Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Holi

I never wanted to see some of our seniors again on the campus but that was not to be. Some of them returned as research students. Thanks to the rules, they were at least not staying in the same hostel as I did. Although I was never in their firing line, because of the solidarity of our group, I had seen them thrashing innocent boys without even an apparent reason. I had seen them threatening not only the hostelites, but also some of the teachers. They were a menace to the campus, but they enjoyed being so. They had once beaten up a conductor of the last bus that reached the campus at the stroke of midnight. Many students returning late from their native places had the advantage of reaching the campus at the cost of less than a rupee. Even for students visiting the movie houses to watch second show, the last bus was very convenient. However, after the conductor was roughed up, the service was stopped. I was certain it hardly made any difference to the culprits, but a large number of others suffered.

The day of Holi, the festival of colours, spawned terror among the teachers living on the campus. I remember being a part of the crowd of the senior hostelites that went on rampage in the campus. Most of the houses of the teachers were locked; obviously they had escaped the torture of facing the drunken students. Those who were in didn’t dare open their doors. In the hostel all types of drinks – whisky, rum, and gin -were poured in a bucket that is used for washing, and water was mixed. Everyone would drink from the mug, again used in the bathrooms, and nobody could know how much he drank. Once the buckets were emptied, the boys sufficiently stiff and uninhibited, would start playing Holi and within minutes it would be difficult to recognize who is who. All would start using obscenities and there would be hooting, roars of laughter, and mad dancing. It was permitted to act crazy for one day. All this was under the supervision and leadership of Sadanand Mane and Javed. Javed smoked grass too along with the so-called cocktails that was prepared in the bucket. He would empty a cigarette by rubbing it holding with the filter tip up and then suck the ready mix into the cigarette in one strong gasp. Amazingly, it took him hardly a few seconds to prepare it.

The procession was naturally towards the girls’ hostels, kicking and beating the doors of the already abandoned residences of teachers en route. Everyone hooted and shouted obscenities. There were some brave teachers who stayed back and opened their doors and allowed the boys to colour them and then they would give some money too. It was collected by Sadanand and was to be used for their evening parties. When nobody answered the knocks or rather kicks on the door, boys would yell at the top of their voices and someone began removing the bulbs fitted above the door or to the inside of the porch, which quickly assumed the form of a ritual. Hundreds of bulbs were collected and carried in a lungi that one of the guys had lent, happily remaining in his underwear, which fortunately was not a short, v-shaped one.

The procession reached the house of the Vice Chancellor and after one long hoot by the crowd, some one called VC addressing him politely, “Will you please come out VC sir?” One of the security guards said that the VC was not home. But who would believe him? Another fellow shouted the name of VC. Soon everyone was shouting the name of the VC. Some started shortening and distorting the name. In this part, the first name is distorted by suffixing a ‘ya’. Like ‘Basavaraj’ who is called endearingly as ‘Basu’ will be ‘Basya’ when used derogatively. It was unthinkable for me to use such derogative language for the VC, but every once seemed to enjoy it and more and more abuses flew out of the crowd. At last, the VC came out and asked, “What do you want boys? You should behave yourself. Please don’t shout,”

“It is Holi today sir. We just came to greet you sir. If you can just allow us to put some colour...” before Sadanand finished, the VC said, “I have already taken bath. But if you insist, there is no problem. Just make it quick.”

Instantly a few fellows rushed to him and in no time his face and clothes displayed all the colours. But that was not the end. Some guy had brought a battered tin box and he began to beat it in rhythm. All the boys had now surrounded the VC and started dancing. And someone had brought a safety pin, which he pressed on the bum of the VC, which made him jump and cry in pain. Some of the onlookers might have thought that the VC too was dancing with the boys, for the whole nasty business was repeated again and again till the security guard rescued the VC and took him inside.

They crazy procession retreated and continued towards the girls’ hostel. The gates were closed, but some girls were peeping through the windows of their room. I don’t know from where Javed had acquired a long staff and he held it between his legs swaying up and down. Boys started whistling, hooting and dancing behind him. It went on for another hour and the procession with Javed at the head covered all the three girls’ hostels. Just when we were crossing the third hostel, a police jeep was spotted at the corner and the procession was promptly broken. Boys ran helter-skelter and there was confusion and turmoil all around. Out of the jeep that screeched to halt just behind the disappearing crowd, two hefty constables came out waving their canes. I thought a couple of guys got some blows. My group had slowed down after the procession had crossed the second girls’ hostel and was left far behind in the procession, due to which we were fortunately saved.

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