On a depressing day when I sit alone and try to think of happy incidences to boost my mood, I invariably think of the day when I had bhaang with my friend M. The memory somehow always uplifts my spirit. M and myself were inseparable in those days and we did all things together (We are still inseparable only with a ‘tiny’ distance of two continents between us). It was the day of Holi. As usual both of us went out to play with colours. Within fifteen minutes we got smeared by all kinds of hues. The scorching March Sun was heavily breathing on us and we already started feeling exhausted and dehydrated.
In the 90s our neighbourhood looked very different from now. There was a strong sense of bonding and the entire neighbourhood was like one big family. We thought of going to a nearby house and drink water, precisely then we noticed one of our parar dada was making lassi. We both were quite thirsty and the cool lassi looked tempting, unhesitatingly we asked the dada to give us some lassi to quench our thirst. The dada quizzically looked at us and said suspiciously ‘are you sure of drinking this?’ I and M robustly nodded our head in approval and said in a chorus ‘YES’. The dada winked at the others standing nearby and gave each of us a glass of lassi. We loved the taste of this ‘new’ kind of lassi and enthusiastically gulped down another glass also.
A Kakima(Aunt) was standing nearby, when she saw both of us relishing the glass of lassi she came hurriedly in a manner that could remind you of the song ‘hare re re re’. She looked horrified and said “do you know what you are drinking?’ Both of us replied confidently and nonchalantly in a chorus ‘Lassi.’ Kakima irritably said ‘Tomar mundu,eta bhaang.’(stupid, this is bhaang) (Bhaang is an edible preparation of cannabis that is traditionally made in India on the day of holi). Kakima started scolding the dada who had treacherously given us bhang using opportunity of our innocence or naivety, whatever you call. However the damage was done and there was no scope of rollback.
We were pretty happy for the first hour as we saw there was hardly any impact. We even felt proud that we were strong girls and the bhaang could do nothing to us. We continued playing holi. Then we went to our friend D’s house to put colour on him. D used to live alone in his house. After reaching his house, we pressed the bell. D came and opened the gate. M smartly entered inside while I stood there hesitating to enter. D’s house was like a playground for us and I had never hesitated to enter but that day I was just standing at his gate for no apparent reason. Looking at me D guessed that something was wrong because my behaviour was absolutely weird. He came and asked me what was wrong. I didn’t reply but M screamed from inside the house ‘nothing, we just had bhaang’. D was smart to understand what was wrong and he like a ‘true friend’ added fire to the fuel. He went inside and took out ladoos from his refrigerator and gave each to both of us. I ate the ladoo standing at his gate. I don’t know if he did it deliberately or not but the ladoos surely gave us a further kick.
When I finished eating the ladoo, D held my hand and took me inside the house. I saw my face in his washbasin mirror and it was smeared with rainbow of colours. I went near the washbasin and started washing my face. The effect of bhang is such that if a person starts doing something he/she continues to do it. So I kept on washing my face. I was washing and washing and washing….colours from my face were trickling down the white porcelain washbasin and reaching the floor tiles. I continued washing.
D literally dragged me away from the basin. M still did not understand what was wrong with me as the bhaang had started affecting her thought process as well. D asked both of us to go home. He even volunteered to drop us home but we politely refused his favour. Strong girls don’t take favours even when they are unable to stand on their own feet. And in our minds we were still in control.
We started to go home but when we arrived at the crossroads we got confused whether to take the left or right turn. This was the road we took every single day but at that moment we were not being able to figure out. We stood there for almost fifteen minutes arguing. While M said right, I said left. One of our neighbourhoods Aunty was passing by and when she saw both of us arguing on which road to take she understood that we were intoxicated. She gave us a scornful look and said in a stern voice ‘Go home immediately.’ Both of us raised our hands like Shri Chaitanya and said nodding our heads vigorously ‘nope, we are trying to figure out the way’
Aunty got irritated and made a hopeless face and went ahead. Good sense prevailed momentarily and we followed her. The actual fun began now. When I reached near my home, the face of my father came in my mind and I developed cold feet. I knew that if my father saw me in that state he would probably throw me out of the house. My father was a teetotaller and had a fiery temper. Therefore if he saw his daughter coming home under the influence of bhaang, one can imagine what would happen.
I desperately wanted to avoid going home and abruptly sat down on top of the water tank next to our house. M also joined me. She had similar fear as her father was also a teetotaller with fiery temper. We both sat on top of that tank and started lamenting. Initially we were whispering our fear in each other’s ears. M said ‘what to do? How to enter home?’ and gradually the whisper turned little louder into a cry and finally we were howling. We definitely resembled the Rudalis. The cries then got intermittently overlapped by spells of laughter. One moment I was crying ‘Bapi bokbe, barite dhukte debe na’ (Dad will scold and not let me enter home) and the next moment I was bursting into hysterical laughter. You can imagine the scene, two girls in their early twenties, with colour smeared all over them, sitting on top of a water tank and crying and laughing alternately at the top of their voices.
Everyone in the neighbourhood gathered in their respective balconies to get a view of this unique drama. M’s 8 year old nephew used to be very fond of us, however when he saw both his aunties in such an eccentric state he ran and hid behind the boundary wall. He was looking at us as if we were some ghosts. When we called him he got scared further and ran away from our sight altogether.
My father was so far unaware of all this. He was probably watching some cricket match inside. Then he must have heard some commotion outside his house and came out only to find out his daughter at the centre of all this. He immediately asked me to get inside the home. My next door Aunty came running to our house with a glass of lemon juice. M’s father was an amateur homeopathic doctor. He also came running with his box of medicine. However my mind had by that time reached such a distorted state that I was thinking that they were intoxicated and I was fine. I even felt pity for Uncle and thought that he was such a nice gentleman yet he also took bhang. I drank the lemon juice and also took the homeopathy medicine and then went to take bath. Inside the bathroom there was a bucketful of soap water, I poured the entire bucket on top of my head without removing my clothes and came back and just fell asleep on my bed in my wet clothes.
I woke up with a terrible headache the following day. Entire day in college I felt dizzy. In the evening I sat with M on top of the same water tank and promised ourselves that we will never drink bhang ever in our lives. The hangover of bhang stayed for couple of days however the memory of that March afternoon remained etched in our memories forever. I do not regret having bhang that day on the contrary feel blessed that one mistake gave us such a lovely memory to cherish eternally.