This would be the best time to get together, thought Shom. Harry had invited Khush, Raima, her dearest friend Natasha and Natasha’s mother, Swapna who was more than a mother to Raima. Raima was excited about the reunion and was flying in from Calcutta.
Harry had been his mentor from the days when Shom had worked for at his factory as a trainee engineer. A very dear friend too, he had been the first to be introduced to Raima. They got along so well from the very beginning that it seemed as if there was a spiritual connect between them. And Khush had known Raima long before Shom had set his eyes on her. This was a family bound not by blood ties but by other worldly connections free of the obligations of relationships.
As usual, Khush was the first to arrive. Harry and he got along famously after they met by chance a few years earlier at a book launch. The friendship graduated to the bar where they realised how well they were connected.
“Happy Holi,” said Khush, as he entered with gulal in his hands and applied it on Harry’s forehead.
“Nice! Happy Holi to you too,” said Harry, taking some gulal out of Khush’s hands and applying it on his forehead. “The colour suits you,” he added.
Khush rushed to look at his face in the mirror.
“Aa ha, not without bhang, you enjoy Holi only after you’ve had bhang. Where is our speciality, the way we make it with curd and not milk?” asked Khush.
Harry led him to the kitchen. There was bhang with ingredients such as almonds and pistachios, to make a yogurt smoothie, along with bhajias and bhang brownies.
“There is a lot of food for lunch, all planned by your favourite cook, Prakash,” said Harry. Khush was overjoyed.
To cut a long story short, as the guests arrived in their Holi casuals, they were greeted with gulal, followed by hugs and kisses. They were long-lost friends who had a lot of catching up to do.
Harry, Khush, Natasha and Swapna were having a blast, laughing away at the silliest of jokes. Natasha was the centre of attraction. Raima was the only one who looked subdued. She had very little of the bhang drink. She and Shom excused themselves after a while. This wasn’t unexpected of the love birds who had been apart for a while.
Shom knew that Raima was not her usual self as family pressure to marry was getting on her nerves. Bhang wouldn’t help and she did well to limit its intake. They were together now, though in self-denial.
Shom: Now, let’s just relax, they all tried to make us happy.
Raima: I didn’t like the way Natasha made a fool of herself.
Shom: That’s because she had more than she could handle, it’s difficult to know your limits because bhang takes time to have an effect. There are people who react in extremes; they laugh uncontrollably or cry endlessly without reason.
Raima: Disgusting! I hate the thought, I’ll never touch this drink.
Shom: you were smart to limit your drink. Bhang is the purest form of cannabis, but in this form, unlike a joint, the buzz takes time to set in. Once you know your limits, it is by far the best drink. Lord Shiva’s drink. The concentrate is hashish (shit). The bhang pulp is hashish. We Indians have known this from the time the rest of the world was not half as civilised. However, this made us complacent and the rest of the world aggressive. Had cannabis not been banned by the West due to the tobacco and the alcohol lobbyists, the Indian upper middle-class copy cats would not have tabooed bhang. Thandai (smoothie with a buzz) is nutritious because it is made with dates, dry fruit and curd. Its taste will be relished by the entire world.
Raima: But we do only marijuana.
Shom: True. Because, unlike marijuana, bhang can be smoked up only in its concentrated form hashish which needs to be burnt and mixed with tobacco to roll a joint.
Raima: I know. You told me that once. I would love to try that bhang brownie.
Shom: Yes, I am dying to get you high on bhang, so that you let go of yourself.
By this time, the bhang began to have an effect on both.
Raima: Bhang or whatever, I am always in control of myself. I am not a fool; nothing can make me behave like one.
Shom: You should let go sometime, I want to see the real you.
Raima: The real me? Sure! I will be all over you, won’t let you go. You will have to take me with you wherever you go. I will be clinging to you all the time. Nothing will separate you from me. You want such a scene? We have to be faceless, the only way out.
Shom: Wow, that’s something I want to see. In any case it’s only till the effect lasts. We will be in complete isolation in five-star comfort.
Raima: I will never get high to lose control over myself.
Shom: I don’t think you love me enough to do that. You will be howling for a car or something you want me to buy you. Like a kid cries for a balloon.
Raima: Ha, ha, I don’t need to get high to do that. You must buy me a car now. Give me your platinum AmEx, let’s go now. I need a Jag like yours. Please, please, please, pleeeeeese. Get up, let’s go, the showrooms will close. Let’s golet’s go.
Shom: Stop it, stop it! Behave yourself. This is a restaurant, not your parlour.
Raima: Ha, ha. Got you. Give me the bhang now. I want to freak on it.
Shom: I was a fool to think you love me. You are so materialistic.
Raima: Yup, I am a material girl.
Shom: I am going. Thanks. You made my day. I don’t think you love me.
Raima: What’s wrong with you, you can’t take a joke? You are so insecure.
Shom: Yes, our love is so one-sided.
Raima: You are so blind; can’t you see it in my eyes?
Shom: Let me see. No, it’s not there. You are just eyeing my credit card.
Raima: Very funny! That’s what you know about me. How sad! And I know you so well, what a pity.
Shom: I thought you were only mine.
Raima: Of course I am. Who else you think I could belong to?
Raima got immersed in her thoughts and Shom began to hum a song of the 60’s by Peter Sarstedt: Where do you go to my lovely when you’re alone in your bed? Tell me the thoughts that surround you. I want to look inside you. Head, yes, I do…
Shom: I cannot bear to see you sad Just a smile will make me glad
Raima: Your happiness is what keeps me alive May we always be together and thrive
Shom: You are the only one who is truly mine You are the one to help me walk the line
Raima: Influenced by your ways, smitten by your charms Drawn towards you, soon I will be in your arms
Shom: I relish the orange that you eat Honeyed lips, breath so sweet
Raima: My love, my life, my existence and more There’s none but you in my every pore
Shom: You are on my mind all the time As Radha-Krishna, our love is divine
Raima: Let’s be with one another Body and mind all together
Shom: May sweetness of love fill every pore Let my passion make your spirit soar
Raima: I cherish these moments in my heart We shall never ever be apart
Shom and Raima got up almost together and walked hand in hand out of the restaurant to the elevator to their suite where they were booked. They looked at each other and hugged. As Shom kicked the door shut, Raima greeted him with a broad smile and said “Holi-Ho.”