Thursday, March 8, 2012

Holiday on Holi


My old friend GG, now a senior scientist at NASA, talked just now on telephone wishing me happy “Holi”. We both recollected his another "brain wave", just on the eve of “Holi”, We, four masketeers, as called by others , all got involved and enjoyed it.

Four of us were from different states and social levels, but we loved each other a lot. Possibly love is best based without any rhyme and reason. GG was the talented most and besides studies he had several funny plans(“ Brainwaves” we used to say among ourselves)in which we all were either convinced and agreed to execute.

Few of his “Brainwaves” which we four participated are as follows

1. We, as uninvited guests, enjoyed the dinner of the marriage ceremony of the most miser( used to keep his Bunglaw gate closed during holi and Diwali but took plate load of food during Hall- days) H.O.D’s daughter’s marriage. With a fresh hair-cut, Dhoti-Kurta and Shawl we got mingled with “Bar-yatri”. Our Professor with folded hand requested us to take more sweets. We also took couple of icecreams too and a “sweet” revenge.

2. Posed as beggars in the crowded Gol bazzar of Kharagpur Town, we all earned Rs 25(in 1974) and enjoyed a dinner at Chhedy's Restaurant in our technology campus.

3. Shaved our heads, wore saffron dress with other accessories and moved around the India without ticket in 20 days by train. Besides the journey, We earned Rs 2000 as generous “Pranami”.

This incident dates back to 1971 when we were in 3rd year. GG and others were taking training at Kharagpur Rly. workshop and I was at GSI office at Kolkata. Including Weekdays, there were altogether 5 holidays for Holi. So I came back to campus.

GG and others came to my room, they already fixed up a plan to go to Digha one evening before holi and play the colors festival on Sea beach. There was an added attraction as narrated by GG.

GG heard that some characters of the Novelist Bankim Chandra Chatterjee become alive on the full moon night near a Kali temple located on a small hillock . The rendezvous might or might not take place but the breathtaking view of the sea and the big breakers of the full moon day tide hitting continuously on the empty midnight beach was guaranteed.

I was planning to go home but like every time I agreed to go with them and cancelled my plan.

DIGHA is the nearest Sea beach about 70 Km from Kharagpur. A professor of Aeronautical Engineering dept.(GG's dept and very close to GG) while going to his native place during summer vacation gave the keys of his house and imported Volkswagen Car to GG . We planned to go to Digha in that Volkswagen car. GG used to get a handsome money order from his rich parents and unquestionably he was the director cum financier of all such brainwave projects. Just before leaving we saw the registry peon of our Technology post office, who used to bring money orders also, was knocking the door of GG.

At noon we reached Contai(Kaanthi) and were taking lunch in a road side "Dhaba". Some people returning with families from Digha told us that all hotels are full and room rents are as high as Rs 1000 or more. Food and water are also scarce and very costly. Even mud built houses of Fishermen are full."

In that age nothing appears formidable and we as usually shrugged. Worst thing going worst, We might have to sleep in the car in the night, enjoy the day and should go back in the evening of Holi.

After a few Kilometers, the traffic moved at snail’s space. The single lane road was jammed with incoming and outgoing traffic. Many out goers commented 'No room any where even in the beaches of Old and New Digha."

GG driving the vehicle was silent and cool, the rest were not and discussing the alternatives. We reached Digha and found things are true. With influx of so many tourists, there was no point in looking for any kind of accommodation.

One of us, Arijit became sick suddenly and threw up, possibly due to tension. Our problems got more complicated. Staying inside the car and keeping the whole night awake may further worsen the situation.

GG now broke silence "If you guys have finished chalking out alternative accommodation, I have a nice proposal. It is going to be a rent-free decent stay within walking distance of the same sea beach, provided you just listen to me. Make a single and solid promise that you shall keep your mouths shut and open your mouth only when I say. Till your stay you shall only call me by my Nick name."

"Yes boss but what's all these ?"

"You shall come to know everything but are you making that promise or not ?"

Our inner strength was diminishing. A decent stay that too free only in lieu of keeping the mouth shut was most welcome, we all deserved a wash and freshen up.

We crossed the New Digha and was going towards Orissa border. Now the road was clear and after 10-15 minutes drive we stopped near a tea shop.

GG asked the tea shop owner, the path direction for a village called "TaalBagan" which was 2 Km further. As directed, GG left the main road, followed a dirt road and stopped near a grocery shop.

A gentleman was coming on a bicycle from the opposite direction and just stopped there. Seeing our Volkswagen, he came forward with a smiling face.

"Sirs, it will take less than few minutes. I was getting anxious."

The gentleman asked us to follow him and we entered a two storied house with a sprawling big garden at the front. We were looking at each other and GG gave us a stern look reminding us our promise. The gentleman was possibly a caretaker of the house took care of the luggage.

GG told the man " We all four shall share the big room in the upstairs."

He said "Yes sirs. I arranged like that only."

There were three rooms in the upstairs we all settled in the biggest hall type 4-bedded room. Through the window, we saw the attached two diametrically opposite facing ponds of the house. Cool fresh flow of wind was flowing through the cross large windows of the room.

