Holi in an engineering college

The kind of Holi celebrations I've seen outside my engineering college, I would say, are really tame compared to what used to happen within. At home and the colony around us, it was a sort of tame affair with the womenfolk mostly remaining away from the guys or at least refraining from playing with strangers. The occasional adventurous dude who decided to propose on this day by putting a red sindoor mark on the girl's forehead was usually beaten up badly, whether by his own friends in congratulations or by the girl's brother in retaliation is another story. The situation here in the US is entirely different. With the creeps outnumbered by far and a more vociferous female populace, the percentage of females coming out for the university Holi celebrations is much higher and the occasion is therefore understandably a lot more fun. The exact middle ground of this was in our engineering college: with everybody an adventurous dude and no females at all.

In Gujarat, Holi celebrations start at least a week ahead, at least the colorless variety. Bunches of home-made water balloons (and packets of mineral water from the wealthier folks) routinely find their way on to the heads of passers-by during this time. The engineering college remains kind of tame during this time -- nobody actually wants to spoil the fun that is coming. The events were unofficially kicked off once in our batch by pouring a bucket full of water on the dozing night guard exactly at midnight. The profusely swearing gentleman (who many had a bet could not hurt a cow) almost woke up the entire hostel in the ruckus that followed: but the perpetrators were found in the deepest slumber and blissfully unaware of what had happened. One of them actually went up to ask why he had bathed with his full clothes on, that too at midnight.

On this night, people usually made sure they packed all clothes and books inside cupboards. Computers were duly covered and/or sealed off into their original boxes. And then the fun used to begin early next morning. Groups of junta, usually the all-nighters, would come armed with buckets full of water and wake you up with a "little" splash. Some people, of course, found this just a little disturbing for their sleep. They would wake up, shout and abuse the enthusiastic people, then dry themselves off with a towel, and promptly go to sleep again. Colorful celebrations kicked off when some people decided enough was enough and mixed a handful of colors in a bucket of water and poured it on the next unsuspecting victim to come down from the stairs. All hell would break loose at this time, and anybody who can grab any kind of color (including swabfuls from others' faces or a little concentrate accumulated in that dirty corner of the railing) -- everyone would proceed to smear everyone else with their own personal colors. And then of course people would proceed to some common chowk to thus spread happiness, serenity and joy to juniors and seniors, in that order.

I hope many of you are aware of the flesh-for-beads custom of Mardi Gras. Basically, women go about collecting beads/necklaces from men for volunteering to show a little flesh. Holi in the engineering college has a similar custom, except the fact that a) there are no women involved, b) it is not voluntary to get your flesh exposed, c) people actually take parts or strips of your clothes as trophies -- flesh once uncovered will remain so and d) sorry: you don't get any beads for getting your clothes torn off. Hoards of people in different groups would meet each other at these chowks and proceed to tear off clothes like there is no tomorrow. I remember having seen one particularly lanky guy literally suspended in mid-air by the 5 people trying to tear off his shirt at the same time from different directions: the poor thing's Lee t-shirt was finally torn open when someone got a blade. Once you have a strip, you either tie it around your head as a trophy or just fling it atop the nearest tree -- the day after Holi you might be staring agape at the multi-colored pieces of cloth on almost every tree on the road. And of course, some unlucky fella would happen to be dragged into a muddy pool and 'colored' differently, who would promptly volunteer afterwards to find the next unlucky guy.

