol-gappa guy and then the fruit-chat guy, all from my Dad's contact in Chandni Chowk.
I always find thandai either too sweet or too milky and strange to the palatte, maybe like semen. But in the frozen cream of kulfi, the sweetness is blanched. Try it. It's quite refined and subtle, a bit like green-tea ice cream. The kick will come slow, but the layered joy that green kulfi opens out on the morning of Holi always makes me smile…
We've got that large inflatable pool ready for dunking people as they enter the party. And we'll use the garden hose as well. I don't think there'll be more than thirty or forty people. You know, I haven't played Holi for any of the five years I've been away in the States. There is Diwalli on campus, and Hash-Bash may slightly make up for it, but I experienced no Holi there. I can't even imagine how campus security would respond to a Holi party, or where or how we would ever get permission to hold one.
Holi is special when you're a kid, I think. We used to celebrate Holi for something like a week back then. The whole colony would become a mad playground for pichkari-s, water-pistols, water-balloons and buckets. Each worked best at certain quarters, you know, a certain range, depending on where you're playing and crying and fighting and playing.
It's hard to be believe, but in my early school years our Headmaster actually set up a day for playing Holi in school. Class captains were given gulaal and pakka-rang, and the whole second half of the day was spent in the playground filling water-pistols and balloons. Our uniforms were just ruined by the end of it, all wet and pink and purple.
I was really young when my cousins were throwing water balloons from their rooftop, one time, into their back-lane. We, I mean they, filled water-balloons with pakka rang and threw them at a strolling European lady. She was totally not in the Holi spirit. She counted down the houses, and came round the front to complain to my aunt and uncle. There was hell to pay. That evening each of us had to got up to her and apologize, were were all in tears, she was like the Austrian ambassador's wife or something.
I've always thought there was something sadistic about how Board exams are scheduled bang in the week of Holi. I think many of us felt really sad at not being able to play Holi, at our friends not being able to play with us. Or if we did play, there was a always an undercurrent of guilt and worry for the examination week ahead, and the studying we should rather be doing. Later in the week, each of us would be home, back to the grind. Waking up at five in the morning to memorize new portions, spending the day eating, studying and masturbating. That's what Holi is like in your teen-age years.
Hey, Ashish is here, let's go say hi. Happy Holi yaar, you're looking too-hee clean, time for a dunking, aa ja pyaar se… That's his sister, his cousin, and one their friends. Happy Holi, guys! Come on, gulal is for sissies, let's do the dunking pool, hey hey! No, no, you first, you first. We splash, we thrash, the water is warm from the sun, and from all our bodies, but there's a nip in the air as well. Once you're in you don't want to get out 'cause your entire body's soaking freezing wet and shivering.
Ashish, let me introduce you to my friend the green kulfi man. You okay, Ashish says, all cool? Oh, I'm good, I'm super good, yaar, it's my first Holi since the 12th boards, I'm gonna enjoy myself. I heard Gaurang's invited half his college class today. The kulfi is fit, huh?
We should play some more Holi, yaar, those guys are still totally white! There's that girl Radhika? Ruchika? Whatever, I grab and lift her to dunk in the pool, while she squeals and thrashes and swears revenge. Her friends are joining in to try and push me in instead, but too quick, I'm out of the way and they're more in than out. And now they're dragging me in, till we're all in together, this messy, motley clump of water, color and sodden turf. Our giggling stops and we just sit there smiling, taking in the sun, the closeness, the music.
Yaar, Gautam's here. Who invited him? Hey hey, man… How're you doing, Holi mubarakbad, janaab! Gulal on you dude, heh, abey, saley pukka rang motherfucker who told you to bring that with you. Silver? Purple? Green-Black? Get off me saley, enough with the man-love. Only one way to end this, back in the baby pool… and splash in again.
We can just sit in the pool for a while, see if anyone wants to join us. Dude, have you've brought all these people with you? I can't half recognize 'em. Hey, check it out, Abha's pair are sticking to her T-shirt. Durust hai!
Where's my drink gone? Actually, I shouldn't be mixing this with beer, I should rehydrate.
Water water everywhere, jejeune rhyming is how i think.
This isn't like crystalina, it makes you very focused. And it's not just the bhang, is it? It's the water, the sun, colored powder in your hair, the music, the dancing on the wet grass. For a Holi program to run right you need the right software to be uploaded through all your senses. Ha, that's funny, bhang is the right kind of software for your hardware.
Sardar's girl is looking fine today. Maybe the chori needs dancing. Hey hey, when you back? How's it goin'? Cool, cool, hey don't just take pictures, come out and dance! Nah, we don't do this every year, but I think we really should… there is quite a bunch of people, not really planned, friends of friends, I guess. You haven't been dunked yet, I notice… Huh? The sun, yeah, we should dance in the shade, you're right.
Water, and then a leak, and then what i really want is a snog. Hm, too much history or too many consequences, which ever way i turn. Where'd she go, anyway? Suddenly feels like everyone is watching me. Any chori will do, but this yearning will not do.
Aa ja, nacha len, aa ja nacha len…
Julie, Natasha, aa ja, re aa ja…
Dance Dance Dance!
Khai ke paana banarasa wala
Khula jae bandh akala ka taala
Hey, come on everybody full-on U.P.-ishtyle! I need what Amitabh Bachchan has, a key to open the locker of my mind. This is full swing now, the grass is turning to kichad between our toes, I don't know who is dancing with whom, no one is dancing with anybody, and none of us wants it to ever stop.
aaja rang hai, ri ma, ranga hari,
mere mehboob ke ghar, ranga hari
There is color today, the color green
Rising at my lover's house, the color green
Well, the house is mine, but it's my mehbooba that's missing. She is gone baby gone, yaar, and I am only fucking garib-nawaz, because no chori will do. What good is it, wandering about the garden with a tent between your legs, randomly scoping for someone to fondle, when your bow is pointed elsewhere. She was never going to come, she told you that. The dates clashed, she hadn't planned for it, couldn't change her ticket. But she also had to pull out of the miasma. She was so sure that none of those eternities glimpsed could be held firm. She let reality back in, like a cool draft of mundane, random, empty time.
My feet are finding sharp stones below the slime and mud of the sodden grass. I'm gonna just try and dance slower now, cause I'm too tired to dance anymore, but if I stop cold I'm gonna puke for sure.
You love too much, Aditya, and it's not a good thing. This bhang is just loosening all the masks you been wearing. It's showing you something terrifying and true, the aching cavernous hollowness within, that you've just temporarily stopped up with her name.
Take me to the dunking pool, man, this life is too much to bear. And get me some water, like a soda or something. I'm feeling too much time, yaar, piled up and clanging all together in my head, Holi-s played and Holi-s missed, Holi-s ringing forward and backward through life. Once you grow up, Holi becomes a kind of litmus test, man, for whether you can still laugh and play and love other people in an honest way. And I'm playing and fighting and failing so badly this time, so badly. All is green-black inside, and its all coming out, it's all gonna come out now.