The caretaker appeared with a bunch of coconuts and right then a coconut water drink was just needed.

" Sirs, If you plan to take bath right now, I apologize. The generator is not working properly. You may have to wait for about an hour. Our people shall fill the tank by that time."

GG nodded " How far is the Sea beach”

“Sir, you may have a look of the sea from the terrace. It is just 5 -10 minutes walk. There is a path through palm- grove from the back yard of this house.”

The call of aroma of the fresh Sea-fish cooked in the kitchen of the house was irresistible in our empty stomachs and we signaled each other.

One of us said“We shall take bath in the in the backyard pond."

"Yes sir. The other smaller pond is for..."

“That is for cultivation of Prawns. You get a good yield?"

He replied " Sir, Production just started. Not yet up to the mark."

He ushered us to the bathing pond , kept few towels on the concrete stepping and said just before leaving.

"Enjoy your baths Sirs. I shall arrange a Petromax light( Kerosene Pump light) there."

" Do not take the trouble. Full moon shall appear very soon."

Except me, all others were excellent swimmers. I took few dips in the water and came back and others were continuing their swimming but gave up soon due to darkness. The thick clouds forbade the Moon to appear.

The caretaker ushered us to a tin shaded petomax lit big room near the pond. His men brought Tea in big thermos and Hot Pakoda and few plateful of fried sea fish.

By now we guessed this could be one of the ancestral property of GG that for some reasons did not tell us for some reasons.

One of us said" OH! This is all for you GG, had you not..."

GG forbade and said in a hushed voice" do as promised, I shall tell you everything a little later."

O.K who bothers. The rain started soon and the music of droplets of rain on the tin shade compelled one us to sing few songs and lastly one chorus.

As we were going to our room in the upstairs, The caretaker appeared " Sirs, any thing from the Cellar and what shall you like for the Dinner?"

GG quipped" Four bottles of beer and snacks. if it is not otherwise inconvenient for you then Khitdi(Rice and Lentil cooked together) and fried fish shall be the best.

" Done Sir. It shall be ready by one and half hour."

One petromax lamp was placed at the corner. The rain was continuing, I opened two cross windows partly and said, " GG, excuse me, I shall give you people company for the snacks , You know I do not.." GG signalled and I closed my lips. One boy arrived with a bucket of Beers kept in cold water and and another boy arrived with a big plate of heapful fish fry and Potato finger chips. As they left GG now said"While we drink I shall tell you everything, but less share for Snacks for non drinkers."

Finishing his mug GG handed us an Airmail envelope from his hip pocket. The letter addressed to identical name of GG with partial correct address.

There is a Taalbagan near our campus but other part of the address was overlooked and was delivered to GG.

One Mr. Pattanaik from US wrote" GG ,my four friends scheduled to arrive on 13th of June have cancelled their plans and may arrive during Durgapuja Holidays. If you have purchased things like Beer etc for them as I told you in my last letter do not return but keep for them during Durgapuja. They like beer very much.

We read the letter, unknowingly I gulped by mistake beer from one of the mugs and was about to throw up. GG pushed a Fish fry in my mouth and the bitterness in my mouth and throat went away.

One of us asked GG "Now tell us your part. We shall decide thereafter."

" I opened this letter by mistake and I did so because the name of the addressee was the same, I did not look further down the details of address. I read the letter and then only I knew it was not for me."

I said " When you got this letter and then why you did not redirect this letter?. Possibly this time it would have reached the correct addressee. "

GG said" I got this just before leaving and I thought if I post it at Digha. it may reach correct destinations. We reached Digha and found no accommodations and Arijit became suddenly sick. Then I decided to avail this accommodation which by all chances may remain vacant."

One of us said" Are we not staying here as Impostors?"

GG said " No. We have not yet told that we are the friends of that Gentleman. We came to this village and the caretaker took us here without asking our names. It is true he assumed it so."

One of us analyzed " I assume what GG is saying is correct. GG had a prior information of the accommodation through a wrong delivery of letter . Seeing Arijit sick and finding no accommodation he took this chance. He drove upto the village. In villages, cars seldom come and on hearing the sound of automobile, the caretaker also named as GG came out and he assumed us to be the guests and we reached here.”

True we have not posed as impostors but we made the caretaker to think that we were the proposed guests. Had we told him the truth he would have refused. With this continued rain, we would have been in lots of trouble. But it is better we now tell him the truth and if he asks us to leave we do so."

As we all got up GG said " He has left half an hour before to his village. Normally, he leaves after the guests take their dinner. But since it is raining he has to leave early and I said O.K. I tipped him Five hundred which he refused once, but took it after I insisted."

Arijit said “Possibly, GG did it for my sake, let us forget it.

" We all joined saying "Forget it. Tomorrow we shall see." one of us put his tape recorder on and we danced together. We had a hearty dinner of hot Khitdi, Prawn curry and Fried fish.

The rain of the night continued next day and upgraded into a 3 day long depression. The Causeway connecting Main town Digha and this village was about about to be flooded. We were compelled to leave in early morning without meeting the caretaker. We played holi inside the car in that year but not on the beach.

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