“It’s 1 pm already. Now go to your sister’s in-laws’ home and come back before it is dark,” Ma said.
“Fine. Can I take Kushal along with me?” I asked.
Ma was putting the gifts for my sister’s in-laws-yet-to-be in a bag. She nodded. A sari for the mother-in-law, two sets of suiting, one each for the father-in-law and the groom, two boxes of sweets, homemade delicacies went into the bag with a nervous smile on Ma‘s lips, apparently the worry whether they would find the gifts enough. Yeah, we belong to the community and times where a well-educated, well-nourished and well-mannered girl is not enough to part with. She must bring bags full of douceur de Vivre with her on every occasion, sad or pleasant.
After pulling the zipper of the bag, she took out ten hundred rupees and few fifty rupee leaves from her purse, all crisp and fresh as was our relation with that family. She instructed, “Give one hundred rupees to each elder and fifty rupees to every child present there.”
I carefully deposited the money to the inner pocket of my trouser, “What if more than ten elders are there?” I sought.
“In that case, give these thousand rupees to your aunty. She may distribute them at her own accord. Okay?”
“Yeah.” I hung the bag on my shoulder and looked into the ‘Thandai‘ jug placed on the table.
Making ‘Thandai‘ on Holi was a tradition in our house. Pa dutifully did it every year making it the first task early in the morning on the day of Holi, adorning milk with all sorts of dry fruits, rose petals and a little cannabis.
Before serving anybody, he offered it to the baby Krishna who lived in the small temple in one corner of our living room. If the child in the temple could have it we could too. I savoured it and boasted to my friends all through the following week.
The jug had little of the divine drink and a thick settling of nuts and raisins – enough to hold back a glutton like me. I emptied the jug, went out and shouted for Kushal who lived opposite to us.
We took an auto rickshaw to reach our new relatives’ place. The sediments in the jug had a good quantity of weed too which started telling its effect on me.
I was alright in the auto rickshaw during the one hour run. After we left it to walk to our destination, suddenly I was in a state of euphoria.
As I saw a group with drums, I joined them in their dance. Kushal knew I was always shy of dancing. Bewildered, he tried to pull me out but cannabis had strengthened me. Only he knew how long I danced and when I stopped, I laughed and laughed.
By now, Kushal had some clue of my abnormal behaviour. He toiled hard to make me realise that we had an important task in hand-something for which Ma had put in more efforts than preparing for the festival of colours.
When he succeeded in persuading me, I forgot the way. We wandered for almost two hours in hundreds of interconnected lanes but failed to find the house of the people who had greater significance than that Holi or maybe every following year.
Kushal gave up after trying his best.
The bag of gifts on his back, he held my hand in his and asked the whereabouts of ‘Beniwals’ from the people high on colours and ecstasy, who seemed to have forgotten everything else like me. People hardly had telephones in their houses those days. We and my sister’s in-laws fall into that category.
On our way back home, in the auto rickshaw, I vomited and fell asleep.
When Kushal woke me up, the rickshaw was standing in front of my house. Anxious to know the outcome of our visit, my parents had come out.
Kushal narrated every detail of the horrendous time he had in dealing with a not so sentient me.
Ma was furious, worrying for a two-month-old acquaintance over her own son. Distraught, she requested the autowalla to wait and asked Pa to get ready fast.
While leaving, Pa instructed my sister to boil some pigeon peas and give the extract to me. Ma took away the money and gave it to Pa.
One tradition of the two – offering cannabis-laced ‘Thandai‘ to Krishna and not offering gifts to the in-laws of the daughters of the clan ended that day in our home.