The final touch of the celebrations, of course, would be to form a procession and march towards the girls' hostel. Semi clad, fully black-and-blue faces and armed with absolutely outrageous accessories such as huge red buckets, cardboard placards that say "Down with Imperialism" or something to that effect, etc. -- such a group of about 100-200 students would form a procession (usually with 2-3 people supposedly playing drums by beating the crap out of a dustbin tin someone might have picked up). Since this was in the teachers' colony, it was always a little risky to be too brash: but even then the girls usually stopped playing among themselves and watched the show quietly. The level of excitement surrounding this momentous occasion used to be great, since you yourself were nearly undressed and yet unrecognizable in the crowd. An awkward silence usually followed when the drums stopped for a moment, and inevitably someone would point and declare in a loud voice: "Kisi ko mat bolna ki ye X hai!! (Don't tell anybody this is X)". And the said dude X would run for cover as suddenly nearly 300 eyes would be glued onto him: 200 of them laughing out and about to do the ROTFL, while the rest of them (the girls, usually) smiling or shaking their heads in disapproval. Suddenly everyone would be happy that a scapegoat had been found, and drums would start roaring again, and people would proceed back towards their respective hostels while the guard at the girls' hostel would keep giving them absolutely dirty looks.

But the best part was the free food that I usually managed to garner at the end of the day. Bengalis have a tradition by which we usually touch the feet of our elders at dusk on Holi and then are usually given sweets, etc. Now, during the time that I was in my first and second years at the college, our principal was also a Bengali gentleman. On both these years, I dutifully gathered a group of about 10 and turned up unannounced and uncalled at his house, touched his feet, exchanged a few words in Bengali and then focused my attention on gobbling the sweets that his wife would bring us while I would leave the responsibility of chit chat and small talk to the rest ;) But they were a nice and sweet couple, and this man was one of those rare men I've seen with a strong moral backbone and complete selfless dedication to the college. And of course, the expressions of the teachers as they walked in the next day staring at blue, green and red faces peeping out of clean white shirts was priceless! :D

Comments

  1. Now that one makes me glad to have chosen commerce. But I must be honest, engg college ki kahanis are the best stories to listen to ever, am just a tad envious!

    The dark lord ;p

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  2. Looks like someone's had an amazing holi in engg college!:)

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  3. Dark Lord, you can always go back! :D

    Spirited, oh sure! :)

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  4. Nice Post :) For me Holi was synonymous with getting drunk with "Bhang" (or Sidhdhi). And then may be singing in a chorus "Khai ke paan banaaraswaala" :) - I guess for many guys, the courage to step into the couryard of the girls hostel used to get farther bolstered by the influence of Bhang.

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  5. for me holi is becoming unrecognizable with the aid of my cousins, then going to our high terrace with large squashy baloons and..
    you know what. and i don't like confessing. it leaves you open to attack.

    (and as the originator of the term 'georgette heyer man', I have commented on your earlier post. :) )

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  6. Reminds me of a lot of things. I've had Holi of several kinds:
    1. Holi of Bihar - Born and brought up there I know how 'colorful' it can be
    2. Holy at IIT - copy-paste some of your stuff
    3. Brij Ki holi: People splash water and colors from all sides when you take a walk with your 'toli' to the Banke-Bihari mandir.
    4. Holi at Train: Dude, it was scary. We had to survive almost 22 hours on the Holi-day while crossing entire UP on a sleeper class.

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  7. Supratik, thanks, mate! Yes "khaike paan banaraswala" is sort of the anthem for Holi, and of course "rang barse" :)

    Scheherazade, err... that first paragraph sounds really suspicious! :D Maybe you would want to resolve the ambiguities and not let me construct my own interpretation? :)

    And I get every comment by email from this blog: so I did notice the earlier comment and have replied to it. Good luck finding your GHM!

    Kalyan, yeah I share a lot of your "experiences". #1 -- check, #2 -- check. And #4 -- I can imagine. Will want to find out more about the brij ki holi, though.

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  8. Sudipta, in the whole of my long life, I celebrated holi only twice-I mean in the real sense of it. But your narrative is wonderful, your pen full of myriad colors. Made me love it and want to celebrate it-albeit on paper and through pen,
    Keep it up

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  9. Manpreet, thanks, once again! And welcome onboard.

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  10. lol...man...its been long I peeped in here...but u have done our holi justice!

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  11. Ajay, didn't know you read my blog, man! And as always -- it was a pleasure ;)

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