When the going gets mundane the mundane tends to get on to your nerves. March was here again and the harsh Delhi sun had already started to burn us down to ashes. Still keeping up a brave front, my friends and I were yet again going gung-ho about what all to do that upcoming Holi but Ipshita, my wife, had other plans altogether. She observed that for the last thirty three years I had spent Holi in Delhi and almost half of those were spent getting colourfully drunk at some place or the other. This time she wanted us to do something different and came up with the idea of bunking Holi altogether and heading off to the mountains.
Clubbing those few days of Holi along with an adjoining weekend, we went away from all the alcohol and uproar that Delhi had to offer towards a calmer and a peaceful Dharamshala. Redbus.in came to our quick service and we boarded a bus that evening itself. In the celerity of things I forgot to pack my bottle of Rum which had always accompanied me to the hills. That night on the bus, I started missing it when a small miracle happened. The bus made an unscheduled stop. The conductor almost jumped off the running bus and vanished into the night. Most of us got a bit alert on the bus, robbery on our minds. I saw my wife sleeping peacefully and decided to step out into the wilderness myself. Just stepping out of the bus I found the conductor almost running into me with two bottles of what looked like Rum. Astonished, I opened my arms to him and he smashed one bottle on the open door in an effort to avoid crashing into me. Politely with a mutually shared shameful smile, we got on the bus. The driver, the conductor and I shared a few seconds glancing at each other’s eyes before I came back quietly to my seat. Cursing my stars, I slept.
We woke up in the hills at dawn. The bus would cross a village called Dari in a couple of hours where we would have to get on foot. Dari, in Himachal Pradesh, is a village just a few kilometers below Dharamshala. All was quiet and green and white all around when we reached. We walked through the village and found that nice old house our friend, Ravi, had taken up to run. I could not wait for the early morning hot tea and the slap of cold wind on my face. It was Holi the next day but that sweet titillating smell of colours was not around. It was only the smell of fresh grass and vegetation. Far beyond, as always, the Moon Peak was beckoning us to come closer.
We lazed the whole day in the green valley along with the river which ran through it and had home-made food, grown in the hills. Sometime during the day, I remember mentioning alcohol and colour shopping to my wife and getting snubbed at. Holi, it seemed, was destined to be a dry one this year but we walked to the local market and came back with some Turmeric for the next day. It found us early again and we awoke to a din outside the house. The colourful neighbours were here to invite us to play. Ravi was telling them that he had guests while Kurumbi, his shephard dog was barking away to glory. Through half closed eyes and the front door I saw the Dhauladhar behind their colourful lot, gleaming in white. Meanwhile, they saw me and a few came in to greet me with colours. I ran into the kitchen and came back with some yellows and my dear friend’s veranda then became ground zero for Holi that year. By this time both our wives had joined in with the special effects of fountain guns. Then, as my luck would have it, came the second wave. A steel bucket filled to the brim came tobogganing from behind and over the crowd towards us. From it, out came steel glasses filled with sweet creamy milk. I looked at my wife. She stared at me and before she could say anything I downed my glass in one go. Taking my cue, Ravi followed.
After a while we were all running without care through the tiny lanes of the village with colours flying here and there, going from one home to the other. It was like a big family getting bigger and bigger on the go. The women were singing Himachali songs. Men were throwing ice cold water from the roof tops. Children were running with joy unbound. Being there at that moment I felt as if I was as much a part of that village as anyone else. The smile on my wife’s face had different shades of glee all over it. I was awed by the power of the mountain gods that had changed my outlook on the festival and introduced me to a magical drink. I could see them smiling down upon us while all the colours on the rocks and the stones came alive. It was like a fairy tale and time for me had stopped right there.
All images contributed by and copyrighted to Niladri Bhattacharji
Written byNiladri Bhattacharji
A vagabond at heart who can’t stay put at one place for a long time. Believes we just get one chance at life hence keeps learning and moving from one thing to the other. Read English Literature in Delhi University for a while, moved on to do a post grad in marketing communications. Somehow worked in advertising for ten years then got bitten by the film making bug, now doing a full time post grad in film editing. A day dreamer, photographer, rock climber and a biker. Plays around half a dozen musical instruments, writes, plans the next travel and just rambles.